Access to governance and policy processes: What enables the participation of the rural poor? (2008)

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Poverty is about politics. Access to governance structures and participation in policy processes has both an instrumental and intrinsic value to the rural poor and rural poor organisations (here after referred to as RP). The desired outcome, it is argued, is pro-poor governance, by which is meant policy processes within which the RP participate and influence and achieve change through policy implementation. To use the IFAD framework, the primary 'challenge' is access of the rural poor to governance structures and policy processes. However, access to policy processes is necessary but not sufficient. There are four 'sub-challenges'. These are the mobilisation of a RP-led policy narrative, access to and the capacity to engage and influence policy processes and capacity to achieve change via policy implementation. The exact nature of each of these 'sub-challenges' is determined by the interaction of actor-specificity (interests, capacities) and context-specificity (institutions, incentives and constraints). The various actors involved are likely to have previously established power dynamics and networks dictated by political, economic, social and cultural interactions, which will impact the access and influence that they have to public policy processes in general, and participatory approaches specifically. The impact of participatory processes is thus likely to be greatly intertwined with the overall nature of democratic inclusiveness, political culture and accountability. It was found in the case studies, that successful RP participation in policy processes is a function of innovation, incentives and inequality. The rural poor - compared to its urban counterpart - faces additional structural constraints (distance, political invisibility, weak/lack of coordination) for mobilising and affecting policy processes. The rural poor also face many of the same issues as its urban counterparts - such as literacy, confidence, resources, institutional resistances and capacity to understand the issues that hinders any participation in high-level technical policy discussions - but do so more acutely due to the prevailing nature and level of rural poverty. In sum, public policy processes matter for rural poverty reduction. Inclusive democracy has intrinsic value because of poverty-governance linkages (rights, freedoms, voice, participation and public services delivery are common to both discourses). Inclusive democracy is likely to facilitate faster poverty reduction but the rural poor faces additional structural constraints for mobilising and affecting change via participation in the policy process.
Language: English
Imprint: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (background paper for the IFAD Rural Poverty Report 2009): 2008
Series: Discussion paper,