|Civil Society, NGDOs and Social Development: Changing the Rules of the Game (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development , 2000, 86 p.)|
|IV. Civil Society and Social Development: Changing the Rules of the Game|
The guiding rubric for this paper is "changing the rules of the game". This means altering the way actors in and beyond the aid system function, and in the process encouraging them to relate to one another in a more healthy fashion. For, unlike businesses, improved efficiency and performance will not be gained by externalizing costs. In social development, optimizing performance calls for distributing rights, obligations and costs across institutions based on an anti-poverty agenda within a systems perspective.
The biggest institutional shift required to improve social development and poverty reduction is for the aid system to function equitably and fairly. Presently it is still a discordant, poorly co-ordinated agglomeration of self-focused, self-interested entities with too little incentive to overcome dysfunction and pathologies. It is a system that, too often, fosters dependency while denying it is doing so, and prevents people taking charge of their own development choices and processes. It is also part of a system and structure of international relations that sends mixed signals.
Consequently, why should the poor and marginalized in society believe and trust aid's actors to prioritize their interests over those of more powerful resource providers? For, we must be aware that citizens of the South and East see governments that are financing and promoting international social development in other settings too, for example at the World Trade Organization. There, their behaviour sends the opposite message, namely that they will only consider altering structural causes of poverty if it does not threaten or erode the enormous advantages already enjoyed by "contented" Northern voters (Galbraith, 1992). For this is the nature of short-term, narrow politics.
Put another way, in order for the aid system to spearhead and accelerate civic engagement in social development it must first become credible. And this means consistent deeds across the board, not words and double standards. Poor people and the societies in which they live must see and be convinced that their interests count most for those purporting to act because of the moral unacceptability of poverty and exclusion. There is no shortage of proposals about how this can be achieved. The preceding pages offer but one synopsis.
In the last analysis, necessary institutional reform boils down to honest commitment. This implies integrity, allied to a long-term political will stemming from an insight among the mass of the better-off that they live in an interdependent world. This insight must be reinforced by increased, better mobilized, and better articulated pressure, as a right, from below. This calls for broad-based international co-operation, not aid, as the best way to rid the world of poverty wherever it exists.