Civil society consultations: worth the effort or window dressing?

By Edith van Ewijk and Rosalie de Bruijn, writing on the Broker Online:

One of the main criticisms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was that they were largely thought up by high-income countries without involving partners in the South, let alone wider groups from civil society. To ensure that the post-2015 process is inclusive and participatory, various global, national and regional consultations have been organized. Involving civil society organizations in the drafting phase is important as the effective implementation of the new set of goals largely depends on their commitment.

The UN High Level Panel (HLP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda took the criticism of the MDGs seriously and, in preparing its report, consulted more than 5,000 organizations and 300 business corporations in 121 countries. In total more than 500,000 people were involved in the debates and consultations, as well as in surveys on internet and even through mobile phones.

As more civil society consultations are being organized, the question comes up whether they really serve their purpose. Several development cooperation experts have been sceptical about the usefulness of consultations at grassroots level. Saskia Hollander and Cheshta Panday(The Broker) rightfully pointed to a number of concerns, including low levels of participation and the high representation of ‘usual suspects’.  Although there is much reason for scepticism, we believe that it is important to support these initiatives for a number of reasons. Having participated in various consultations in the Netherlands, we would like to discuss their added value in this contribution.”

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