Participatory integration of planning and policy making
Existing participatory research and management in the Pacific islands takes place within the centrally defined policy and planning process of the Government. This is entirely different from the process recommended by Agenda 21 that involves all participants in the policy making and planning process. Here are some examples of bridging the gap between the local, provincial, national and international planners.
Government attempts to use participatory techniques have been fruitful, but the vast majority of government agencies are untrained in these tools. Regional organizations are now starting to assist governments in training officials in forming working partnerships with the farmers, fishers and foresters. The Pacific Regional Agriculture Programme, for example, produced a Logical Framework Training Kit (1996) as a participatory communication tool for the Pacific.
Recognizing the inefficiency of the fragmented institutional structures in the agricultural sector, the PRAP selected the Logical Framework (LogFrame) method to plan, monitor and evaluate agricultural projects. LogFrame was devised by the US Agency for International Development to help evaluate technical co-operation projects. It quickly became a versatile tool for participatory communication and planning because of its ability to overcome institutional barriers.
Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and PNG field tested the LogFrame Participatory Process and the case studies are the foundation for the Logical Framework Training Kit. The kit contains a manual, overhead transparencies in PowerPoint format and a PowerPoint slide-show on diskette.
Judging by the success of participatory research and community management trials, the Pacific island countries will be adopting this approach as a cost-effective methodology for resource assessment and monitoring. (Available from Pacific Regional Agricultural Programme, Project 11 Agricultural Rural Development. Private Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji. FAX: (670) 315 075.
Linking the participatory process with national level policy making
To be effective, participation in local-level planning must be an extension of the national planning and policy process. But how should the participatory process link with sectoral and national level policy processes?
The Participatory and Integrated Policy Process (PIP) was designed as a way to promote the involvement of all stakeholders in the policy process and harmonize the conflicting objectives, strategies and capacities in economic and physical planning (Campbell & Townsley 1996). The system is based on the flow of information and the process of getting the information.
As with the above examples of participatory research, the key is to involve the interested parties in defining their economic, social and technical needs, their priorities, and their own proposed solutions. The process is as important as the information obtained, maybe more so. People know (or think they know) what they want and need. They appreciate being asked. They like it even more when they have the opportunity and responsibility to have a say in what the government intends doing with their land and their resources.
This is not limited to villagers. The professional and technical staff of government have information they wish to contribute about resource needs, priorities and solutions in their sector. They often realize there are links with other sectors that are not working and are on the front line of economic and environmental failures in Pacific island countries. One reason professional staff leave government employment is their inability to apply their knowledge to influence policy decisions.
The Vanuatu Land Use Project is a close approximation of an idealized PIP process. It is considerably different from the normal policy making process in the Pacific Islands. Although the Vanuatu example does not incorporate all phases of PIP in it's current stage, it is an excellent example of the how elements of the process can be started.
The PIP process has been called The Pacific Way where it exists on an inter-governmental level. The PIP pattern of co-operation, problem identification and policy formation is behind the formation of the numerous regional organizations and regional policies. If the various nations of the Pacific were parts of a larger Pacific Community called Oceania:
These organizations function from the bottom up, not from the top down. The Forum Secretariat acts according to the directives and needs of the member countries. The Forum Fisheries Agency does not tell member nations what to do with the fishery resource and can make no demands on the countries. It acts as their representative in negotiations with foreign fishing nations, co-ordinates research, and facilitates common policy decisions to meet the needs of its member countries.
Each nation on the governing body of the regional organizations has an equal say in the policy and planning process, so the regional organizations represent their needs and visions. The interests of various member countries are harmonized between the participating governments in an equitable fashion - the round tables, review of the available information by experts, oratory by top level government officials, tiny Tuvalu having equal say as big Fiji, Samoa with a small tuna resource with a voice as powerful as Kiribati or PNG with enormous tuna resources.
Respect for all members and their views is of paramount importance to this process. Information is available to any member without restriction and data is collected and kept in libraries and databases ready to be used to solve agricultural or fisheries or forestry problems. Requests for information are handled by trained librarians and statisticians. Environmental, economic and political data presented at meetings of the FFA, the South Pacific Forum, and the South Pacific Conference are the foundations for a multitude of economic and physical planning decisions for each nation and for the region at the same time.
However, the process of harmonization works best for resources and activities that are themselves regional; like the tuna resource or a ban on long gill nets at sea. When it comes to actual changes in the behavior of people in the individual island countries, or resources like forestry or local environmental and development issues, the process is much less effective. Real, on the ground progress will improve dramatically as the participatory approach develops to bridge the gap between the regional/national and the district/village interests.
At ground level, regional organizations are suddenly too small, unable to obtain timely environmental information from the far flung islands or reach the motivating level of people who use (and abuse) the resources or of government officials that manage the resources. While the organizations can't reach out to interact with the resource users, representatives of the resource users can reach out to the organizations. This process will be facilitated by the growth of the Internet throughout the islands. When resource users are able to contribute to the policy formation and decision making process that goes on around the round tables of Oceania's various regional organizations, the entire system will finally reach ground level. The current attempt to incorporate the needs of the people of the region has prompted regional organizations, to try participatory methods in field investigations, workshops, and surveys. And they help.
As the SWOT analysis demonstrated Participatory Integrated Planning (PIP) can help offset the expected drop in foreign donations to Pacific island countries and regional organizations.
Island governments can't conduct expensive research programs or environmental projects (such as National Forest Inventories or Water Resources Surveys) without foreign funds and expertise. The regional organizations of Oceania also depend on foreign funds to conduct expensive research programs. Top-down research and development projects, and legislative and planning efforts of governments are expensive and inefficient. The high rate of development programme failure, masked by a pandemic refusal to review programs to determine their long term results, cannot be sustained as foreign allowances are reduced.
The Pacific island governments will, therefore, be forced to adopt cost-effective methods of information gathering, devolving the responsibility for planning and conducting research to communities themselves, with the National government offering technical advice and perhaps some key equipment to help develop research policy and methods and to co-ordinate information storage and retrieval. The government agencies would mirror the current strategies of regional organizations, providing advice and technical support to their "member" provinces and villages.
Just as the regional organizations expect countries to pay for their own field work costs today, governments must expect communities to pay for their own resource assessment planning and monitoring programs. Today, equipment, methods, and information networking is donated to the governments by foreign aid. Tomorrow, governments will be expected to aid communities by donating equipment, methodologies, and information.
Ideally, national governments will be able to accord the same relationship to community leaders that national leaders now enjoy within regional organizations. The concept of the government assuming the role of a regional organization for communities is not far from the political methodology described as "The Pacific Way," but it is a major diversion from the colonial government mentality that the communities are not ready or able to assume responsibility for their own behavior or participate in the decision making process. This is exactly the sentiments behind the colonial service in the Solomon Islands not including Solomon Islanders in the decision making process until 1972.
Perhaps the best example of integration and co-operation of regional, national and local resources - both governmental and private - for sustainable economic development and planning is the tourism industry.
The Pacific Islands Tourism Development Council, now the South Pacific Tourism Organization and national tourism organizations have used participatory methods in economic and physical planning for years. The tourism industry was the first to publish a comprehensive regional environmental strategy which includes EIAs as a mandatory step for any major tourist development.
On the national level, visitors are asked to fill out cards on arrival, and sometimes on departure, describing why they came to visit and sometimes what they liked about their visit and what they didn't like. These data are accumulated and analyzed by the national statistics offices and by the regional organizations. Policy and planning decisions of these on-going surveys then influence all aspects of development in the tourism industry. The survey process is extended to the people in the tourism industry and in the public sector of the community to find out their problems and successes with tourism. Most islands have tourist associations that act as NGO focal points for national and regional tourism officers. The information is current and incorporates environmental impacts and considerations.
This information is passed on to the local tourist industry associations to help them improve their performance. Regional assistance is available for training and advice. Government tourism officers are often organizers of local environmental events and speak on tourism and environmental issues at local schools.
Tourism integrates a broad sector of the island community, Agriculture, Fisheries, Conservation, Parks and Recreation, Water and Energy, Sanitation, Health, Roads, Construction, Mining, Transport, Lands and Survey, Education, Arts, Crafts, and Culture. In general, where tourism is sought in the Pacific islands, people seem to work together between these areas; co-operating well for what they perceive as a common benefit.
The lesson from the Tourism sector is one of mutual co-operation at all levels, and a general pervasive understanding that success depends on maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of the environment.