Join us to strengthen community-led development planning around the world

An update on IAP’s Global Advocacy Team — our plans for 2021–2023

For every development initiative, people should be at the center as active participants and beneficiaries of the right to development. This is well corroborated by Jessica, a Community Organizer from Manila, the Philippines who notes: “We understand the need to have our own plan and solutions to the issues confronting our community.”

The first Global Advocacy Team comprised of 8 community organizers from 8 communities. Clockwise, Left to Right: Sek Sokunroth (Cambodia); Jessica Amon (Philippines); Mohamed Abdel Azim (Egypt); Sukhgerel Dungersuren (Mongolia); Bernadino Morales Tera (Panama); Moon Nay Li (Burma); Jamil Junejo (Pakistan) and Mela Chiponda (Zimbabwe).

As we wrote earlier this year, Jessica was part of the International Accountability Project’s first Global Advocacy Team Initiative which brought together 8 people from 8 countries to conduct local research and present policy proposals to change how development is done. The Team’s community-led research documented personal experiences of forced evictions and other harms from imposed development projects and provided recommendations for communities’ involvement in their own development. Through her role in the Global Advocacy Team, Jessica and communities affected by flooding in Manila, Philippines recommended that the government start with a ‘People’s Plan’ to strengthen public participation in Metro Manila’s flood control master plan.

Jessica Amon presenting the community-led research project in Metro Manila.

“Through the People’s Plan, we established a vision for developing into a flood free and sustainable community. It is based on the idea that real solutions for resettlement, basic services, and other issues should always come first from the people.” — Jessica Amon

Jessica and the Global Advocacy Team conducted one of the largest community-led surveys on development. Compiling data from communities in 8 countries and involving more than 1000 people, the Team established global recommendations — “8 Steps to Community-led Development.”

The first step is: “Start with a People’s Plan”.

The “8 Steps to Community-led Development” are the global recommendations from the 8 community-led research projects conducted by the first Global Advocacy Team. It is the platform from which the second Global Advocacy Team will launch. The 8 Steps are available in 12 languages.

Since then, IAP has been developing the next iteration of the Global Advocacy Team to focus on community-led development planning or People’s Plans.

To that end, the next step of the initiative will consist of 8 community organizers from around the world who conduct community-led research and create or strengthen their own community-led development plans.

Over the next 2 years, the new Global Advocacy Team will draw from the expertise of community organizers who work on community-led development and collectively, as a Team, learn from each other. We will push for acceptance of People’s Plans locally where the Team members live, but also among those who are instrumental in today’s development — including governments, private actors, and the development banks.

IAP recently hosted two meetings comprising experts and participants in community-led development planning to share experiences and discuss proposed approaches to shape the next Global Advocacy Team.

A significant issue from the discussions with the experts from Asia-Pacific Africa and Latin America was the many cases shared where governments and investors restricted or prevented community involvement in the creation or implementation of development projects.

Zebbies Mumba from Action for Development in Zambia notes that:

“Talking about human rights in our communities is synonymous with being problematic to institutions. You are awakening communities to demand for their rights for development projects that the government themsleves can’t provide in totality.”

Emphasis was placed on the use of the law to deter community involvement by enacting provisions that place community’ engagement in the development process at the discretion of the government. It is circumstances such as these that increase the risks involved in community-led development planning and explain the escalation of government actions that spread fear and perpetuate division within affected communities.

Participants also raised cases of human rights violations by governments and companies. This included holding back social services; arrests and charges of illegal trespass on land and property threats, abuse and even murder of human rights defenders, and the criminalization of the community’s request for information. Internally, communities highlighted limited resources and technical ability to support their involvement in community-led development planning

Despite these actions by governments and private actors, it is clear that community-led development planning is still practiced across the world.

The level of community involvement in determining their own development priorities is dependent on their expertise and access to resources to develop their own plans. This is facilitated by the responsiveness of the countries’ political governance structure, the extent to which the legal framework supports their cause, and the levels of fostered activism of the population for the realization of their rights among others. These dynamics lead us to try to assist and share information with communities on community-led development planning to facilitate meaningful interactions with their governments and other actors communities might want to be in contact with.

The enthusiasm of IAP and our partners to support communities in ensuring that they lead their own development speaks to the possibility of having a concerted, global effort with a collective voice, which is a platform that the next Global Advocacy Team initiative seeks to provide.

To this end, William Kipkazi from the Endorois Welfare Council notes that:

“As an indigenous person and an organization, I need to emphasize that each community has its own ways of development and that we need to recognize that. We want to be involved in the development and implementation of the initiative to facilitate communities’ participation in their own development.”

This also provides opportunities to address community limitations that may include technical and financial resources to develop People’s Plans. IAP will provide access to training and resources on development finance, support campaigns for identified projects, and present opportunities for experience sharing among others. Read the summary from the regional meetings.

Going forward, IAP invites an expert or practitioner of community-led development planning to provide input into the Global Advocacy Team initiative. Ways to get involved include contributing to the methodology design, engaging in implementation and as well, providing support to affected communities through the new and existing networks. Contact us!

We expect that the next Global Advocacy Team will build on the work done by so many communities including stakeholder consultation and consent, influencing policy change, and access to remedy.

The entirety of these actions is what will define the next Global Advocacy Team and their focus on community-led development planning. Ultimately, this tallies with Jessica’s emphasis on starting with a people’s plan:

“What we are asking for is a meaningful conversation with the government, in which the government recognizes that local people are also experts with vital perspectives and ideas to contribute to creating true development solutions.”

At a training for the first Global Advocacy Team, where all members and IAP committed themselves for the two-year initiative.

Join us as IAP coordinates the next Global Advocacy Team to focus on community-led development planning. Contact us: iap [at] accountabilityproject [dot] org

IAP is a human and environmental rights organization that works with communities, civil society and social movements to change how today’s development is done.

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