Return the resources to the people

Date: January 1, 1970
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Participatory democracy requires new strategies to bring the voices of women and the poor to the centre stage.

During a series of consultations held at the national and local level in Tanzania, participants came up with strategies, which serve as the base for the ‘Return Resources to the People Campaign’.

The Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP), several Feminist Activist Coalition (FEMACT) organizations, Intermediary Gender Networks in 10 different regions, and outreach groups in Dar es Salaam led the consultations, which identified the present political and economic structure and the neo-liberal policy framework, which supports it, as major contributing factors to a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

The consultations also noted that the exploitation of national resources has increased; women, youth and people with disabilities have been further marginalized; and, conflict, rather than peace, is growing at all levels.

To move closer to the goals of sustainable development and participatory democracy – the basis for a healthy and dignified life for all – joint action is needed by governments, activist coalitions, other groups and concerned individuals within Tanzania, Africa and worldwide.

The call for change must recognize the injustices and inequities at all levels, which impact on the national scene.

Globally, the present structure of global relations based on debt, military-backed unilateral politics, and unequal production and trade relations must be transformed; and, the rule of law must be put into practice at the international level, with respect to all peoples and nations.

Also, the International Financial and Trade Institutions (namely World Bank, IMF and WTO) must be transformed or replaced by those that are accountable to the poor majority worldwide. There is a need too for a code of conduct for big Transnational Corporations operating in Tanzania, Africa and worldwide, so as to be accountable to the people where they are investing or selling their goods, in compliance with appropriate pro-poor laws, regulations and standards concerning corporate governance, employment, environment and affirmative action.

Participatory democracy is predicated on open dialogue and not a top-down approach. This requires that all key macro policies be openly discussed in public debate, in order to ensure that they meet the development goals of the poor majority and marginalized groups. And, institutional mechanisms must be developed and implemented in Tanzania that promote joint dialogue between activists and civil society organizations and government at national and local levels.

The long-term goal of participatory development/democracy is a society where all women and men, and especially youth, the poor and marginalized benefit equally from resources along with other social groups; have a major voice in determining patterns of resource mobilization and allocation, and access and control all key resources; and where deliberate steps are taken to eradicate all forms of poverty, systematic discrimination and inequities in economic, social and cultural areas.

To achieve this prize, we need a mixed economy with state regulation and support for development at all levels, within a participatory democratic framework which develops and implements strong public pro-poor systems of social service delivery (education, health, water and sanitation), economic and financial services (savings and loans, producer subsidies, research and extension) and economic infrastructure (roads and communications, energy).

Also needed is a selective investment strategy with an expanded concept of growth sectors and criteria to guide private investment, both national and foreign, in rural and urban areas, which have been established through a participatory process involving all social groups.

The criteria to guide private investment should be based on the following:

 full employment strategy which supports sustainable livelihoods for all;
– non-discrimination in terms of gender, age, class, ethnic, religious and other relations, with affirmative action by government, the private sector and civil society to eradicate all forms of gender discrimination, domestic violence and sexual abuse in public and private locations;
– environmentally friendly; and
– production and trade which is oriented to the expansion of the domestic market as well as export and involving all sectors, so as to develop a strong sustainable economic base at the national and regional level.

To operationalise decision-making processes so that participation becomes a reality, in addition to a more formalized consultation process at all stages of policy formulation and implementation, governments should start or build on existing social gender budgeting initiatives.

Government is held accountable to the people in part through the development and operationalization of participatory mechanisms to monitor and track resource flows at all levels, involving all social groups, and starting at the level of the village/street assembly.

In Tanzania, this requires for communication systems in Kiswahili to be further developed to ensure the flow of information and ideas in all directions; and, these developments must be supported by the strengthening of honest investigative journalism which is accountable to the people and acts as a watchdog on their behalf.

This article is part of the GEM Opinion and Commentary Service that provides views and perspectives on current events. for more information.


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