Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by One World Action


  1.  One World Action wishes to concentrate this submission on the impact of the Department for International Development's work on promoting good governance and democracy and the relationship between this and its macro-economic policy.

  2.  The British Government is committed to fostering democracy and respect for human rights. Democratic, transparent and accountability government at every level is the corner stone of sustainable and equitable development and progress towards a world in which all women, men and children can enjoy and exercise their full human rights.

  3.  The Department for International Development Target Strategy Paper, Making government work for poor people - building state capacity sets out a strategy for building the capabilities of the state so that governments have the "capability to create the economic conditions and services necessary for poverty reduction". There is a clear recognition that the quality of government is critical to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. One World Action welcomes DFID's commitment to making government work for the poor.

  4.  DFID has a well developed and respected record within the fields of democracy and good governance. However work remains to be done to ensure that adequate resources are allocated towards programmes which strengthen democratic, transparent and accountability government at both local and national levels, and which support and strengthen civil society organisations. Secondly much remains to be done to ensure greater consistency between DFID's work on governance and democracy and work in other areas, particularly macro-economic policy.


  5.  Throughout the developing world confidence in the state is at a low ebb—people feel disconnected from their governments and trust is lacking. A key challenge for the 21st century is the construction of new relationships between people and the institutions—especially those of government—which affect their lives. Previously strengthening civil society was seen as an alternative to a series of apparently unsuccessful attempts to make governments more responsive. It is increasingly evident that building (or re-building) relationships between citizens and their governments means going beyond "civil society" or "state centred" approaches to focus on how citizens and state intersect and engage, through new forms of participation, responsiveness and accountability. The active engagement of poor women and men is essential, but changes to administrative structures and procedures, laws and political processes are also required to produce more responsive and accountable governments.

  6.  Fundamental to deepening democracy at every level is the need to transform decision-making and political systems and structures to enable more equitable representation and participation of the poorest women and men. Two parallel, and mutually reinforcing, changes are necessary: getting greater numbers of women and members of marginalised groups into decision-making positions, and at the same time, transforming the culture, structures, and organisation of decision-making and political life. In this way democracy can be strengthened and become a process for progressive change. Key to these changes is women and men having the right and the opportunity to participate politically—and here, as the Target Strategy Paper points out, access to information, a free and effective media, a politically active civil society, and inclusive and fair election processes are vital.

  7.  Democracy at the local level is critical to democracy nationally (and internationally) and to making government work for poor women and men and their communities. We would argue for much greater attention to be paid to building democratic governance capacity at the local level. Local government, if skilled, genuinely democratic and accountable, and sufficiently empowered and resourced, can be a real guarantee of quality service provision to the poorest communities, and lay the foundations of democracy at national level.

  8.  A strong civil society is an essential component of democratic decision-making and good governance. Southern development NGOs, trade unions, women's organisations, human rights organisations, farmers associations, community movements, and the media have important roles to play in ensuring greater consultation and participation on policy decisions, programme design and planning and implementation. In all its development co-operation DFID should recognise this role and allocate significant resources towards building and strengthening citizen's movements and other civil society organisations.

  9.  We would argue for significant resources to be allocated towards strengthening democratic culture at the local level, through support for capacity building in responsive and accountable governance of local government officials and representatives, right to information legislation, and public scrutiny processes. We would also want to see resources targeted towards programmes of citizenship education and programmes which build the mobilising, analytical, advocacy and alliance building skills of citizen's movements, trade unions, women's organisations, and other civil society bodies.


  10.  The 2000 White Paper on International Development, Eliminating world poverty: Making globalisation work for poor people recognises that what economic growth is an indispensable requirement for poverty reduction it is not enough by itself. "Pro-poor growth" it states "requires growth and equity". Regrettably the White Paper is short on proposals on how to ensure growth is sustainable, and on mechanisms to ensure the benefits of growth are distributed with equity.

  11.  A central role for government is to stimulate economic growth through its management of the economy, but also to manage available economic resources to help the poor. The urge to have market-friendly government has to be balanced by poor-citizens-friendly government. Macro-economic policy is not free of political assumptions, values and choices; neither is it gender-neutral. The lessons of the stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s and early 1999s cannot be forgotten. The question of how resources and wealth are distributed is still largely overlooked and with it the gender, class and other differentials in control of economic resources, like land, and access to education, training and credit. Despite the shifts in World Bank and IMF thinking about the role of government in managing economic affairs, there is still a worrying commitment to mainstream neo-liberal economics, and especially blanket trade liberalisation the impact of which could jeopardise progress in other areas, such as investment in basic services and strengthening democracy.

  12.  It is important that rapid and demonstrable progress is made towards the consistency of policies promised in the British Government 1997 White Paper on International Development, Eliminating world poverty: a challenge for the 21st century. This stated that "We shall ensure that the full range of Government policies affecting developing countries, including environment, trade, investment and agricultural policies, takes account of our sustainable development objective."

  13.  We would like to see emphasis on governments building the capacity to design and implement macro-economic policy which is sustainable, equitable, gender-sensitive and pro-poor, which takes a sensitive and sophisticated approach to trade liberalisation, privatisation and regulation and is responsive to local and national differences. Such economic policy is more likely to give priority to employment-intensive economic development and to investment in services. The British Government, and DFID in particular, have an important role to play in enabling and supporting government capacity building in this area.


  14.  DFID needs to ensure that adequate resources are allocated towards programmes which strengthen local and national democracy, transparency and accountability through:

    —  changes to administrative structures and procedures, laws and political processes, including processes of public scrutiny; and

    —  enhance the mobilising, analytical, advocacy and networking capacity of citizens' movements, women's organisations, trade unions, and other civil society bodies.

  15.  DFID needs to work for demonstrable progress in the area of policy consistency, paying special attention to removing the inconsistency between its policy on making government work for poor people and its policy on macro-economics.

  16.  DFID could play a greater role in enabling and supporting Southern governments to improve their capacity to design and implement macro-economic policy which is appropriate, sustainable, equitable, gender-sensitive and which enhances their country's chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

One World Action

June 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 November 2002