|Strengthening the Fabric of Society: Population. Capacity Building for Sustainable Development (UNDP - UNFPA, 1996, 53 p.)|
One of the recurrent problems developing country governments continually run into in launching population programmes is the inherent weakness of national, regional and local institutions set up to deal with population and development. Often, population concerns are added onto other programmes, with minimal or no effect. Governments, working together with the donor community, private enterprise and NGOs, can better arrive at a functional approach to implementing population policies; an approach based on a process which is inclusive and not exclusive, and one which is grounded in community involvement.
Governments often have a secret weapon in their struggle to formulate and implement appropriate population policies and programmes: their own people! When communities are made an integral part of a population strategy, from its inception, and are incorporated into the programme, many obstacles to acceptance and participation can be overcome. Motivated, involved communities can accomplish a great deal, both in terms of population programmes and safeguarding natural resources.
One way to enhance public participation in population programmes is through extensive IEC campaigns, designed for different audiences and age groups, which are gender sensitive and actually respond to the diverse needs of various communities.
Formulating population policies should not be done in a policy vacuum. Rather, it should be an organic process involving many sectors of society. One way to achieve this is to establish a lead government agency with a mandate to formulate a national population strategy. In this sense, the process of arriving at a population policy is as important as its outcome. A process which is society-based, involving a wide cross-section of the population, will have greater popular acceptance than policies manufactured behind closed doors by a governing elite.
A number of countries have set up standing committees within their parliaments to take on population issues on a continuing basis. When this process is inclusive, taking into account many different perspectives, better policy recommendations emerge and when better policies are produced they are generally easier to implement.
The problem is that too many governments do not have structured ways to formulate and promulgate population policies. One solution, as mentioned before, is to incorporate population concerns into national economic development strategies and programmes. Once population issues are defined and understood by policy makers, then those concerns can be translated into effective policies. Getting to that stage is not easy. Ideally, it requires the capacity to designate a lead national agency to oversee population issues. This agency must have access to appropriate data and have solid links with regional and community organizations and the private sector. It must also have a process to translate recommendations into policies and action plans. This can be done any number of ways, from sending everything through a parliamentary committee, to sending policy recommendations through a national planning agency or even through an interagency task force formed to sift through policy recommendations and make them compatible with overall political, economic and social goals.