Voices: WorldWeWant & Friends
The post 2015 Agenda is designed as a participatory agenda. WorldWeWant & Friends is one initiative designed include the world’s youth.
Inclusiveness has become a major buzzword in development cooperation. What does it stand for and how does it translate into the process dedicated to finding a successor for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
A lot of the indicators used to measure the progress made towards reaching a specific MDG are quantitative in nature. To give an example: Success in fighting poverty is partly measured as the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. If a country manages to halve this number, its efforts to eradicate poverty are praised and recognized. Indeed it would be difficult to argue that such a country had made no progress towards achieving this goal. And yet, there is an intrinsic problem with quantitative indicators like these. They are measured at national level and not disaggregated in any way. This is why a lot of development measures focus on densely populated areas while vast parts of a country remain untouched.
Using the same example: A lot of the least developed countries are monocentric with a huge and rapidly growing primate city as the capitol and the majority of the population living in rural areas. If a government feels the need to produce good results for reducing poverty, all it needs to do is to focus development measures on the least evolved areas of its largest agglomeration. By doing so, it will lift a high number of people above the MDG poverty line. Unfortunately, the scattered majority that live in the countryside gains nothing from such efforts. As a result, the rural-urban divide deepens, the incentive for people to migrate to the capitol increases, and the pressure those cities are already under to keep up with rises even further. This cannot be the desired outcome of any type of development intervention. Indicators of a new, inclusive agenda will have to be measured or disaggregated at the local level.
“Indicators of a new, inclusive agenda will have to be measured or disaggregated at the local level.”
However, for the new framework to be labelled inclusive, it needs to incorporate more than just a mechanism that ensures development on any given spatial level. It also has to ensure that gender, ethnicity, age, religion and any other criteria used to characterize a group of people are irrelevant when it comes to defining who gets to participate in development. To give another example: People living with HIV might live in one of the most developed places in the world and yet stigma and misinformation might lead to them being excluded from any form of improvement.
After the inclusiveness concept was introduced into the post-2015 debate, it has become quite clear that the process leading to a new set of development goals has to incorporate this idea as well. This is why UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has encouraged UN member states to hold inclusive consultations as part of the planning for the post-2015 development framework.
“The World We Want 2015” campaign was launched to “gather the priorities of people from every corner of the world and help build a collective vision that will be used directly by the United Nations and World Leaders to plan a new development agenda launching in 2015”. In India, as a response to the UN Secretary-General’s call, different national convenors representing trade unions, industry, women's associations, farmer's associations, research institutions, civil society and youth organizations engaged in more than 75 consultations throughout 24 Indian states and Union Territories between September 2012 and April 2013. The results of these meetings were shared and discussed by all of the groups and led to a publication that summarized key observations and recommendations. The outcomes of similar consultations held in 88 countries across the world were synthesised by the United Nations Development Group and contributed to the overall post-2015 process.
One innovative and interesting instrument complementing this campaign is MY World, an online survey presenting a set of sixteen possible development themes and asking visitors to vote for their top six priorities.
“The livelihoods of the most vulnerable in particular are so fragile that it is hard to spend time on anything that does not directly contribute to sustaining them.”
This initiative marks an unprecedented experiment to connect to the public directly and was created with the objective of reaching out to as many people as possible. The aim was to design something that is easy to grasp and understand in a couple of minutes. The livelihoods of the most vulnerable in particular are so fragile that it is hard to spend time on anything that does not directly contribute to sustaining them.
”Gathering the priorities of people from every corner of the world” is a challenge for an online survey in countries where internet penetration rates are low in many areas. While these rates are growing quite rapidly in India, overall internet penetration is well below 20 percent, meaning that large sections of the population would be excluded from accessing the campaign. This is why the designers of the MY World Survey came up with a number of ideas on how to engage with people offline. They developed a toolkit containing materials that help to explain and spread the word about the campaign, as well as a template for printing paper ballots. This kit was then distributed among civil society organizations (CSOs) who were told to feel free to go ahead and gather voices on their own. They developed a smartphone app that enables to collect votes and upload them whenever the phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network. They also enabled voting using SMS services.
While the worldwide campaign is still ongoing, more than five million votes have been gathered already. Around two thirds of these votes were collected offline. Roughly one million Indians have already voiced their priorities. The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) is a strategic partner of MY World and has been supporting the outreach campaign since the beginning, rolling it out directly and together with partners from civil society to with a multiplier effect. The added value of volunteers collecting offline votes lies in their face-to-face interaction with people, leading to people’s increased awareness and direct engagement. Word spread slowly but steadily. Local organizations asked for support and were provided with training, tools and paper ballots. People started spreading the word and raising funds to print their own ballots. Nearly 30% of all votes collected through UNV come from India. A national UN Volunteer illustrated the experience of UN Volunteers and partner organizations in engaging people through MY World at a special MY World event in 2013 in New York.
“Neither spatial nor social detriments should influence whether someone is part of development or not.”
Nowadays, volunteers from all around India are constantly developing new ideas for how to reach out to more people. As MY World ambassadors, they spend significant amounts of their time to ensure that ordinary people have their say in a process that hopefully will determine the path the global community is going to take starting in 2015.
Figures might still be small compared to the sheer number of people in India but the MY World campaign is a step in the right direction. It is a large scale, people centered experiment that could end up being the starting point to the creation of more innovative tools directly engaging individuals into development.
Inclusiveness stands for the idea that the new set of development goals is to be created by and for people from every corner of the world and all walks of life and that neither spatial nor social detriments should influence whether someone is part of development or not. This is why, looking at the overall post-2015 process, The World We Want 2015 and the MY World Survey are welcome, innovative efforts to promote inclusiveness and direct participation. Let’s hope that this is just the beginning!