In their paper The Benefits of a Big Tent: Opening Up Government in Developing Countries, J Goldstein and J Weinstein argue for a “big tent”; one term under which open data and open government communities can pursue a common goal. I believe the term is fitting for the post-2015 processes and the unprecedented opportunity they present stakeholders in the development sector.
The development sector is peppered with silos and silos-within-silos as stakeholders carve out niches and ring-fence them with descriptive names and jargon to go with it. We have the transparency movement, the accountability movement, the human rights movement, the feminist movement, the climate change movement, the environmental protection movement, the access to information movement….the list could, quite literally, go on and on. A cursory glance through the recent zero draft from the co-chairs of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals shows many of these constituencies are represented across the 17 focus areas. Indeed their input, especially through the Major Groups, is documented in Rio+20 and throughout the 12 OWG sessions that resulted in the current zero draft. When attempts to mainstream certain aspects such as gender equality, women’s rights or even peace and security are made, it introduces some challenges at implementation and oversight (the latter a role played by among others civil society). This is because those advocating for accountability and public participation, for instance, now have to understand the challenges of doing so in fragile states. Those working in open government need to remain aware of the need to be gender responsive in design of initiatives. Those working in peace and security need to be aware of the issues related to illicit financial flows and international trade. These are just three examples of what can become a complex programming challenge.
I recently had the honour of participating in a strategy meeting organised by FEMNET, FOWODE, Ipas, Akina Mama Wa Afrika and the Government of Uganda on Strengthening Women’s Voices in the Post-2015 Process. Held in Kampala, Uganda the meeting was opened by the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut and brought together participants working in women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality in Africa. There were participants from organisations working in political empowerment, open government, sexual & reproductive health rights, governments and media. The value of bringing together stakeholders from such a broad cross-section of civil society and the public sector was, in my opinion, immense as many who attended can attest. This was, for me, a practical illustration of how the Post-2015 process has provided a big tent for the development sector.
In appropriating the term “big tent” to the post-2015 context I hope to conceptualise the post-2015 process as an opportunity which stakeholders can leverage to tackle the grand challenge of poverty eradication as a single global community effort. We need to ensure none of the issues we deem critically important for Africa’s development goals are left unarticulated in the final post-2015 development framework.
The efforts of FEMNET, FOWODE, Akina Mama Wa Afrika and others to bring together those who are not normally part of these conversations is laudable. It’s efforts like these that we at Open Institute are keen to catalyse and promote because of their potential to perforate the silos and release new insights across constituencies. We look forward to collaborating with others under this tent as we continue to encourage our governments to maintain ambitious and transformative goals in the post-2015 agenda.
A key output of this meeting was the development and publication of a position statement by civil society organisations encouraging governments to support a transformative goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment among seven other issues. You can find the Kampala Position Statement on 2015 here on the FEMNET website.