Developing Standards of Transparency, Participation and Accountability
Chapter 3: Human rights critique of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank’s participation policy
As was seen in the ADB case regarding the Pakistan project (Box 2.1 in Chapter 2), a lack of a participatory approach can cause serious problems to the lives of those affected. The importance of participation has been both recognised and emphasised by development agencies. Currently, “participatory development” is one of the key concepts used by development agencies in recognition of the failure of the top-down development model. However, the classic meaning of the right to participation in international human rights law is narrower than the concept of participation in development activities. While human rights discourse has yet to develop the concept of participation, development agencies have under- taken significant research on participation in a practical sense. For instance, the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor initiative, which will be discussed later, created awareness about the reality of the situation facing the poor and contributed to improving the Bank’s understanding of poverty. Such work may also be useful for developing a theoretical concept of the right to participation. When examining participation, it is important to keep in mind the absence of a commonly understood definition, as has been pointed out by Samuel Paul: The definition of “participation” is a matter on which there is considerable disagreement among development scholars and practitioners. Some use the term to mean active participation in political decision making. For certain activist groups, participation has no meaning unless the people involved have significant control over the decisions concerning the organization to which they belong.
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