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Land policy dialogue and participation: 1. How do we define participation? (15 answers)

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Dec 31, 2008
I appreciated being able to be part of this discussion and reading
interesting thoughts and experiences on this very important topic. I find a
refreshing amount of the nuance that background information and participants are
giving to the issue of participation in land policy dialogue. I would like to
make a couple comments, mostly in support of what has already been said, and to
ask a question.

As a person who has focused a great deal on participation and building from
the bottom up, I am concerned with the results of many supposedly
participatory events. Participation may even openly be a tool to justify an action.
For example, one well known conservation INGO had in its field manual that
project people must use participation. Their manual goes on to say staff should
find people in the community who agree with this INGO approach and invite
them to a meeting which would be participatory without disruption of those who
disagreed.

Mona Haidar gave an important reminder when she said that changes in policy,
in tenure or access, or even resource distribution through projects,
involves reallocation of rights and resources with winners and losers. Each of the
participants may (or may not) be genuine in their participation but have
different explicit or implicit goals. The discussion seems to assume that the
government has in mind helping the poorest, which I have not always (or even
usually) seen to be the case. Governments may, for example, feel the most
urgent goal is to increase national income. Economists may have a goal of finding
the most efficient use of resources which may not be through the poorest.
Conservationists may feel that the most important goal is preserving the
environment for the future and participation must take place within reaching that
goal. This complicates the already mixed picture of the results of
participation. Even when stakeholders come together with good intentions they may not
even hear each other or recognize that their goals are different. This
would underline the importance of language, the need for transparency and an open
learning communication environment. It might also suggest the need in
policy reform for a balance between assured rights and the need for a period of
trial and flexibility with a great deal of feedback.

I agree with Amy's concern about marginalization. The discussion of
participation seems to have implied that if everyone fully participates from the
beginning, all will go well. However, when there is less resource than demand or
is a change in power, market or participants, equal participation may not be
the final answer. As several discussants mentioned, when the power level is
very uneven the weaker may participate hoping to get the best deal possible
under the circumstances, but progressively lose. For example, when an
outside stakeholder wants to get part of a local resource the discussion may end up
in a compromise in which the traditional group loses a small amount. The
process may happen a number of times. Each time the demand is mitigated so the
more powerful do not get as much as they request, but again the weaker group
loses one more part of their resources. I think, where possible, first
focusing on building alliances or other approaches to help strengthen marginal
stakeholders is so important before meetings inviting participation of all
stakeholders.

The question I have is, have any of you had experience with developing a
system of giving a different weight to inputs of different groups? I am, of
course, not searching for a formula to use in all circumstances. But the inputs
of newcomers may be weighed differently in some cases from those with a long
history. Concerns of people who are vulnerable to losing a resource on
which they depend or may have no other choices may be given different weight than
those less vulnerable or having other choices of resources to use. If
anyone has used such an approach I think it would be important to share.

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    Dec 30, 2008
    Promoting a development strategy that takes into account, not only soils
    degradation, but also the link between desertification and land tenure in
    drylands zones is nowadays a major challenge that requires a common approach
    & strategy. This justifies the importance of the workshop held recently in
    Nairobi with the assistance of DDC, ILC and other development institutions
    involved in the Drylands imperative initiative. The meeting discussed within
    others, the participation concept, recognized not only as a complex process,
    but also as an indispensable tool to reach sustainability in drylands areas.

    A series of questions are therefore raising, within others:

    * How do we define participation? Who decides which actors are
    included, which excluded? When does participation begin? When are people
    part of the reform process?

    Different development experiences in Benin show that the concept of
    participation is wide, complex, multifaceted, changing according to context,
    time, and conjuncture. Globally, participation may be defined as a process,
    a working context made available by a group of actors to involve other
    people who have their part of interest in the development action that the
    first actors are initiating. During these last decades, the concept is used
    by project managers to ensure the involvement of local communities to
    sustain development initiatives.

    Participation is according to me a spirit of commitment that makes local
    communities active, but no more passive, to renounce to their old mentality
    of permanently assisted people and to change the relationship between their
    traditional organizations and national authorities. Finally, participation
    is a kind of empowerment of the actors aimed by a development action to make
    them acquire different forms of capacities to fight fatality, resignation,
    and dependence, passing through a sharing of responsibilities and a dialog
    process. It is also a walk, leading to self-analysis, self-planning,
    self-organization and self-management My small experience shows that
    participation must start at the early step of the development action or
    project. Main stakeholders must be invited to draw the outline of the
    project and to fix its full contain, but not just to validate a full
    foreseen action plan. A good application of this is quiet difficult, but
    effort must be made to be close to this ideal view. UNDP and the GEF show a
    great willingness of it, by developing field PDF projects to formulate full
    projects and programmes, to be sure that all parts of stakeholders are
    involved at an early step. Involving main stakeholders, but not only local
    communities at the starting point enables all involved actors to decide on
    which ones must be included or not and what may be the role of each part of
    society(local community, governmental bodies, NGOs, youth groups, women,
    etc.) to attain common goals.
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    Dec 31, 2008
    I am following the discussions with great interest and really enjoying
    the richness and diversity of experience. I have a general comment on
    "Land policy dialogue and participation", the basis for this week's
    questions. We must always remember that land tenure reforms involve the
    relocation of rights, producing winners, losers, and resistance. Reforms
    are often about asking those who have the right to give up some of their
    rights and power to poor and marginalized people. Resistance, out of
    fear and self-interest, is certain. Few will be willing to give up their
    rights for the sake of equity, efficiency or dryland development, which
    is probably why most reforms take place during times of economic and
    political crisis, not through well-planned processes.



    Nevertheless, two strategies may move participation and the
    implementation of a drylands land tenure policy forward: challenging
    resistance and opportunism. Resistance to reforms needs to be confronted
    by everyone interested in the reforms. The lobbying capacity of farmers
    and pastoralists needs to be strengthened. They neither know how to
    lobby nor how the political system of their countries is organized.
    Opportunities for change arise continually; they might be economic or
    political. Advocates need to be prepared for opportunity. The clear
    lesson of the past 20 years of support to land reform is that land and
    reforms by themselves do not reduce poverty or enable development (the
    objective of the exercise): they must be linked to wider efforts
    including production and marketing support and the development of basic
    services and markets.
    Mona Haidar, Ph.D.

    Livelihoods Advisor

    Drylands Development Centre

    Regional Node for Arab states and Iran
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    Dec 31, 2008
    Who decides which actors are included, which excluded?

    I would like to make two points with regard to this question.
    First as a principle participation in decision-making should include all
    those that are potentially AFFECTED by the problem at hand. This seems
    self-evident, but does not always happen.
    This also means that there must also be active identification of those
    potentially affected as many might not be aware that there is a forum where
    something is discussed that might affects them.
    Second, is the tendency for strong groups and more powerful interests to
    prevail, so there must a mechanism that monitors and often also strengthens
    strategic interaction capacity of weak interests. See for example (Edmunds,
    David and Wollenberg, Eva (2001) ŒA Strategic Approach to Multistakeholder.
    Negotiations¹, Development and Change 32(2): 231-253).

    These two points imply value judgements and the fact that nobody is neutral
    nor objective as such when decisions about participation are made. But I
    think it is possible to follow certain principles that should facilitate
    inclusionary processes.

    Monica Di Gregorio
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    Dec 31, 2008
    In response to Stephen Dohrn’s Blog Summary:

    to address a few points which stimulate thought;
    amy poteete writes:
    If people find new institutional arrangements valuable enough to sustain
    after a project ends, the participants are likely to adapt them to meet
    their own truly self-defined interests. They will be better able to resolve
    internal differences and make collective decisions than they were
    previously. This is a form of empowerment.

    In this sense, the endeavour of development strikes me as being quite
    similar to teaching in universities and schools, the over-riding goal always
    being one of teaching critical thinking. In group meetings with community
    development projects, I have repeatedly been struck by the similarities with
    teaching, in trying to lead a person or group to reach their own critical
    conclusions.

    stephan dohrn wrote / quoted: In many project examples it seems that not
    even the structures last. For me the question is thus, did the discussions
    and joint activities have an impact on the social structure and dynamics of
    the household, family, community, district or other unit that enable poor
    and marginalized people to continue to change their situation at their own
    pace and with their own intensity? It seems likely to me that group/
    communal decision-making will sometimes be an improvement, but not always.
    Why might the change be beneficial? What conditions make its success more
    likely?

    it seems that human management and organisational skills have become
    variables for the measurement of project success, i.e. in efforts to halt
    land degradation. For example, capacity-building can be seen as a way to
    ensure that Œlearning structures are in place to absorb new resources and
    information, and to maintain contact with external govt & NOG orgs. This
    points increasingly to the idea that what is being developed is the ability
    to respond, and that our ³product² is capacity-building, would
    anyone/everyone agree?

    stephan dohrn wrote: did the discussions and joint activities have an
    impact on the social structure and dynamics of the household, family,
    community, district or other unit that enable poor and marginalized people
    to continue to change their situation at their own pace and with their own
    intensity?

    this strikes me as being the key to the discussion, and also enabling us to
    separate the specific issues at hand from long-term concerns for example,
    grazing rights or overcoming a drought as an issue of immediate concern, and
    the ability to create structures integrated in the ³modern² world which can
    remain in place to address future issues as a long-term concern.

    stephan dohrn writes: An example of Namibia was cited where "concerns about
    marginalization became less, the more widespread the participation /
    ownership of the project" was. "If each family/household/compound is seen as
    a decision-making unit, then the goal is to include at least one
    representative from every unit." One might counter by asking about the role
    of women in a household, or the power structures within a compound and
    whether the person representing this compound truly represents the different
    needs and concerns single group members might have.


    Yes, it is important to involve as many voices as possible, while still
    respecting local decision-making structures. One might ask, for example, is
    it necessary to respect that the (male) head of the household in many places
    is responsible for making all important decisions?

    In the Namibian case, this was less of an issue, as 2 of the 3 projects were
    headed by women, and the majority of stakeholders were women.

    In the Namibian case study, of three sites, the project/site with the
    highest level of participation had both a) the highest number of
    female-headed households and b) the lowest household incomes / assets. This
    lead the research team to conclude that the willingness/ incentive to
    participate was based on the incentive to generate income (ultimately
    employment), and related to a high concentration of female-headed households
    / low income level. Because the area had both the lowest average wealth and
    the highest level of participation, the conclusion was that the more
    households are eligible for participation, then the higher the chance of
    high levels of participation and ultimately project success. The correlation
    between high levels of female-headed households and high levels of
    participation is not yet understood as anything other than socio-economic.

    amy poteete asks:

    What conditions make its success more likely?

    Specific to this desertification-related project and land degradation, as
    opposed to capacity-building, the implication is that more people will
    participate in such projects when they are structured through
    community-based organizations which present financial opportunities; yield
    income-generating incentives.


    cralan deutsch
    http://www.desertification-research.info
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    Dec 31, 2008
    Stephan Dohrn? ce que tu dis est pertinent, mais j'attire votre attention sur ce qui suit:
    Parlant de la participation à une action collective, qu'une institution extérieur au groupe décide de qui participe de qui est inclus ou exclu, ou le groupe s'identifie lui même dans tous ces cas de figure, on ne peut jamais obtenir à 100% la particiaption.

    Dans ce tu dis? j'ai l'impression qu tu veux obtenir la participation à 100%

    Ganamé
    du MALI
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      Dec 31, 2008
      Je m’excuse d’avoir pris le train en marche sur ces questions fondamentales relative au foncier. Ma modeste contribution est relative à la réflexion sur la participation.
      La participation, comme vous le dites si bien, est très complexe. On se cache souvent derrière ce terme pour faire croire que les textes de lois ou les documents sont issus d’un large consensus. La participation c’est la contribution effective de toutes les couches socio-professionnelles dans tout le processus, de l’élaboration à la mise en œuvre, à la vulgarisation indispensable. Nous insistons sur effective parce que souvent l’on s’arrange à avoir la présence d’un plus grand nombre de personnes de toutes les sensibilités (encore que souvent ce sont plutôt les représentants) dans un contexte qui ne favorise pas en fait leur participation. La participation doit être analysée et une méthodologie appropriée utilisée. On ne peut pas par exemple rassembler des chercheurs, des responsables traditionnels et coutumiers, des décideurs politiques, l’administration autour des questions foncières et s’attendre à une participation effective de tous aux débats. Il serait plus judicieux de faire plusieurs « consultations », échanges pour permettre à chaque groupe de s’exprimer.
      Les difficultés majeures à notre avis résultent des lacunes au niveau de la participation. Le plus souvent ce que l’on constate est que les documents sont élaborés et l’on organise une sorte de forum pour faire les faire adopter et donner l’impression qu’il y a eu participation.
      Le processus d’élaboration d’une politique de sécurisation foncière en milieu rural au Burkina Faso est en cours et en temps opportun, des éléments d’information pourront être communiqués sur certains aspects.
      -- Updated Dec 31, 2008 --
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        Dec 31, 2008
        La participation, comme vous le dites si bien, est très complexe. On se
        cache souvent derrière ce terme pour faire croire que les textes de lois ou
        les documents sont issus d’un large consensus. La participation c’est la
        contribution effective de toutes les couches socio-professionnelles dans
        tout le processus, de l’élaboration à la mise en œuvre, à la vulgarisation
        indispensable. Nous insistons sur effective parce que souvent l’on s’arrange
        à avoir la présence d’un plus grand nombre de personnes de toutes les
        sensibilités (encore que souvent ce sont plutôt les représentants) dans un
        contexte qui ne favorise pas en fait leur participation. La participation
        doit être analysée et une méthodologie appropriée utilisée. On ne peut pas
        par exemple rassembler des chercheurs, des responsables traditionnels et
        coutumiers, des décideurs politiques, l’administration autour des questions
        foncières et s’attendre à une participation effective de tous aux débats. Il
        serait plus judicieux de faire plusieurs « consultations », échanges pour
        permettre à chaque groupe de s’exprimer.
        Les difficultés majeures à notre avis résultent des lacunes au niveau de la
        participation. Le plus souvent ce que l’on constate est que les documents
        sont élaborés et l’on organise une sorte de forum pour faire les faire
        adopter et donner l’impression qu’il y a eu participation.

        Le processus d’élaboration d’une politique de sécurisation foncière en
        milieu rural au Burkina Faso est en cours et en temps opportun, des éléments
        d’information pourront être communiqués sur certains aspects.

        Asséta DIALLO
        Burkina Faso
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    Dec 31, 2008
    (i)La participation suppose avant tout une action collective. On peut tenter
    dans ce cas la definission suivante : la participation peut être définie
    comme étant l'implication de toutes les parties prenanate à une action.
    Implication ou toutes ses parties prenantes prennenet la parole et disent ce
    qu'elles pensent.
    (iii) Quand est ce que la participation commence?la participation commence dés le début l'action
    Quand est ce que les gens interviennent dans le processus de réforme ? Les gens doivent intervenir tout au long du processus


    (i) BEFORE ANYTHING PARTICIPATION ASSUMES COLLECTIVE ACTION. THE FOLLOWING
    DEFINITION COULD APPLY: PARTICIPATION CAN BE DEFINED AS THE INVOLVEMENT OF
    ALL STAKEHOLDERS IN AN ACTIVITY. INVOLVEMENT IN WHICH ALL STAKEHOLDERS CAN
    SAY WHAT THEY THINK.(iii) WHEN DOES PARTICIPATION START? PARTICIPATION STARTS RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF ANY ACTIVITY.WHEN DO THE PEOPLE INTERVENE DURING POLICY REFORM PROCESSES? THE PEOPLE HAVE TO BE INVOLVED IN THE WHOLE PROCESS
    -- Updated Dec 31, 2008 --
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    Dec 31, 2008
    I appreciated being able to be part of this discussion and reading
    interesting thoughts and experiences on this very important topic. I find a
    refreshing amount of the nuance that background information and participants are
    giving to the issue of participation in land policy dialogue. I would like to
    make a couple comments, mostly in support of what has already been said, and to
    ask a question.

    As a person who has focused a great deal on participation and building from
    the bottom up, I am concerned with the results of many supposedly
    participatory events. Participation may even openly be a tool to justify an action.
    For example, one well known conservation INGO had in its field manual that
    project people must use participation. Their manual goes on to say staff should
    find people in the community who agree with this INGO approach and invite
    them to a meeting which would be participatory without disruption of those who
    disagreed.

    Mona Haidar gave an important reminder when she said that changes in policy,
    in tenure or access, or even resource distribution through projects,
    involves reallocation of rights and resources with winners and losers. Each of the
    participants may (or may not) be genuine in their participation but have
    different explicit or implicit goals. The discussion seems to assume that the
    government has in mind helping the poorest, which I have not always (or even
    usually) seen to be the case. Governments may, for example, feel the most
    urgent goal is to increase national income. Economists may have a goal of finding
    the most efficient use of resources which may not be through the poorest.
    Conservationists may feel that the most important goal is preserving the
    environment for the future and participation must take place within reaching that
    goal. This complicates the already mixed picture of the results of
    participation. Even when stakeholders come together with good intentions they may not
    even hear each other or recognize that their goals are different. This
    would underline the importance of language, the need for transparency and an open
    learning communication environment. It might also suggest the need in
    policy reform for a balance between assured rights and the need for a period of
    trial and flexibility with a great deal of feedback.

    I agree with Amy's concern about marginalization. The discussion of
    participation seems to have implied that if everyone fully participates from the
    beginning, all will go well. However, when there is less resource than demand or
    is a change in power, market or participants, equal participation may not be
    the final answer. As several discussants mentioned, when the power level is
    very uneven the weaker may participate hoping to get the best deal possible
    under the circumstances, but progressively lose. For example, when an
    outside stakeholder wants to get part of a local resource the discussion may end up
    in a compromise in which the traditional group loses a small amount. The
    process may happen a number of times. Each time the demand is mitigated so the
    more powerful do not get as much as they request, but again the weaker group
    loses one more part of their resources. I think, where possible, first
    focusing on building alliances or other approaches to help strengthen marginal
    stakeholders is so important before meetings inviting participation of all
    stakeholders.

    The question I have is, have any of you had experience with developing a
    system of giving a different weight to inputs of different groups? I am, of
    course, not searching for a formula to use in all circumstances. But the inputs
    of newcomers may be weighed differently in some cases from those with a long
    history. Concerns of people who are vulnerable to losing a resource on
    which they depend or may have no other choices may be given different weight than
    those less vulnerable or having other choices of resources to use. If
    anyone has used such an approach I think it would be important to share.
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    Dec 31, 2008
    Thanks to Esther's excellent summary of last week's discussion. Much of
    the discussion of participation (and its challenges) would apply almost
    anywhere, but the dispersed settlement problems of many people living in
    drylands can add to the difficulties and costs of participation. This also
    relates to Mark Gnanasigamony's point in week 2 about languages--many
    marginalized drylands people speak different languages, again making it more
    difficult to participate in "mainstream" discussions. It might be useful to
    compile good approaches for facilitating participation among far-flung or
    mobile groups.
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    Dec 31, 2008
    I only want to add that here Perú is beginning a
    process that we hope it could become a real platform
    for colective work, considering three zones: North,
    Center and South. Here is going to participate the
    State (relevants sectors) and the civil society (NGOs
    and CBOs). Actors who are working around it for so
    long and new ones if it´s necessary. It could
    guarantee the dialogue for state politics.
    But here is important to state a real institutional
    platform of work. With a law that create it and
    specifics points, considerating for examples the cases
    about people who use to be absent; or state a yearly
    job plan.
    Also is too important guarantee basics economics
    resources for the real implementation. If not, there
    is not going to be a real participation. Is easy to
    impel the participation but the people is tired of
    being without a continue process.
    The important of the mentioned colective work is that
    not more the work is going to be concentrated only in
    one state organisation. But is necesary guarantee the
    permanent work of this. At least, considerate a
    secretaryship for each group.
    -- Updated Dec 31, 2008 --
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      Dec 31, 2008
      BONJOUR ALBERTO LIMO

      je viens de lire ton intervention sur la politique et la participation des acteurs autour de toutes les questions touchant la terre, en ce sens que j'ai eu la motivation de demander votre agrement pour une eventiuelle collaboration, parce que je suis le president d'une jeune ong de droit nigerien et je desire partager notre connaissance dans les domaines de l'approche participative et je reste à votre entiere disposition toutes questions ou informations que je peux vous etre utile ici dans mon pays la république du Niger, au prochain je vous ferez parvenir toutes les informations sur mon ong

      je vous adresse toutes mes excuses si je vous inportune
      cordialement
      Ermbel MOHAMED
      BP 11244 TEL 00227 974892
      NIAMEY NIGER (WEST AFRICA)
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        Dec 31, 2008
        Dear Ermbel MOHAMED,

        I´m able to explain you more about it. If it´s
        necesary I could find the way to give you the
        information in french.

        Alberto Limo
        ONG PROTERRA
        Perú
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          Dec 31, 2008
          Dear Alberto

          I'm very content that you answered me, the significant one for me is to hold of the corespondances being all of the actors of development, I think that we can exchanged information which will be useful to our structures, and perhaps to meet one day.

          Ermbel MOHAMED,
          ONG DAOUD
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    Dec 31, 2008
    Dear All,

    Unfortunately, I have joined very late in this debate but then I have
    enjoyed reading through the last patches of discussion particularly thoughts
    shared by Marilyn W. Hoskins and John Pender.

    1. I want to add to what John Pender says about, ""everyone should be
    encouraged to participate" to be unrealistic and probably self-defeating".
    This is true and has been proved so with penetration of mass movements by
    all kinds of people from within the communities. In some cases, those who
    already hold more than legally permitted size of land holdings could well be
    the first ones to benefit from some of the gains achieved by land rights
    movements.

    2. Discussing definitions and other nuances of 'Participation' at global
    forums, hardly means anything for the poor (especially the tribals, dalits
    and other historically marginalized communities) who have been subjected to
    inter-locked modes of exploitation at the hands of a powerful coalition of
    local elites, bureaucrats, and now increasingly influential corporate houses
    and multinationals. I may have missed a lot of important discussion but it
    would have been better to have more of a discussion on particular mechanism
    and strategies that have been adopted by the groups working on ground for
    organizing communities to help them gain their rights.

    2. To me it seems that while intellectual discussions have attained heavenly
    heights, people are struggling with most basic of their rights. When are we
    going to stand up and force the governments to do simplest of things like
    ensuring the accountability of local revenue officials in undertaking
    upgradation of land records? Why this has to wait while we go on researching
    into finer details of academic issues involved? And by the way, what fun in
    concluding things such as: "Government to promote democracy and openness to
    change". Well, we have heard this before!!! And a thousand times at that..

    3. This to me is the core of civil society action in times we live in. Where
    do we focus our resources and how do we prioritize our action. This also
    relates to the issue of accountability of civil society to its constituency
    (poorest communities at the top of list).

    Many thanks,

    Prakash Kashwan
    New Delhi

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Date CreatedTuesday, December 30, 2008 4:20 PM
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