Community Commons

Day 3 - June 17

Community Commons Daily Report – 17 June 2005 (Second Day)


Morning Session I: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (Full Group)

The second full day at the Community Commons saw participants assemble in the tented dialogue space at 9:30 a.m. The group was again called into the tent by Patrick Muraguri, a facilitator, who rang a bell to signal the start of another very full day.

Donato and Benson, both facilitators, opened the session with announcements and handed over to Esther Mwaura-Muira, who reviewed the progress of the previous day. Esther recalled that the group had asked why partnerships don’t always work and how they can be improved. She also reviewed the five thematic breakout groups and noted that preliminary recommendations had been presented from each. In outlining the coming day’s activities, Esther highlighted four activities --

  1. Reporting recommendations from yesterday’s five breakout groups
  2. Synthesize them into one paper
  3. Make concrete recommendations that go beyond rhetoric
  4. Thinking forward to the CSO Hearings, when the recommendations will have to b presented within the MDG framework


Morning Session II: 10:00 a.m. – 11:45 p.m., Reporting Back from Day One Breakout Groups

Breakout Group - Housing and Infrastructure

Sheila, of UNDP Jamaica, presented the work of the Housing and Infrastructure Group. She noted they had emphasized community best practices and resulting lessons. The group identified the following MDG challenges at the community level – (1) low budgets for infrastructure after debt payments, with often up to 60 % of budgeted funds going to debt repayment, (2) local authorities not always supporting NGOs, and (3) a lack of commitment from political parties for bottom up development.

The group presented a number of recommendations –

  1. Investments must be made in infrastructure. Technical support and grants are needed due to the are big costs in these areas,
  2. Urban and rural development balance must be considered. Often we emphasize one and leave the other behind,
  3. Communities need to partner with local authorities since this is where solutions often arise,
  4. Massive organizing is required over the long term. This large-scale and essential work also needs funding support,
  5. Tools and skills to support participatory budgeting are needed.

Breakout Group – Livelihoods and Food Security in the Context of Poverty

Mirian Masaquiza, from Ecuador, presented the group’s recommendations, which included - .

  1. Ensuring full community participation in planning and decision making,
  2. Supporting holistic, long term work, and alternative economic models,
  3. Ensure transparency and fighting corruption,
  4. Supporting efforts against discrimination, including in the area of HIV/AIDS,
  5. Making governments fulfill budget commitments,
  6. Recognizing that to address poverty we must also address land tenancy, women’s issues, communal land, food security, basic services, health, housing, and job creation,
  7. Recognizing and supporting economic self-determination,
  8. Supporting communities as equal partners in development,
  9. Adopting a human rights approach across development efforts.

Breakout Group – Community Response to Conflict and Disaster

Annette Mukiga, from the Rwanda Women’s Network, presented the recommendations of this breakout group after addressing the overarching challenge of follow-up on meetings like the Community Commons. Recommendations included -

  1. Providing resources for South-South programs related to women who experience violence,
  2. Investing in preparedness,
  3. Preventing conflict, special efforts must be taken to include all who experience and suffer from conflict, especially women and other vulnerable groups,
  4. Paying attention to gender and HIV AIDS issues in post conflict/ disaster situations because of sexual activity and rape in camps,
  5. Doing more than research, and putting findings to work,
  6. Encourage conflict resolution and prevention.

Breakout Group – Community Response to HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS breakout group outlined the following recommendations -

  1. Reduce the disconnect in the way money is channeled from donors and recognize that communities lead the way in dealing with AIDS,
  2. Involve communities in response efforts,
  3. Don’t ignore traditional healing and indigenous knowledge in treatment,
  4. Demand that heads of state recognize problem,
  5. Encourage all entities to cooperate,
  6. Stop the stigmatization and encourage communities to do the same,
  7. Promote more participation by youth since this is a pandemic that affects us all – including groups at risk because they lack information and knowledge

Breakout Group – Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation

The natural resources and biodiversity conservation breakout group delivered the following recommendations -

  1. Emphasize that communities are custodians of traditional knowledge – a key to conservation,
  2. Livelihoods can be sustained if resources managed with community participation,
  3. Traditional knowledge is the foundation for successful sustainable resources management,
  4. Communities need to be at core of policy making,
  5. Traditional leaders and ancestral rights should be recognized,
  6. Development must be community driven and not imposed,
  7. There must be benefit sharing, where community resources are used by others,
  8. Self determination is a vital component of successful environmental management,
  9. Communities should take initiative and ensure policies followed,
  10. Clear policies on natural resources are needed at the country level,
  11. Co-management must be encouraged,
  12. All MDGs are linked and need to be supported holistically,


Morning Session III: 11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Discussion of Breakout Group Findings (Full Group)

The individual breakout group reports were followed by a summary from Esther, who noted that a set of action oriented recommendations is what we need from this point forward. We need to answer the HOW of participation. The HOW and way in which we’ll do all these things we’ve just listed.

Comments from the participants were then raised and discussed. The main points voiced by the participants were –

  1. HIV/AIDS care and support in communities comes mostly from women, no one else,
  2. Community participation – are we truly talking about communities or just NGOs? Do the communities have the space to participate or have we as NGOs just taken on that role as their voice,
  3. There must be an ecumenical approach to development,
  4. We should ensure that there are mechanisms at the local level to integrate community plans in the local development planning,
  5. Do communities have the tools for self determination? Perhaps we need empowerment education in the MDG process,
  6. We not only need training – but we need to train aid agencies!
  7. Can we replicate something like the successful UNDP-GEF SGP propramme!
  8. We need to be action oriented – verb oriented! Need to work on word and style!


Following the list of summary points, representatives from the various attending development agencies presented their comments and thoughts. Arno Sckedye, from GTZ, stated that it was quite amazing that so many countries have agreed to the MDGs. He noted that GTZ was especially interested in working on governance issues and creating a positive enabling environment for good policy. The World Bank representative, Jan Bojo, said he was excited to be here to listen to the participants and take part in the Community Commons.


Morning Session III: 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Full Group)

The latter part of the morning session involved a presentation from a GTZ group on sustainable development, conservation and the MDG framework. The presentation was made by Dennis Skhalela from the Mukaleke region of South Africa. He opened by saying that his community was relocated by the South African government and only successfully brought their land claims case to the courts in 1994. In 1998, the group successfully regained their land and title. The community began to plan what to do with their lands and a number of options were presented by the community. These options included – (1) relocating back to their land, (2) engaging in agriculture, (3) undertaking mining, (4) conserving biodiversity.

The community ultimately chose, through a consultative community process, to conserve their lands. They also agreed to undertake a public private partnership and advertised for prospective partners. They consulted a legal team, screened applicants and ultimately chose a business partner from Johannesburg. They are now building two lodges through a Build-Operate-Transfer program.

Dennis described the institutional and participatory structures the community had developed to manage their new lands and their relationships with partners. The management plan was written with help from GTZ and the second of the lodges will be up and running in July. Dennis also described a unique MDG toolkit that the community is using to determining contributions to the MDGs from the project. This toolkit links project outputs to MDG goals and indicators and may be obtained from the BMZ and GTZ representatives here at the Community Commons.

Questions on the presentation addressed issues of cost-benefit analysis (which Dennis said was done as part of the strategic plan) and cross border impacts (addressed through an exchange, but further work needs to be done).


Afternoon Session I: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Bulk of Participants)

Before joining in the Local-Global Leaders’ Dialogue, community participants shared in groups how they as communities had committed to do to follow-up on the Community Commons. Each group identified roles they could play in advancing sustainable development and the MDGs within their communities.

Breakout Group 1

The group committed to lobbying governments and political parties to approve a constitution and responsible government, if one is not already in place. The example of Zimbabwe, in particular, was given. The group also committed to pursue meetings with the private sector to provide business support and to approach civil society to ask for their assistance in lobbying governments to be more responsive to community needs. They plan to constantly document local work, to facilitate the establishment of partnerships and reach out to communicate with other organizations and communities with similar experiences/challenges.

Breakout Group 2

The group mentioned the need for donors to have sensitive monitoring tools with which to monitor MDG progress. They also suggested that all resource contributions (financial and otherwise) made towards achieving the MDGs or other development goals should be discussed and publicized through media. This will increase transparency and help ensure that contributions do reach people/areas in need.

Breakout Group 3

This group first highlighted that they had no prior knowledge of MDGs before attending the conference. They have now, however, formed – during their breakout session – a network of Latin American Community Commons participants in order to share experiences and information related to the MDGs and development processes. They will update communities about the successes and challenges they encounter. They recognized the need to help translate important information in various languages, not only Spanish. Finally, they commit to trying to bring the recommendations to their local and national governments.

Breakout Group 4

The group asks how we will move from what we have done here to next year. They commit to do outreach and spread information about what they did here with their local communities. However, this effort needs money and resources. The group would also like to help communities to develop their own programs. The group notes that communities should do business differently and take a leap to develop their own guidelines for partnering with other organizations, so that communities can determine how the work will be conducted and not vice versa. The group commits to help develop infrastructure for communication in communities so that lessons learned can be shared. The group also acknowledges the importance of transparency in how money is raised and spent and recognized that the MDGs will be best achieved by making use of local community structures that have been there for many years. Those mechanisms can be effectively employed for development purposes.

Breakout Group 5

The group commits to collaborate with partners and donors to empower their communities economically and help them develop strategies for development. The group commits to create national dialogue to discuss progress on the MDGs.

Breakout Group 6

The group suggests that donor agencies give contributions based on community needs. The group commits to lobby for important community needs and establish communication with governments and officials to advance the cause of local action.


Afternoon Session II: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Presentation of Draft Recommendations)

The Community Commons participants next heard from the recommendation working group and were presented with the draft recommendations they had produced over the course of the day.

The recommendations working group focused on cross-cutting issues and identified a number of tentative recommendations for further review by the wider group of participants.

  • One of the principal recommendations of the group is that a facility be created with responsibility for follow-up on the extent to which development agencies, UN and UNDP included, have included the voices of community leaders, CBOs and CSOs.
  • A second recommendation is for the creation of a facility to build teams which will work with donors to partner with communities and CBOs to effectively and equitably distribute aid to eliminate the disconnect between donors and actors in development.
  • A third recommendation is to have communities initiate and coordinate private sector involvement in local areas in order to facilitate the development of Public Private Partnerships in a manner that respects local knowledge, customs, and needs. To this end, structures for interaction, and information sharing between larger private sector networks and association of community leaders, must be forged. In doing this, greater voice can and must be given to CBOs in setting the agenda for important meetings and decisions involving and affecting them.
  • A fourth recommendation is to create a community organization task force, including local and national leaders to guide, plan, design and implement the plan of action for achievement of the MDGs. Within this, it will be critical to ensure that CBOs are represented according to number, and not category. The group asks that at least 25% at minimum of the task force be composed of active community leaders from CBOs.
  • A fifth recommendation is that in all development action there be consistent involvement and integration of the voices of community actors in development with the actors from the richer countries and international organizations. If the people who engage on a local level everyday are not further integrated, then development will further suffer from being a top-down, un-integrated process.
  • A sixth recommendation is that the global community create a fund to sponsor those who are engaging in global best practices to share their knowledge internationally so that innovations can be transferred from CSOs. This is like a global fund to follow the concept of the community commons, along the lines of targeted aid to nations, but addressing the importance of CSOs specifically.
  • A seventh recommendation is that a human-rights based approach to development be integrated into the global agenda. To that end, integrating traditional property rights, access to land and natural resources, and systems of resource use and allocation need to be respected as matters of rights, and should be integrated into formal systems. By doing this, empowerment of local communities, natural resource protection and biodiversity, human rights, and economic development concerns will be simultaneously addressed.


Afternoon Session III: 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Local-Global Leaders’ Dialogue)

The Local-Global Leaders’ Dialogue began at 3:30 p.m. at the Community Commons with Esther Mwaura-Muira calling the gathering to order and inviting a panel of local and global leaders to sit at the centre of the circle of participants. Esther noted that the Community Commons is the place where everyone comes as equals and where they can become connected to both each other and with policy makers and the international community. Esther then introduced the leaders taking part in the dialogue –

Ana Lucy Bengochea – Garifuna Emergency Committee, Honduras Metua Robert Vaimene – Government of the Cook Islands

Roberto David Camejo Gonzalez – Ideas Youth Caffe, Dominican Republic

Shoji Nishimoto – Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Director, UNDP Bureau for Development Policy

John Robinson – Director, International Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society John Tognino – Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Fordham University Jan Bojo – The World Bank, Washington, D.C.

The first presenter was Roberto David Camejo Gonzalez from the Dominican Republic, who represents a youth group addressing HIV/AIDS in the island nation. He stated that youth must be a part of the MDG effort and development processes, but are typically not taken into consideration. He reminded the gathered leaders that they were all young once and that they are now leading countries. David asked that global leaders, who have the ability to change things, help youth voices be heard.

John N. Tognino, a global leader and Chair of the Board of Trustees of Fordham University, noted in his remarks that all are welcome to Fordham University and that the challenges we face unite us into a single family. He stressed the importance of emphasizing service as a vital component of the educational experience.

Ana Lucy Bengochea from Honduras asserted that we must develop an integrated vision for reaching the MDGs. She reminded the leaders that it is very important that farmers in rural areas understand the MDGs. Agencies need to incorporate women into process and promote truly sustainable patterns of development, by involving all stakeholders in decision making.

Participants presented an overview of the Community Commons to the assembled leaders and commented on the work that communities had done themselves, without any help. They gave numerous examples to show the strength of community action and remarked that these bottom-up efforts not only deliver better results but are also much more efficient than most imposed projects. There is a strong sense that, while help is often needed, the agencies and partners of communities themselves need to be trained to better understand the true needs and abilities of local people.

Communities want to be able to do their own projects, manage them, and execute them. The benefits of putting communities at the centre of development will accrue not only to local people, but also to aid agencies and donors that are now able to deliver aid more efficiently, effectively, and productively.

Shoji Nishimoto, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy, said that the UN recognizes the importance of community voices being reflected in the September Millennium Review Summit. He noted that UNDP is eager to hear and see what communities have to say and will take their comments very seriously. He also admitted that, while increases in development aid seem forthcoming, money is not the answer to the problem. The true challenge is ensuring people have the ability to manage their own affairs. Mr. Nishimoto commented that UNDP is trying to work with governments to give community organizations expanded to work. He suggested that the capacity of communities is already there and that it is up to the international community to recognize this fact Community representatives made a passionate case for community capacity building. There must to be a paradigm shift in the way that partners work with communities by reducing rigid structures and expanding limited channels for resources. Money traditionally goes to governments and big agencies at least 20% of all the money needs to go to grassroots communities and to women. Capacity is not just money and it is important to note that communities don’t want to be seen as beggars. Local people have knowledge and natural resources and they want to partner with agencies so they can engage constructively.

Metua Robert Vaimene, from the Cook Islands, agreed with the other local leaders that communities share a lot of common challenges and constraints. The South Pacific, for instance, faces a serious challenge due to the abandonment of traditional knowledge. The islands have large percentages of unemployed youth, and are more susceptible to natural disasters and climate change than many other areas. He reminded the participants in the Commons and the assembled leaders that traditional knowledge and title to traditional lands and seas should be recognized as community engagement is the key to successful natural resource management.

John Robinson, Director of International Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, thanked the participants in the Community Commons for inviting him and stated that he had come because conservation and development really are two sides of the same coin. Conservation cannot be effective unless it works with development and development cannot work without conservation of the natural resources upon which livelihoods depend.

During an extensive and enthusiastic question and answer period, participants in the Community Commons spoke frankly with the global leaders about their concerns and expectations and asked them questions regarding the current trajectory of development.

It was remarked by the participants that communities do not tend to work thematically, but instead address challenges holistically. This in no way compromises their contributions to the MDGs and, indeed, the MDG effort needs to recognize the inherent patterns of engagement of communities. If the international community really wants to work with local people, they will have to better understand their concerns and those successful approaches that have already been adopted. The need for action was raised by numerous participants. They noted that bureaucracy may be necessary, but action is crucial and is needed very soon. This extends to the point immediately following this meeting, when UNDP and other organizers need to begin the follow-up process. The need to include indigenous people and to recognize the moral imperative of participation at all levels was also raised.

The participating global leaders responded positively to the comments of the communities and each stated that they had learned a great deal by coming to the Commons. The World Bank representative, in particular, said he found the frank opinions expressed very educational. From UNDP, Shoji Nishimoto said that communities need to present their great successes in a language that can be computed by the rough approaches used by agencies to quantify benefits and guide disbursement of funds. Cost benefit analysis, for example, cannot capture the value of a human life, natural resources, or peace. This will be a great challenge for communities in the coming months and years as they will need to present their undeniable successes in a language that rings true to the economic models that direct funds and resources to the field.


Evening Reception 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. – The Bronx Zoo

A gala reception was held in the evening at the Bronx Zoo. Participants from the Community Commons and a broad cross section of the public attended the event. Following a dinner at the zoo’s Dancing Crane Pavilion, guests listened and danced to the music of a lively Ecuadorian band and visited the Congo Gorilla Forest and Butterfly Garden exhibits.



Equator Blog

About Equator Initiative 

Contact Us

Follow Us: