Greater Voice of Civil Society in Planning

UNDP in India has been investing in developing institutions and processes that are more responsive to the needs of the poor women and men and that promote inclusive development. UNDP brought to scale the efforts of CSOs to engage with the planning processes. Beginning from the start of the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012), UNDP enabled the exercise led by women organizations to engender the planning processes. The voices of the poor women from across the country on issues of agriculture, energy, security, infrastructure, financial services were fed into to the various working groups for the Eleventh Five Year Plan, strongly highlighting the fact that concerns of women cannot be only dealt in one single chapter on Women and Child Development in the Plan document.

UNDP has continued to foster partnerships with CSOs to promote participation, accountability and effectiveness at all levels. In 2010, the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-2012) reached its mid-way mark and discussions have focused on the Plan’s performance and approach that must be taken to achieve its objectives. With UNDP support, over 3,000 people especially belonging to persistently excluded population groups and regions, participated in what is now widely recognised as the first-ever people’s mid-term appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan. It captured a diverse range of recommendations stemming from people’s experiences with the Plan that were presented to the Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission at a national workshop.

Owing to the success of this initiative of UNDP and strengthened coalition of the CSOs, Planning Commission invited civil society groups to contribute to the preparation of the Approach Paper to the 12th Five-Year Plan, aimed at achieving “faster, more sustainable, more inclusive growth.” UNDP support has facilitated a year long inclusive process driven by over 850 civil society groups that debated priorities and challenges of the 12th Plan. It provided women and men from marginalised communities living in remote corners of the country with an opportunity to voice their opinions on key development issues, and in doing so, marked a significant step in making planning participatory. Planners interacted with 16 population groups comprising Dalits, migrants, urban poor, tribals, muslims, PLHIV, transgenders among others. The extent of inclusion is also evident from the fact that due to UNDP efforts, the most marginalized population group of Transgenders became an active partner in the discussion. It is the first time that transgenders as a marginalized group have been recognised in the draft approach paper. The commitment of the Planning Commission was also noteworthy as all the consultations were attended by the senior officials of the commission.

The inputs from the people were compiled in a report Approaching Equity: Civil Society Inputs for the Approach Paper — 12th Five Year Plan and submitted to the Planning Commission that outlined a number of key concerns to ensuring “growth for all”. These include access to entitlements for people living with HIV, dalits, tribal communities, people living with disabilities; better access to institutional financial services; displacement and environmental damage resulting from projects, and livelihood generation opportunities. At the same time, UNDP also participated and provided inputs to six Working Groups and a steering committee on Women’s Agency for the 12th Five Year Plan on issues related to MGNREGA, water management, gender, decentralized governance, livelihoods promotion, and disaster management. Solutions Exchange communities of practice facilitated online and face to face consultations on some areas of the 12th Plan.

CSO feedback on the Approach Paper was shared at a two day national consultation that followed the process of gathering critical inputs from key constituency groups,a range of CSOs, thematic and independent experts. The inputs were collated in a report titled “Equity Unaddressed”. The process has been commended by the Planning Commission and the value added of UNDP as a neutral partner for CSOs is also well recognized. This example is a clear evidence of UNDP’s contribution to bring to scale the process of interaction between CSOs and Planning Commission. Due to UNDPs support, participatory consultation process has become a formal and systemic one while retaining the autonomy and inclusion of various population groups.