Community Participation in Development: briefing by Hans Binswanger

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

18 September 2006
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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
19 September 2006
COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN DEVELOPMENT: BRIEFING BY HANS BINSWANGER

Acting Chairperson:
Mr M Lekgoro (ANC)

Relevant Documents:
Community Development: The Global Experience by H Binswager, Tshwane University of Technology
Short Biography of H Binswanger, Tshwane University of Technology (see appendix)
Local Government and Community Driven Development: Historical Roots and Evolution of World Bank Programs by H Binswanger et al, Tshwane University of Technology

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by Hans Binswanger on models and experiences of community empowerment and participation in development. He focused upon evolution of three different approaches and reflected upon experiences within various countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Sector specific programmes had a poor record of assisting the poor and vulnerable. Productive projects had caused problems in conflicts over incentives to work, consume and share profits. The Integrated Area Development approach was abandoned because although infrastructure was often delivered, most other objectives failed due to lack of income growth and co ordination problems. Community Driven Development (CDD) was currently running in about a hundred programmes worldwide. Communities would be fully involved in every aspect of programmes, were coordinated at local government level, had access to training in financial management and planning and gained experience in a hands-on situation.
A further synthesis of Local and Community Driven Development was a co-production of communities, local government, sector agencies, the private sector and NGOs.


Members thanked the presenter for a stimulating discussion and raised queries on the benefits and sustainability of the LCDD model, the impact of decentralisation, whether
the current institutions in South Africa were framed to cater for community participation and empowerment. the lessons developing countries could learn, and how granting more resources would tie in with the need for checks and balances. Members called for a careful analysis of approaches, and an analysis of the Local Government Municipal Structures Act.
There was general consensus that community empowerment and participation was crucial in South Africa. Members agreed to pursue the idea of developing common consensus on a practical community empowerment model for South Africa and defining and strengthening Local Government relationships

MINUTES
Mr Hans Binswanger, Research Fellow at the Tshwane University of Technology's Institute for Research on Economic Innovation, focused his briefing on the experiences gained over 60 years ( 25 of which was spent as a
manager, policy analyst, designer of large scale development programs, implementer, advocate, and AIDS activist at the World Bank) in community development. He focused on-the evolution of approaches to local community development and empowerment, and the models that had subsequently emerged. He noted that there were three different approaches, the first being service delivery oriented, the second being intermediary, when government would take a strong management approach, and the third through empowerment. Integrated local development was seen as the best tool for South Africa, provided that roles were properly defined and all parties fully empowered to execute their roles. He reflected upon experiences within various countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, and indicated that sector specific programmes had a poor record of assisting the poor and vulnerable. Examples and illustrative tables were used from the Bangladesh experience. Productive projects had been a problem, because of conflicts over incentives to work, consume and share profits. The Integrated Area Development approach was used from 1969 to 1995 but was abandoned because although infrastructure was often delivered, most other objectives failed due to lack of income growth and co ordination problems. Mr Binswanger summarised that strong ideals and strategies tended to degenerate on scaling up, that programmes in the past had not strengthened the institutional framework for development, did not devolve functions and resources and often lost their social objectives. NGOs were rarely able to proceed further than the delivery and intermediary model.

Community Driven Development (CDD) was currently running in about a hundred programmes worldwide. Through this model communities would choose the project and its design, set up and execution. The communities were coordinated at local government level and had access to professional facilitators and technical resources. They received training in financial management and planning and gained experience in a hands-on situation. Mr Binswanger presented the experiences of Brazil, stating that such programmes had had positive social and economic impact within a short time frame.

A further synthesis had evolved, of Local and Community Driven Development (LCDD), which was a co-production of communities, local government, sector agencies, the private sector and NGOs. Money and authority was devolved to local governments and communities. Both were held accountable for use of funds and for achieving their own development objectives. Implementation remained a challenge, and there were some weaknesses, which could be addressed. Infrastructure tended to be prioritised, and there needed to be more development of delivery of welfare services and social safety nets.


Discussion
Mr P Smith (IFP) commented that the presentation provided an interesting intellectual framework from which individual committee members’ experiences could be related, and measured. He asked Mr Binswanger to further elaborate on the benefits and sustainability of the LCDD model, which also seemed to focus on infrastructure and less on productive and social service sectors. He also argued that there is a myth that decentralization dispensed layers of government, when in fact it seemed only to shift the burden of responsibility to other levels of government. This was rarely matched with appropriate capacity building strategies.

Mr Binswanger responded that it was vital that the model focused on infrastructure, given its importance in many areas in South Africa. However, new approaches were emerging on how to integrate dimensions of the productivity and social service sectors. He questioned whether co-operatives were feasible in South Africa, given their poor experience. There was a need to strengthen social service and productivity sectors at community level. He cautioned against too much planning with very little empowerment of communities. He stressed that sustainable community participation required significant investment of resources within the community. There was participation fatigue in South Africa, with communities feeling too ‘work-shopped’, yet having very little authority to implement and control resources. The current legal framework allowed for authority, but this had yet to be put into practice. Decentralisation changed functions of different layers of government. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) provided an excellent framework for these institutional arrangements, but much remained to be done in practice.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) stated that it was important to contextualise the evidence presented to South Africa. In the case of Brazil, there was also evidence of successful community mobilization initiatives. He further queried if the current institutions in South Africa were framed to cater for community participation and empowerment. He asked if suggestions could be made on a road map of action following the briefing, given that there were no guidelines on community participation at present.

Mr Binswanger responded that experience shows that no country had achieved bottom up approach of community empowerment and development through decentralization. There was a need for radical shifts in how planning and capacity issues were addressed at local level, especially if these were systemic across all levels of government. Local Government planning should be simplified in an attempt to minimise the use of external actors such as consultants, and to bring communities and local officials on board. Complex planning processes marginalised communities. Furthermore, these entailed complex resource transfer mechanisms that were inaccessible to communities. The new approach would also strengthen accountability and transparent financial management practices. Mr Binswanger suggested that some of the key issues that the Committee could look at included the need to simplify requirements for planning, accounting and contracting procedures within local assemblies, in order to free up time for Community Development Facilitators to service the communities. Furthermore there was a need to ensure that resources for local government were made available for a broad set of programmes, and made directly available to communities and a need to influence institutional actors to secure agreement on the approaches he had outlined.

Mr M Swathe (DA) wished to know about the gap between developed and developing countries and whether the latter could learn from the former. He endorsed the idea of bringing resources close to communities, but this also had capacity implications.

Mr Binswanger replied that the experience in developed countries had been rather mixed. However, most of them had a rich institutional matrix that enabled the interaction between local government, line agencies and communities.

The Acting Chair asked if there was empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that granting more resources to local government and communities was successful. He asked how this would fit with the increased emphasis on promoting checks and balances as well as combating corruption.

Mr Binswanger responded that local and national level elite politics were similar. Up till now there had been too much emphasis on strengthening formal and vertical accountability mechanisms. In the case of local government, renewed emphasis should be placed on strengthening horizontal and downward accountability structures. The availability of resources at local level would support this.

Mr Smith highlighted that careful thought must be given to this approach in South Africa. It entailed the deployment of already scarce resources and capacity, within weak and struggling local governments. The solutions to community development and empowerment did not require review of legislation. They involved influencing and engaging with various key actors to change their mindset and make decisions about a practical and sustainable approach for South Africa.

Mr Binswanger agreed that the legal framework allowed for the arrangement of transferring resources and responsibility to communities, but was less clear on transactions involved for given amounts. Lessons could be learnt from Brazil and Mexico on such approaches.

Mr Mshudulu called for the need for a subsequent analysis and critique of the Local Government Municipal Structures Act.

Mr Binswanger responded that World Bank experts were already focusing in this area, and he would recommend that they get in touch with the Committee Secretariat.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

APPENDIX

Short biography

 

Hans Binswanger has been a researcher, manager, policy analyst, designer of development programs, implementer, advocate, and AIDS activist. During his 25 years at the World Bank he has assisted a number of countries in the development of agricultural and rural development strategies and in the design of Community-Driven Development, land reform and and HIV/AIDS programs (Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Morocco, Burkina Faso, South Africa, and others). He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and of the American Agricultural Economics Association, and is listed in “Who is Who in Economics.” He currently lives in South Africa where he is a fellow of the Tshwane University of Technology, and a consultant to the World Bank.

 

 

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