Development Cooperation Handbook/Interviews/Vrinda Dar
Vrinda Dar is a major contributor of this wikibook.
Interviewed by Gauri Grazia De Santis on September 2010
What do you think development actors and stakeholders can do in order to contribute to and support the activities aimed at achieving the MDGs, specifically the educators and media?
However, we can choose only in as much as we are informed. In order to understand, we look at those we trust more, particularly educators, media professionals and local authorities. These are the interlocutors between national governments, international agencies, local organisations working for development as well as international governments.
Media, especially mass media, is one of the most powerful communication tools today and most affects the opinions and choices of people. People's opinions are majorly influenced by what they read, see or hear as facts, by what important journalists and media professionals believe in, support and promote, and by global political and social campaigns across the world. So, media professionals must take on the responsibility of sharing balanced views on events, giving comprehensive and true information to people, promoting peace and justice rather than war and exploitation.
In most democracies, it is local authorities that are responsible for policy making and implementation and for ensuring that the participation of local development actors in these processes is proactive and informed. They are also responsible for ensuring that people's voices are brought across and integrated into policy decisions and regulations defined at the national levels. Where development actors have shared resources, facts and communication tools, the local authorities have been empowered and have shaped people's choices towards more effective development partnerships.
Is the EU doing enough to inform about the scope of EU aid programmes?
European Union funds various programmes across the world, helping governments achieve their commitments to MDG’s. It is enabling local governments in Development Countries to lead and own the process of making lasting changes in people's lives.
However, the European Commission does little to inform its citizens about the positive impacts being made by initiatives that it is funding around the world.
Its citizens don't know about the objectives of its programs and the activities it is funding. And also where development work takes place, few people know that changes are being made possible through the contribution of European tax payer.
I have observed that where the European Commission is closer to the ground reality, in terms of its own presence, its support to non-government organizations and local governments, the nature of its contribution and the impact of its funding are more visible. But now the way European Commission communicates is mainly bureaucratic and basic. It does not give enough importance to communicating with the opinion makers and development actors and stakeholders whom people trust and listen to, for e.g. educators, media professionals and local authorities: the interlocutors between the external agencies and the local people.
Do you think that common people can support and influence policies targeting the implementation of commitments taken in favour of building the global partnership for development?
I think people can support and influence policies and lead their implementation at all levels of governance. It is only when policies are based on people's choices that people feel ownership of policies and hold governments accountable for implementing the same. If, on the one hand, it is vital that people feel a responsibility for participating in policy making processes, it is equally vital that they are empowered by policy makers to be partners in policy making and implementation. If people are not on board while making policies and designing policies and people’s voices are not taken in account when policies are developed, these policies will remain on paper and will never be translated into action. So without the common man’s voice integrated into policies, no plans or programs will represent people's choices or achieve their objectives.
According to you the “world citizenship” is a modality of self-awareness that can be achieved by all?
Yes, “world citizenship” is a modality of self-awareness that can potentially be achieved by each one of us. We only need to step outside ourselves and look around us. And we will notice that the consequences of what happens in the world has entered our homes. We can no longer be only local even if we pretend to. We share the natural environment and we all bear the negative consequences of over exploitation and pollution, wherever they occur. And we share the same economic and governance environment and we all bear the consequence of unsustainable financial practices of nations and terrorist activities of any group. So, in order to face global challenges, we need to take responsibility for the governance of the relationship among peoples and nations
And this is especially the responsibility conscious and educated people like us - those who have traveled and worked across countries, who have the capacity to look beyond boundaries, to share our thoughts, emotions and positive experiences, share the spirit of tolerance, non-violence, brotherhood and peace.
What are the current challenges in the implementation of the MDGs agenda by Non State Actors and Local Governments?
I think there are 3 major challenges in the implementation of the MDG’s.
The first challenge is at the level of policy formulation: We need to ask, for instance, whether our governments have right policies in place to make sure that the MDG agenda is achieved?.
The second challenge is at the level of implementing these policies: Do we have the right structures and the right resources?
The third challenge is the culture and awareness levels of the local people. Are people aware about MDGs and what it means to achieve them and how will this benefit them. What are the traditional values and beliefs that go against the MDGs? For instance, if we want to achieve the MDG on universal primarily education for all children and the belief in many communities is that girls should not attend school because it has a negative impact on them, then we will not be able to achieve the MDG’s.
What are the factors establishing coherence for development?
There are two major factors that establish coherence for development. One is good coordination, between the world’s governments, international agencies and the international community as well as their coordination with local NGOs and civil society and community based organisations that implement development plans and policies. The second factor that is very important is the commitment that all of us have that the basic rights of people are ensured and that MDGs are achieved. If we do not have this coordination and commitment, most policies we design – whether affecting economy , social services, financial system of a country- will negatively impact the MDG goals. This is because all MDG goals are inter-related. So, if an MDG for instance the universal primary education aims at so we must ensure that all policies, whether economic, financial or social are coordinated in order to make this happen.
I think it is important to have a strong cultural identity. However, it is also important that one does not confuse a strong cultural identity as meaning a strong geographical identity or a strong religious or community identity. Many of us have strong cultural identities that are formed or based on the interactions we have had with people in different communities, people of different religions, people living across the world; maybe even tourists who come to our countries. So, if our identity is based on this and I believe that our identity is not static. It is always in flux. So, we are continuously evolving our identities. So, if this is what we mean by strong cultural identities, I do not think it has any negative impact on our capacity to understand it has a positive will help us share the value of others. But the moment the identity gets confused with religion, language, community, village and narrow restrictive categories of what identity means, the more difficult it will be for us to share the values of others, the less open we will be and the less capacity we will have to understand and dialogue about it.