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'The new sustainable development framework has to impact real people and real lives.'

Dec 12, 2012

Corinne Woods is the Global Director for the UN Millennium Campaign. In an interview with OneWorld South Asia at the sidelines of the Conference on Governance and Public Service Transformation held by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA) in Dhaka, she spoke about various initiatives undertaken in the Campaign, successful strategies used to implement them and her plans for the post-2015 agenda.

OneWorld South Asia: What has your experience been like with the Citizen Feedback Initiative?

Corinne Woods: We’ve seen a number of things. The first thing is that it’s complicated because not only do we have to work close to the government, we also have to work with civil society and citizens. What we’ve seen in the Philippines and in India has been that interest from government and their counterparts has been very profound and clear. So both at the political and administrative level there is a desire for this to work, but it’s a challenge because it takes time to get it right in terms of response rates. What we’ve also seen is that the mobile operators have played a role, but that’s not enough because of the mobile penetration. Regarding civil society partners, it fits in very much with their desire to engage with citizens. So it’s a very interesting mix. In the Philippines about 6 months ago I met the mayor of Tabag and found that she herself was extremely interested in how she could make this work. So it’s positive but it takes time to catch fire and start working extremely well.

OWSA: Has this enthusiasm boiled down to the administrative level?

CW: The challenge for the administration is to find out where and how to feed the campaign into the absolute fundamentals of the system. If I can move out of Asia for a minute, in Kenya there is a strong interest in how this fits into the administrative and justice system. However, it does take time to percolate.

OWSA: Regarding the Citizen Feedback Initiative, what were your successful strategies in the South Asian region?

CW: The first key strategy is not to think that this is about technology. This is about relations between citizens and the administration. Therefore some of the best strategies have been the early discussions with government officials making sure that they were on board. The second is to really understand what are the interests and concerns of citizens themselves. Another interesting strategy that we saw in the Philippines was a desire for not only what was not working to be reported but also what is working. That positive feedback is also something that seems to be very useful. But the key has been to make sure that the partnership and the issues are right.

OWSA: Building on that, the MDGs are slowly coming to a close. How would your campaign fit into the post 2015 scenario?

CW: Slowly is maybe not the word, they are fast approaching the deadline. Undoubtedly we have to work very hard on building on some of the successes achieved towards the MDG targets and looking at how we can move in a short time to accelerate that progress, identifying bottlenecks and challenges.At the same time for the Millennium Campaign we have been asked to take the lead in bringing out citizen and civil society voices and helping the UN in adding these voices into the post 2015 discussion. So whereas the MDGs were written by a group of people who sat in New York, this time around the new sustainable development framework is going to be something which will be infused with true participation and the views of citizens. So we’re building on all the experience which we have in reaching out to citizens, civil society and parliamentarians to ensure that we find ways in which we can take these voices and build these in.We are working with civil society to build a web platform ‘The World We Want in 2015’ which is a space where the deliberations of the high level panel can be taken to the citizens. We have also started with an innovative survey to ask ordinary people who are either sitting in a village in Uttar Pradesh, or living in a slum in Mumbai or sitting in the city of Tabag in the Phillippines that of the 15 – 16 things that the policy analysts are saying, what is important to them and their lives; because in the end the new sustainable development framework needs to have an impact on real people, real lives and real families.

OWSA: Your comments on the Conference?

CW: What is very interesting about this conference is the amount of research there is and the amount of expertise on what works and what doesn’t, the amount of granular discussion on the nuances of the sort of partnerships that might be important and the role of IT in new forms of governance. This is incredibly powerful.However, how do you turn all this knowledge into real implementable action? And so this seems to be a very powerful starting point. What it’s not telling me is what needs to be in the new sustainable development framework? Where is it that there are some essential facets about governments and governance issues and where governance can be built into that? So what would be very powerful coming out of this conference would be a clear and sharp sense of that.

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