Following destructive flooding in 2017, the Committees for Concerted Agreement in the Fight against Poverty throughout the affected regions of Peru involved citizens in the creation of a plan for sustainable reconstruction and development (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017).
Problems and Purpose
The immediate problem this event addressed was widespread destruction following the flooding associated with the Fenómeno El Niño Costero (FENC) in Peru. This flooding affected both urban and rural environments, and many poor individuals were affected by these events (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017). In preliminary meetings of the regions in a state of emergency, the participatory event itself was described by the organization as having three main purposes: 1. Articulate a long term strategy for reconstruction within the frame of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 2. Reinforce the memory of the natural disaster, and 3. Gather the proposals of the population so that it may be a real opportunity for comprehensive development that puts people at the center of the process (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017, pp. 10-11).
Background History and Context
The Committee for Concerted Agreement in the Fight against Poverty (Mesa de Concertación para la Lucha contra la Pobreza or MCLCP) was founded by executive order in 2001 by the President of Peru and later supported by congressional law (MCLCP, 2018). These organizations, created to seek more effective ways to combat poverty in Peru by cooperation between the state and civil society stakeholders, have committees at the national, regional, and local levels throughout the country (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017).
In March 2017, in response to the flooding, the National Executive Committee of MCLCP approved a recommendation to move “From Emergency to Rehabilitation and Sustainable Reconstruction”, which would involve civil society in the process of decision-making and monitoring of required public funding (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017). This executive committee meeting laid the foundation for a meeting of representatives from regional committees affected by the emergency, which proposed the focus on citizen participation in order to place people at the center of the reconstruction and development process (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017). Overall, the form of MCLCP, in which round table discussions seeking voices of diverse stakeholders are held at various levels throughout the country, seems to be a form of Stakeholder Group Process, so any previous publications from this organization may be considered evidence of previous occurrences of participatory processes.
In this particular case, direct, widespread citizen participation via surveys and focus groups was also sought, a popular combination of data collection methods across the globe. Another series of focus groups was later held under the “Voice of My Community” title which gathered the opinions of children and adolescents on the local and regional governance plans for 2019-2022 (Sáez, Casquero, and Aparicio, 2018).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The MCLCP is a national, decentralized system that depends on the participation and cooperation of many different governmental and civil society institutions. Participating organizations include:
- Defensoría del Pueblo
- Poder Ejecutivo
- Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros
- Asociación Nacional de Centros (ANC)
- Conferencia Nacional de Desarrollo Social (CONADES)
- Asamblea Nacional de Gobiernos Regionales
- Asociación de Municipalidades del Perú
- Red de Municipalidades Rurales
- Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP)
- Confederación Nacional de Mujeres Organizadas por la Vida y el Desarrollo Integral
- Religiones por la Paz para América Latina y el Caribe
- Conferencia Episcopal Peruana
- Cáritas del Perú
- Confederación Nacional de Instituciones Empresariales Privadas (CONFIEP)
- Sociedad Nacional de Industrias (SNI)
- Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo – PNUD
- Coordinadora de Entidades Extranjeras de Cooperación Internacional (COEECI)
- (Pogrebinschi, 2017)
Funding for the organization comes from the Peruvian federal government as well as international organizations such as the UN Development Program (Lafosse and Sáez, 2017, p.2).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
There were two major portions to this process: preliminary Agreement Dialogues and a citizen inquiry process known as “The Voice of My Community”, which itself was divided into a wide- reaching citizen survey and local focus groups. The Agreement Dialogues took place first in regions in a state of emergency, and a national dialogue as well as an urban metropolitan dialogue with participants from Lima and Callao soon followed. At all of these dialogues, selected members from diverse sectors of civil society participated, as well as key decision- makers in the governmental sector, such as regional governors, the president of the center of national strategic planning, and representatives from the Office of Humanitarian Issues of the UN and a post-disaster recovery specialist from the UNDP (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017).
During the citizen inquiry portion of this process, the focus groups were selected via purposive sampling, where key stakeholders (community leaders and representatives of public and community organizations), were selected for inclusion, with an effort being made to have a balanced representation of male and female as well as urban and rural participants (47%/53.5% and 54.8%/45.2% respectively). Overall, 770 individuals participated in these focus groups through 39 local workshops and seven regional workshops. The survey portion of this enquiry was distributed to a sample of 42,364 participants in seven distinct districts, including men, women, and children of diverse geographic origins, but the selection method could not be determined from the available information (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017).
Methods and Tools Used
First, the regional and national MCLCP deliberation events were conducted with key stakeholders, an example of Stakeholder Group Process, which identified the goals of the overall project and recognized the importance of gathering further citizen input, resulting in the development of the Voice of My Community survey and focus groups. Later national and regional stakeholder group process sessions were conducted which supported and reinforced decisions made at the first session.
The survey allowed participants to indicate their priorities for rehabilitation and reconstruction within two areas: the family and the community. Participants could select three priorities for each area from 8 choices total. For the family, the options were work and income, social protection, nutrition, education, secure housing, comprehensive health, access to identification, and potable water and drainage. For the community, the options consisted of roads and transportation, zoning, agricultural development, water management, market and economic development, public services, citizen participation, and environmental care. After the survey, focus groups were utilized to collect the opinion of the population about lived experiences, their perception of risk and vulnerability, as well as their proposals for the comprehensive reconstruction process within the frame of the objectives of sustainable development with a national development vision (Lafosse & Saez, 2017, p. 18).
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The initial stakeholder group process session took place in a central location and featured face-to-face interaction among regional stakeholders. The details of this session are unclear, including the techniques used, the presence and/or type of facilitators, and the parties in charge of the final decision making process. This session did indeed result in a final decision, as mentioned, above, which led to the “Voice of My Community” surveys and focus groups.
The surveys were distributed in person, and participants were asked to rank their preferences in order of importance. The results of the survey indicated that, in terms of family, individuals were concerned with work and income primarily, followed by quality education, potable water and wastewater, secure housing, nutrition, comprehensive health, social protection, and identification accessibility, in order. In terms of community, participants were most concerned with roads and transportation, water management, environmental care, economic development, public services, zoning, agricultural development, and citizen participation (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017, pp. 16-17).
The related focus groups were also conducted in-person, though it is unclear what techniques were used, who the facilitators were, the nature of the interactions, and the method of decision-making. The focus groups did result in many different conclusions and recommendations concerning the following ten topics (as paraphrased from their publication):
- Governance and Process Management
- Recovery of means of life
- Safe lodging
- Safe water and sanitation
- Management of water for agrarian use
- Roads and transportation
- Comprehensive health
- Public services
- Protection against violence
Under each of these categories, the focus groups developed concrete recommendations, which were submitted to regional authorities as well as representatives of the Authority for the Reconstruction of Regions (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017). The organization then integrated these goals with the 2030 agenda to create short term, medium term, and long term goals that align with sustainable development goals (Lafosse & Sáez, 2017). The results of these surveys and focus groups were also made available online for public access.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The events seem to have satisfied the purposes as defined earlier. Through the focus groups and interviews, MCLCP and the citizen participants:
- Recommended long term strategy and reconstruction goals
- Reinforced the collective memory of the disaster by engaging critically with their priorities and recommendations for future reconstruction, and
- Utilized proposals from the population to create a more person-centered plan for reconstruction and development.
In addition to satisfying these objectives, it is possible that the mere participation in the process had positive effects on the participants themselves. For example, it is possible that participating in the focus group and stakeholder group processes helped encourage civility among participants or strengthened community bonds, as suggested by Nabatchi and Leighninger (2015). Since this process occurred fairly recently, it is somewhat difficult to discern the long-term effects. However, the process seems to have been perceived as beneficial, as another Voice of My Community study was used by MCLCP to inform the Governability Accords of 2019-2022 (Sáez, Casquero, and Aparicio, 2018).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
This comprehensive and responsive process can serve as a good example for governance in the wake of natural disaster. Not only did it examine the immediate needs of the community, it also worked with a community in crisis in an acceptable and responsive way to make a plan for future, sustainable development. The most readily apparent possible drawback to this process is that surveys are a form of “thin participation” which could be replaced with a more intellectually and emotionally challenging form of participation that would encourage participants to engage more heavily with the content (Nabatchi and Leighninger, 2015). However, due to the already emotionally intense circumstances of the participants, this thin participation may be entirely appropriate.
Currently, there have been no formal evaluations of this participatory process. Consequently, more research or publicity concerning the effects of this process on policy as well as the participants could help provide further support for the organization, the process, and the product. At this time, there does not appear to be any evidence concerning participant satisfaction with the outcomes of the process.
Nabatchi, T., & Leighninger, M. (2015). Public participation for 21st century democracy. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.
Pogrebinschi, T. (2017). Committees of Agreement for the Fight against Poverty. LATINNO. Retrieved from https://latinno.net/en/case/17002/
Sáez, V., Casquero, R., and Aparicio, M. (2018). La voz de mi comunidad: Las voces de las niñas, los niños, y los adolescentes en los acuerdos de la gobernabilidad. Mesa de Concertación para la Lucha contra la Pobreza. Retrieved from https://www.mesadeconcertacion.org.pe/sites/default/files/archivos/2018/documentos/08/la_voz_de_mi_comunidad_baja_c.pdf
Lafosse, J. and Sáez, V. (2017). La voz de mi comunidad: Consulta ciudadana para una reconstrucción sostenible. MCLCP. Retrieved from https://www.mesadeconcertacion.org.pe/sites/default/files/archivos/2018/documentos/01/sistematizacion17.pdf
Mesa de Concertación para la Lucha contra la Pobreza. (2018). Marco Normativo. Retrieved from: https://www.mesadeconcertacion.org.pe/marco-normativo
The original submission of this case entry was written by Justin Murdock, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.