Rural dialogue groups drive policy change in LAC
"Stakeholders were able to champion the interests of a large but under-represented part of society."
In Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, 5.2 million rural people live in poverty. Though development projects have made an impact, rural poverty is under-represented in policy-making. Through the formation of discussion groups, this project created recognition of the urgency of rural poverty at a national level.
Driving change at policy level
Groups of up to 30 influential figures in the participating countries came together to interface with policy-makers, debate and discuss new policy decisions. Coming from a range of backgrounds, these stakeholders were able to champion the interests of a large but under-represented part of society.
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The project can offer
- A proven model for opening dialogues with policy-makers that help instil support for poor rural people at a national level.
Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico
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The impact of development activities can be amplified when they are complemented by systematic and proactive policy dialogue processes. In the Latin American countries Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, policy dialogue groups were formed by bringing policy-makers together with people in positions of influence in the community. These groups were a vehicle for evidence-based policy dialogues that helped bring visibility and priority to the needs of the rural poor.
Despite previous rural development, poverty still affects some 5.2 million rural households in Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador. The challenge was to further advance policy dialogue and continue the institutional change path put in place by earlier projects. Ultimately, the goal is to create more conducive environments for the rural poor to overcome poverty, and to scale up the benefits from individual projects to a higher level of impact.
The main approach to guiding and influencing the national poverty dialogue was the promotion of rural dialogue groups (GDRs). These brought together between 10 and 30 influential people from different sectors of government and society, including poor rural peoples’ organizations, producers’ organizations, high-level agribusiness leaders, indigenous peoples, journalists, politicians, members of NGOs and academics. The purpose was to debate and agree on policy, institutional change objectives, and promoting rural poverty and development as issues of prominence on the public and governmental agenda.
The groups provided a conduit for civil society to interact with policy-makers, serving as the main forum for a dialogue on strategies, institutional changes and policy changes. The groups were instrumental in developing recommendations and influencing the promotion of institutional and policy changes affecting the rural poor. The project's goals included:
- strengthening the role of policy dialogue addressing rural issues by promoting normative changes in ways that benefit the rural poor;
- supporting policy and institutional changes that create more conducive environments for the rural poor to overcome poverty;
- promoting institutional and policy environments that support agricultural production and related non-agricultural activities;
- including the rural poor and their social organizations as active partners in the policy dialogue groups of each of the participating countries, and;
- promoting agricultural and rural development by strengthening awareness and advocacy and policy dialogue related to issues of importance to the poor rural population.
Aside from the groups, development activities included preparing various analytical papers on issues pertaining to rural poverty, and holding workshops with government officials, academics and civil society.
Although it is difficult to measure tangible results, numerous intangible results have emerged. Noticeable changes in the four participating countries include:
- Intensified attention to the plight of the rural poor;
- Introduction of new policies designed to provide improved services and employment opportunities in rural areas
- A greater voice for civil society in the national poverty dialogue; and
- A more targeted approach under IFAD’s projects with greater focus on disadvantaged areas and the poorest rural population.
Lessons learned and potential for replication
A number of important lessons emerged from the study:
- A sound political economy analysis is critical for the creation of a platform for policy dialogue, and should be nurtured through active dialogue with national governments, local governments and stakeholders.
- A combination of formal and informal dialogue has proven to be effective in many instances.
- Policy dialogue can help shape projects to address core relevant issues.
- Building coalitions and partnerships can help make the long-term policy dialogue process less risky and costly, and minimize deadlocks.
Building on the achievements already made, the next step is to deepen and broaden the policy dialogue on rural poverty and to strengthen the various ongoing programmes designed to address the needs of the rural poor.
Last update: 09/08/2018