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E-forum on Participation in Public Policy Processes


The Social Development Division at ESCWA has conducted in the period of four months in 2010 three online discussion forums on the following thematic areas: (a) Government -civil-society participation in public policy processes including social policies (1 July to 30 August 2010); (b) Media and Development (1 August to 30 September 2010); and (c) Social Integration towards achieving participation (1 September to 30 October 2010). The three e-forums provided a platform to share knowledge, experiences, ideas and best practices on operational strategies to be adopted in the Arab region to promote public-civic participation in public policy processes, enhance media role in the social domain, and further social integration through a participatory process. Generating 376 responses from experts, practitioners, stakeholder groups and policy-makers from 11 countries in the world, the e-fora presented a rich array of perspectives and some actionable recommendations for consideration by ESCWA and the larger international community. With a view to sensitize the contribution of participants in the e-discussions, SDD launched an Award-winning contest by including all members’ inputs and insights into a multi-country competition to win the ‘best ESCWA e-forum contributor award’. Platinum, Golden and Silver honorary shields were awarded respectively to 3 contestants in each e-forum. 

Upon completion of the three electronic discussion fora, a consolidated e-fora report was produced (link attached below). The report provides a synthesis and an assessment of the overall discussions tackled under the three key e-fora thematic areas. The report also captures a number of conclusions, recommendations and lessons drawn out from the e-discussions, and touches base on the use of this portal and dissects the way forward.

E-Forum 1: Government -civil-society participation in public policy processes including social policies

It has been long recognized and affirmed within the UN system that civic engagement and participatory processes are vital instruments for addressing the challenges of poverty reduction and achieving internationally agreed development goals, including MDGs. In recent decades, several major UN summits, resolutions and international declarations have focused on the themes of participation and partnership in a wide range of international issues, namely General Assembly resolutions 50/223, 53/181, and 60/34, as well as the Economic & Social Council, which articulated in its resolution 2006/99 the importance of civic participation when it encouraged "Member states to strengthen citizen trust in government by fostering public-citizen participation in key processes of public policy development".

All the more, there is substantial evidence that an effective and sound public sector depends very much on the existence of a dynamic civil society and strong citizen involvement in the public realm, an involvement that manifest itself in participatory engagement in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring that brings transparency and effectiveness to public institutions. Such relationship can become symbiotic and crucial to achieve good governance and sustained development, as well as create a sense of ownership of social issues and enable civil society and government to work together to determine the most appropriate approach to such processes and such an active engagement. However, firm commitment and genuine efforts of Governments are still too shy in the Arab region in matters of engaging citizens in decisions and resources that affect their lives through consultations and 'active' participation, which is resulting in policy mismatch, avoidable conflicts and tensions, loss of trust in government and, ultimately, policy failure.

From that perspective, and to stimulate discussion on this topic, we will have questions that frame it up. Before we post the questions to start off our conversation, we would like to remind you of the structure of the discussion.

As you are aware, the online discussion will run for two consecutive months, i.e. from 1 July to 30 August 2010, side-by-side with the other two e-fora. While we strongly call for ESCWA countries' contribution, our geographic focus will be international and we welcome good practices and resources from different countries throughout the discussion.

For a rich and interactive discussion, we encourage you to exchange ideas with fellow participants on the forum and also provide feedback to questions and issues raised by them.

E-forum 1 Questions:

  1. How would you describe the relationship between CSOs and government entities in your country?
  2. What is the role that Civil Society Organizations look up to play? What are the mechanisms needed to achieve this role?
  3. What are the operational tools that are needed to enhance the stakeholders' role in affecting governments' agenda and public policies? (stakeholders = civil society organizations, private sector, media practitioners, social actors, local leaders, etc.)
  4. What are the challenges and problems facing Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) when striving to impact policy decisions?
  5. Unsound development policies could trigger conflicts and result in uninformed decisions and undesirable development outcomes. How do you think participation can contribute to conflict prevention and conflict resolution, especially in your conflict-prone area?
  6. Do you have any examples of strategies, good practices and mechanisms that you would like to share in terms of enhancing public-civic participation?