Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Sunday, 13 May 2007

Universal Responsibility

Dialogues and partnerships will not deliver sustainable development unless there are mechanisms that balance the power relationships between the partners, help negotiate interests in a way that maximizes public value and commitments towards development.
Dialogue participant in Sao Paulo, Development as Accountability, p. 37

We have a universal responsibility for the planet. That is what drives us - working for the environmental conventions and sustainable development. One of the features of sustainability we aim for is cross sector co-operation and partnerships: collaborative management of protected areas and natural resources, public participation in government decision making. Universal responsibility implies accountability. The CEPA toolkit stresses basic communication principles in this respect: e.g. that what we do, provides a message with more impact, than what we say. The section on stakeholder management illustrates that delivering on promises is one of the first milestones for establishing meaningful relationships. The fact sheets on public participation point at the importance of strengthening the capacity of local stakeholders. Is that enough to guarantee accountability?

Early this morning the captain of the plane which was taking me to Asia, woke us up just a few hours before we were supposed to land. He announced that – due to engine failures - he had turned around and now was almost back in Amsterdam. Waiting for the next evening flight, I have time enough to read. Lizzie made me aware of the report just before I left. Key findings for NGOs, governments, donors and business are:
1. Development partnerships are not inherently more accountable.
2. Collaboration is weakening traditional mechanisms of state and private sector accountability.
3. Poor people understand and value accountability, despite cultural variations in emphasis. Yet ensuring their participation continues to be a major challenge.
4. Civil society organizations now have a complex twin role as advocates of accountability and as active partners in multi-stakeholder partnerships.
5. There is an observable lack of knowledge on collaborative governance.

I realize how many challenges and opportunities this issue poses for communication and learning. Anyone has experiences on this issue, that (s)he wants to share?

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