The Dual Objectives of Participation
Since its initiation, the regional members of the AP-RCEM have collected experiences with internal governance structure of the mechanism. Since the AP-RCEM was started up by a number of willing individuals it has been the intention all along to ensure that those people initially involved in its emergence gradually create workable, transparent and functional governance mechanisms so that the work of the AP-RCEM is transparent, accountable to the constituencies it represents and can create legitimacy over time. This is an important precursor to make participation count towards effective development outcomes that are co-designed and owned by civil society in a broad partnership as necessary for implementing the future SDGs.
The overall aim with the AP-RCEM is to develop better and more effective forms of engagement and participation. As was the intention with the mechanism all along, broader public engagement in sustainable development governance is an important primary objective, because it can lend necessary legitimacy and ownership of decisions and policies that governments make. Participation is in this sense an important democratic right and an intrinsic part of development justice.
Beyond participation as an ‘end’ in itself, the purpose with the AP-RCEM is also to work towards better outcomes and better results of sustainable development processes, i.e. the intention that participation leads to better development results. There are thus two interconnected objectives of participation as envisioned with the AP-RCEM. A typology that can illustrate these two objectives being (i) participation as end and (ii) participation as means to better development outcomes has been discussed in existing literature on participation. A useful example can be extracted from Bass, Dalal-clayton, & Pretty (1995), who undertook extensive reviews of plans and strategies formulated with varying degree of involvement of other stakeholders in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In combination, a recent study by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) analyses different typologies of participation and makes helpful additions to the discussion on the use of participation in creating ownership, buy in and alignment of development objectives. (Norad, 2013). Such typology can also illustrate the expected outcomes i.e. either capacity, empowerment, or substantive development results. We combine the dual objectives as shown below to clarify that the intention with the AP- RCEM is twofold: to ensure that participation is legitimate, transparent and accountable, but also that it over the longer term can help produce better development outcomes.
At current, the activities of AP-RCEM are somewhere in the middle of the box, where participation is increasing. We believe that the types of participation under the first objective are necessary to bring about participation towards outcomes and increased ownership of decisions, in particular the broad-based ownership necessary to mobilize action around the future SDGs. To be sure, the wish is that the AP-RCEM over the longer term can become one of the mechanisms governments can use at several levels to engage with CSOs (and vice-versa), as a transparent forum to define appropriate priorities of the global SDGs as they will be re-interpreted to fit this region.