People's Stories Democracy

Working together to create and achieve locally owned visions and goals
by John Coonrod
The Movement for Community-led Development
May 18, 2017
Two years ago, as the world finalized the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it did a really smart thing. UN Member States met first about how to pay for the SDGs, and signed the “Addis Agenda.”
In a seemingly small but important way, the Addis Agenda recognized that development happens in communities. Yet governments of the poorest countries are often centralized and have tended to spend more of their public funds in the capital cities, not in the communities where the majority of the most impoverished people live. A growing number of countries, ranging from China to Brazil to Kenya, have proven that moving public funds closer to the people works really well, yet as Paragraph 34 of the Addis Agenda points out, local government “often lacks adequate technical and technological capacity, financing and support.”
It states: “We therefore commit to scaling up international cooperation to strengthen capacities of municipalities and other local authorities.”
Next week, the world gathers in New York to review progress on the Addis Agenda. We in the Movement for Community-led Development hope that all governments will give special attention to this commitment. The sooner countries invest a fair share of public resources in communities, the faster all the SDGs will be achieved.
An easy and immediate first step would be for the UN to actually collect data on what portion of public budgets is spent in local communities. It is shocking that there is no global database of this one simple indicator (take note SDG indicator team!). The best analysis I’ve seen finds “a positive correlation between the size of the local public sector and perceived government effectiveness and control of corruption.”
People’s trust in their government is tremendously important – its failure can lead to civil war. Easterly’s book The Tyranny of Experts shows how mistrust can endure for centuries. Yet a recent study shows how quickly “community trust” can be improved, and that community trust improves the ability of those living in poverty to make wise investments in their own future.
There is a science to building community trust, and that science is referred to as “community-led development.” It’s defined as the “process of working together to create and achieve locally owned visions and goals.” It is a step-by-step, facilitated methodology to achieve systemic change rather than progress on short-term projects. South Korea attributes its rapid, broad-based economic growth – the only nation to move from least-developed country to OECD donor country in one generation – to “Saimaul Undong,” its version of community-led development.
Unlike the “dismal” science of economics, community-led development is a science of joy and inspiration. Anyone who has had the opportunity to sit with long-suppressed village women — women now running their own businesses, getting elected to local councils, supervising construction of new schools, and cutting ribbons to inaugurate water pumps instead of spending hours each day hauling drinking water from stagnant ponds – has experienced the true greatness of the human spirit.
Achieving the SDGs is possible when we invest in the institutions at the level where every person has a chance to contribute and have a voice in decision making – at the community level.
So – national governments – listen up: The commitment you made in Paragraph 34 really matters.

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South Korea elects liberal Moon Jae-in as new president
by News agencies
9 May 2017
Liberal politician Moon Jae-in has been sworn in as South Korea''s President in a ceremony at the National Assembly in the capital, Seoul, just hours after his presidential term began.
Mr Moon decisively won South Korea''s presidential election in a victory that ends nearly a decade of conservative rule and may bring a more conciliatory approach toward North Korea.
The former human rights lawyer won 41.4% of the vote, according to an exit poll cited by the Yonhap news agency, placing him comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals, the centrist Ahn Cheol-soo and the conservative hardliner Hong Joon-pyo, both of whom have conceded defeat.
South Koreans who backed Moon, 64, will be hoping the election result will mark a clean break from the corruption scandal surrounding his predecessor Park Geun-hye.
Hours before polls closed, the national election commission forecast that turnout would exceed 80% – the highest since 1997.
The Democratic party candidate captured the public mood with vows to reform South Korea’s powerful chaebols – family-owned conglomerates – and tackle rising inequality and youth unemployment.
Moon has called for more dialogue with North Korea, after weeks of tensions over the regime’s deeply troubling ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
Park, who narrowly beat Moon in 2012 to become South Korea’s first female president, was impeached last December and faces possible imprisonment for alleged bribery, extortion and other charges involving her secret confidante, Choi Soon-sil.
While much of the campaign capitalised on public anger over the collusion between chaebols and politicians that was exposed by the Park scandal, it also offered hints that Moon would move to calm a tense Korean peninsula.
Moon’s calm demeanour and moderate rhetoric on the North Korea issue stands in sharp contrast to Donald Trump’s recent pugnacity.
Once Moon has appointed a prime minister, which requires parliamentary approval, he is expected to adopt the more moderate approach towards North Korea advocated by the Nobel peace prize-winner Kim Dae-jung and another former president, Roh Moo-hyun, whom Moon served under as chief of staff.
That could mean negotiations to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex, a symbol of intra-Korean cooperation until its closure in early 2016, and the resumption of aid shipments cut off by his predecessors.
Moon, has spoken of his desire for South Korea to seize the policy initiative in its dealings with the North, reportedly favouring a dual strategy of dialogue alongside diplomatic pressure and sanctions.
Moon’s term will begin immediately, rather than after the customary two-month transition period – an arrangement forced by Park’s abrupt departure.
For many voters, the desire for stability and domestic reform took precedence over North Korea. “I voted for him because he represented the best chance to switch government power and that’s the most important thing over anything else,” said Lee Ah-ram, a 39-year-old Seoul resident. “We need a leader who could restore the people’s trust in government that had been damaged by Park’s scandal.”
Liam McCarthy-Cotter, a specialist in East Asian politics at Nottingham Trent University, said the Moon campaign gave voters a clear route out of their current situation.
“The corruption and scandal that brought an end to Park Geun-hye’s presidency has left a vacuum in South Korea at a most inopportune time,” he said. “There is a need for South Korea to re-establish its strength both domestically and in the face of increasingly hostile posturing from North Korea.
“Moon is arguing for a new approach to both foreign and domestic policy that will signal a departure from the strategies deployed by his more conservative predecessors. Recent polls suggest that the population are ready for such a change, and Moon is likely to have a clear mandate to start reshaping the politics of the peninsula.”
28 April 2017
Korean Peninsula: Conflict prevention ''our collective priority'', says UN.
Preventing armed conflict in north-east Asia is the international community''s collective priority while the onus is also on the Democratic People''s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to refrain from further nuclear testing and explore the path of dialogue, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today.
“Armed conflict in north-east Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world''s people and gross domestic product, would have global implications,” warned Mr. Guterres at a ministerial-level meeting to discuss the DPRK''s accelerated nuclear and ballistic missile activities.
Mr. Guterres noted that since January 2016, the DPRK conducted two nuclear tests, more than 30 launches using ballistic missile technology, and various other activities relating to the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, in clear violations of Security Council resolutions.
Its launches using ballistic missile technology have included tests of short, medium, intermediate-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as the placement of a satellite in orbit, he added.
“The DPRK is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests this century. We must assume that, with each test or launch, the DPRK continues to make technological advances in its pursuit of a military nuclear capability,” he said, citing DPRK leader Kim Jong Un''s description of his country as a “responsible nuclear-weapon State” and a recent statement by a delegate that “going nuclear armed is the policy of our State.”
Mr. Guterres said he is alarmed by the risk of a military escalation in the region, including by miscalculation or misunderstanding, and is particularly concerned by the possibility that efforts to offset the destabilizing activities of the DPRK could also result in increased arms competition and tensions, further impeding the ability of the international community to maintain unity and achieve a peaceful solution.
“The onus is on the DPRK to comply with its international obligations. At the same time, the international community must also step up its efforts to manage and reduce tensions,” the UN chief stressed.
That means the DPRK refraining from further testing, complying with the relevant Council resolutions, and exploring the resumption of dialogue.
That also means reopening and strengthening communication channels, particularly military to military, to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding, and all Member States implementing relevant Council resolutions.
The Council has important tools at its disposal, from targeted sanctions to communication channels, he added.
Turning to the humanitarian situation in the DPRK, the Secretary-General noted that 13 UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the DPRK are calling for $114 million to meet the urgent needs of 13 million especially vulnerable people – half the country''s population.
He also called on the DPRK authorities to engage with UN human rights mechanisms and with the international community to address the grave human rights situation and improve the living conditions of its people.


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