Politics of Poverty

Newest buzzword or crucial outcome: What is “inclusive development” all about?

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Rainero and Vilma Silvano outside their home in Tanauan, Leyte. The coconut industry suffered widespread damage during Typhoon Haiyan, putting the livelihoods of over one million farming households at risk. The trees take 6-8 years to mature, so there was an urgent need for farmers to replant and find an alternative source of income. “We had almost one hectare of coconut trees and a rice field. All was destroyed,” says Silvano, a member of the Kabuyan Farmers Association. Small-scale farmers participated in municipal consultations on recovery to voice the challenges they faced and make recommendations that were later included in the government’s rehabilitation plan. Photo: Eleanor Farmer / Oxfam

Oxfam tells the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation that it’s about “ensuring benefits for all.”

Nicola McIvor is the aid and inequality policy advisor at Oxfam Great Britain. 

Inclusive development is driven by people, through open dialogues between country governments and their citizens. The following explanation is from the briefing paper that Oxfam presented at the 1st High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Mexico City. (You can see a Twitter recap of last week’s #GPHLM meeting here.)


What is inclusive development?

Inclusive development is a pro-poor approach that equally values and incorporates the contributions from all stakeholders—including marginalized groups—in addressing development issues. It promotes transparency and accountability, and enhances development cooperation outcomes through collaboration between civil society, governments and private sector actors. 

Why does it matter?

Development fails when governments neglect the needs of the very people they are designed to help. Too often, countries undertake development policies and programs in response to donor demands or private sector interests at the cost of citizen involvement. This results in ineffective and sometimes destructive developmental programs.

Development initiatives are more effective for poverty reduction when all stakeholders—especially citizens and marginalized communities—are actively involved in the planning, execution, and monitoring of development programs.

Foreign aid works best as a tool in the hands of effective local leaders – those trying to solve their own problems in their own nations and neighborhoods.

3 examples of successful inclusive development initiatives

The following case studies are concrete examples of how far inclusive development can take us.

Philippines: Innovating with small-scale farmers

When typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines in 2013, it destroyed 33 million coconut trees, leaving thousands of farmers jobless.

As part of the recovery process, Oxfam helped facilitate municipal consultations in some of the most-affected provinces. The variety of opinions expressed in the multi-stakeholder dialogues not only helped plan and execute a coordinated typhoon recovery effort, but changed the face of the Philippine coconut industry altogether. It allowed small-scale farmers – and in particular women – to voice the challenges they faced and make recommendations that were later included in the government’s rehabilitation plan.

Instead of rebuilding the coconut industry as it was before the typhoon, small-scale farmers are being integrated into innovative supply chains based on higher value-added products. This will, in the long term, benefit the entire Philippine economy.

India: Improving health care through community-based monitoring systems

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in India have long pushed for the implementation of community-based monitoring and planning processes as a part of national standards. When the National Rural Health Mission was established by the Indian government in 2005, it gave CSOs on the ground an official mandate to bring in an innovative rights-based approach to health services. They focused on transparency, participation, and accountability in the delivery of public health services.

This allowed for the start of a new dialogue between service providers and patients. Communities became more accustomed to participating in decision making, while health delivery staff became accustomed to receiving feedback and being held to account by those they served. The annual average of deliveries performed per primary health center doubled in the districts where community-based monitoring and planning was implemented.

Knowing communities’ needs, grassroots organizations can protect the demand side of health services, enabling CSOs to complement official, top-down approach.

Kenya: Budget decentralization encourages female entrepreneurship

Kenya has a system of decentralized budget-making, where the use of funds is decided by local committees rather than the central government. Each year, five per cent of national income tax receipts in Kenya are allocated to the Local Authorities Transfer Fund to improve financial management and accountability.

In Turkana County, communities were trained by CSOs to take part in the development and management of these budgets, while government officials were trained on citizen participation, good governance, and social accountability.

This newly-acquired knowledge inspired the Lokabuur Women’s Group to request training on entrepreneurship through the Ministry of Arid Lands. This, in turn, allowed them to access loans through another government program. Today most of their members are engaged in small business and are able to earn the income necessary to feed their families.

It is only the power of knowledge that will free this community from poverty. ~Elizabeth Longoe, Turkana Central District, Kenya

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