This Participate report draws on the experiences and views of people living in extreme poverty and marginalisation in 107 countries. It highlights four key messages that consistently emerge in different contexts: 1) the very poorest are less able to access infrastructure, services, support and opportunities; 2) development that is sustainable requires meaningful participation that leads to strong local ownership; 3) poverty is increasingly characterised by uncertainty, crisis, conflict, insecurity and volatility; and 4) poor governance reinforces poverty for the poorest and most marginalised. It notes that the development framework post-2015 will have legitimacy if it responds to the needs of all citizens, in particular those who are most marginalised in decision-making and face ongoing exclusion from development processes.
The report distils messages from 84 participatory research studies published in the last seven years. Forty-seven of these studies are based on creative material coming from visual participatory methods.
The following key findings and recommendations emerge:
- The very poorest are less able to access infrastructure, services, support and opportunities. Where services exist, they are sometimes unavailable to the very poorest through a lack of information and knowledge of their existence, lack of transportation, hidden costs, short-term coping strategies which sacrifice long-term needs, along with social norms which inhibit certain marginalised groups. In order to address the exclusion of the most marginalised, provision of information about rights and opportunities needs to be built into the development process, to ensure that people in poverty are aware of the options available to them.
- Local ownership and participation in development processes is key to success. Participants repeated again and again their desire and ability to manage their own change processes in a locally understandable, sustainable way. Capacity building initiatives that develop skills and confidence were the only ones universally advocated for by the poorest and most marginalised people, and were found to be important for creating local ownership for answering local needs.
- Poverty is experienced as stigma as well as material deficiencies, and inequalities in access, anxiety and stress were all mentioned as sources of ill-being. An integrated holistic approach which considers wellbeing, empowerment, dignity and capacity as well as material needs is strongly desired by people in poverty.
- Development interventions need to be underpinned by a systemic understanding of people’s everyday lives and the trade-offs that they have to make. A greater focus on challenging social norms is strongly recommended.
- Lives are increasingly uncertain in the face of climate change, conflict and macro-economic shocks. People’s short-term coping strategies often expose them to more risk and vulnerability, such as increased debt. Day-to-day life is often characterised by crisis and emergency: development interventions need to seek new ways to respond to increasing volatility and to bridge the gap between emergency response and sustainable development. It is important to respond to the high mobility of poor people.
- At national level, people living in poverty stated the need for government support in terms of livelihood security and social protection, and the provision of basic services. At the local level, poor government services were a source of frustration and anger. Several studies identified the need for inclusion of informal and traditional systems of governance in development. Coherence and the integration of different governance levels allowing citizens to participate is currently lacking, but respondents identified transparent, accountable governance at all levels as central to supporting sustainable development.