From dependence on policies developed by the State, or confronting public authorities without achieving results, to learning productive cooperation in diversity. This sums up decades of social exclusion and conflict between many governments from Latin America and the Caribbean and the local population. It is a scenario that has changed with a speed that few people would have ventured to imagine or predict, but which is today a reality. Several programs originating in poor communities enlisted support to help with their development, learned the path to dialogue and, thanks to this process, are now enjoying the results.
In Bolivia, the Comprehensive Cluster of Projects in Mancomunidad de Azanaques, which is supported by the Kellogg Foundation, successfully rallied organizations, such as the Municipal Youth Councils from six municipalities in the Mancomunidad territory, behind a strategic plan of action to tackle problems of health, education and regional development. According to Trifón Choque, director of Study Center for the Development of Andean Peoples (Cedpan)/Senda Nueva Foundation (Fundasen), a consortium in the cluster, the plan is an instrument of negotiation to implement policies that benefit the region. “To achieve this goal, we need the full participation of local inhabitants. And this requires broad participation by Mancomunidad.”
Bolivia’s Popular Participation Law provides regional funding to solve local problems based on the number of inhabitants. “To influence the handling of revenues, municipalities need to be coordinated behind common objectives,” explained Alex Castillo, director of Center for Research and Educacion(CIPE), another of the organizations from the cluster of projects. “Thanks to the Strategic Plan, we know what we’re going to do until 2009.”
In Brazil, the Networks and Youth project has encouraged youth participation in the areas of public policy, employment, income and communication. The initiative brings together governmental and non-governmental institutions that develop projects with youth in Northeast Brazil. According to project supervisor Marcílio Brandão, youth are considered both entitled to rights and also potential change agents. “We respect their specific cycle of life, their process of social inclusion, their differences, difficulties, abilities and forms of expression, and we help them learn to transform their questions into agendas for discussion on public policy for youth.”
For Networks and Youth, dialogue between NGOs and public authorities has its ups and downs. “There’s a lot to learn in these relations between youth organizations and the State. The limitations need to be more clearly defined and the actions need to be planned out with a view to continuity and sustainability. This is why the permanent discussion forums are so important.”
To learn more, go to the project’s website at www.redesejuventudes.org.br.
Published in Interaction nº 15