PRSP case studies report

5 April 2001

A new report summarises some of the continued challenges for participatory poverty reduction processes.

Written for the UK‘s Department for International Development, the study finds that problems include a lack of common understanding of the meaning of participation. It also pointed to:

  • widespread antipathy towards the HIPC initiative, and the perception that the PRSP process is dominated by the World Bank and IMF;
  • concern over flexibility on how far macroeconomic frameworks can integrate poverty reduction concerns, especially different perspectives on the distributional effects of growth and the long-term effects of structural policies.

The paper looks in detail at Ghana, Vietnam and Zambia. It finds that the PRSP process, because of its direct link to new development assistance and debt relief, has increased the standing of civil society in setting national economic goals. Governments are, however, concerned about political risks and constrained by a lack of experience in how to manage civil society engagement. The lack of assessment criteria for participation makes it easy for some to do little more than organise meetings to consider pre-prepared plans. The paper also finds that:

  • time pressures create an unfavourable backdrop in which to build new civil society – government relationships;
  • poorer communities should participate directly, not just indirectly through NGOs;
  • civil society capacity is limited and many organisations do not have sufficient analytical, advocacy and research capacities.

The report concludes that the constructive involvement of civil society is likely to prove difficult and complex to manage. There remains a great deal of uncertainty around the PRSP, at every level of government, within civil society and between the two. Participation will only be secured if civil society institutions are convinced donors and governments are willing to countenance real participation and produce tangible results. Donors have a key role in encouraging a good climate for government and civil society to work together.

To achieve this, the primary objectives of the PRSP should be reviewed, with emphasis placed on supporting the goals and principles of the Comprehensive Development Framework and the International Development Targets, rather than the shorter-term objectives of the enhanced HIPC initiative.

Civil Society Participation in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)