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More questions about policy


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Training materials for the Policy Research Centre, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI), Lao PDR

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More questions about policy

  1. 1. Andrew Bartlett Agricultural Policy Adviser, NUDP More Questions About Policy
  2. 2. The main point Anyone can be a policy maker
  3. 3. Structure of this presentation  A few reminders  Who is responsible?  Does policy research help?  Do better policies help?  New thinking about policy  Everybody is responsible!  The challenge for NUDP  Meeting the challenge  Conclusions
  4. 4. A few reminders  In November last year I made a presentation called ‘Questioning Policy’  The main point was that we can we can improve the policy making process by … asking more questions  Asking questions is the key to achieving a ‘break- though in thinking’ as proposed by the Party
  5. 5.  The bigger and bolder the question, the more likely we are to achieve a breakthrough  But there are things we can do to support the breakthrough… A few reminders  Barriers to critical thinking include respect and fear
  6. 6. A few reminders 1. Those in power can show their subordinates that it is safe to ask questions 2. We can engage with actors at the Provincial level and below 3. We can also create spaces where critical thinking is encouraged 4. Plus produce materials that are stimulating, not sending people to sleep 5. And promote new analytical concepts and techniques such as scenarios, trade-offs and narratives
  7. 7. Who is responsible?  A major constraint to making this breakthrough is the widespread belief that policy making is the responsibility of someone else.
  8. 8. Who is responsible?  At meeting after meeting we hear that an issue must be brought to the attention of policy makers  In most cased it is not clear who those policy makers are, other than ‘the Government’  The Government is always someone else  Someone else should study the issue  Someone else should make a decision!
  9. 9. Someone should study the issue!  There is a persisent belief that policy problems cannot be solved without policy research  Is this true?  Or is it just an excuse for inaction?  Does policy research actually lead to better policies?  And do better polices lead to more effective efforts to alleviate poverty?  Let’s look take a closer look at these questions…
  10. 10. Does policy research help?  We have plenty of studies, hundreds of reports…  This is the main output of many of the foreigners who work in Laos!  But how often does this research shape Government policy?
  11. 11. What about shifting cultivation?
  12. 12. What about shifting cultivation?  Research shows that upland rice fields, and the secondary forest that grows during the fallow period, are a major source of food  ... and a major reservoir of biodiversity  ... and a major form of carbon sequestration  So why are Government officials working to eliminate this form of agriculture?
  13. 13. What about shifting cultivation?  I realise that the Forest Sector Strategy has distinguished between 2 types of shifting cultivation  But it appears that this distinction is not applied outside of a small technical circle  The latest 5-year plan repeats earlier policies to ‘stop shifting cultivation completely’  And this policy is being forcibly implemented
  14. 14. What about shifting cultivation?  In other words…. research has not shaped the GoL policy on shifting cultivation
  15. 15.  Not all research is being ignored. Sometimes this leads to better policy…  …but there is a large gap between policy and implementation Do better policies help?
  16. 16. What about land concessions? Recognise this picture?
  17. 17. What about land concessions?  In my earlier presentation I noted that MAF had announced a cap on rubber plantations  But new agreements continue to be signed  A national moratorium on land concessions has been announced…  … not once but two or three times  A recent article in the press suggested that there was a lack of agreement between different Ministries involved in land management and investment
  18. 18. And what about Nutrition?  Lack of cooperation among Ministries is also hindering the implementation of the National Nutrition Policy  The NNP was approved by the PM in 2008, after a comprehensive study by WFP  This was followed by a National Nutrition Strategy and a Action Plan in 2009  But the mechanisms to implement this policy have still not been put in place
  19. 19. What can we conclude?  These examples show that more research does NOT necessarily lead to better policy  And better policy does NOT necessarily lead to better implementation  Programme like NUDP want to promote ‘evidence-based policy making’  But the evidence suggest that this is not always possible in Laos
  20. 20.  Perhaps it is time to stop thinking of policy making as a linear logical process  Like a vending machine, where we insert information and out pops a policy! This is not a breakthrough
  21. 21. This is not a breakthrough  On the other hand, we should not think that policy making is an esoteric art  Like a religion, where supplicants make appeals to powerful beings who work in mysterious ways
  22. 22. But this could be it!  Maybe it is time to start thinking of policy-making as a dialogue, a discussion, a debate, a discourse  Policy making as negotiation
  23. 23. Policy making as negotiation  Once we understand policy-making as a negotiation, we start to see why research doesn’t always produce better policy, and why policy doesn’t always lead to implementation  Because the negotiations involve competing interests  And the participants in these negotiations have different types and amounts of influence
  24. 24. New thinking about policy  New ideas about policy making have been discussed, documented and applied for many years
  25. 25. New thinking about policy  Lots of tools and techniques are available  Example from
  26. 26. New thinking in Laos?  “Any process of policy change is inherently political, and can include or exclude the interests and perspectives of poor people.  This is clearly a key concern when thinking about policy processes for sustainable livelihoods”. James Keeley, ODI 2001  Does the GoL and development partners want to include the perspectives of poor people in policy making?  We must assume that the answer is yes
  27. 27. Everybody is responsible  In a democratic country…. … everybody is a policy maker!  This is the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  28. 28. Everybody is responsible  Citizens participate in policy-making every time they vote…
  29. 29. Everybody is responsible  … every time they share experience and opinions…
  30. 30. Everybody is responsible  …every time time they speak out in public…
  31. 31. Everybody is responsible  …every time they protest
  32. 32. The challenge  The challenge for a programme like NUDP is not to carry out more policy research …  … but to stimulate more policy dialogue  To make better use of what we already know  And to recognise that what we know – or need to know - is not just facts and figures, but also the perspectives of different stakeholders…  … including the perspectives of the rural poor
  33. 33. Meeting the challenge  Firstly, facilitating dialogue to the local level  In practice… meetings of the SSWG Upland are capitalising on the operational experience of a wide range of stake- holders at Province and District levels
  34. 34. Meeting the challenge  Secondly, bringing the voices of farmers into the negotiating process  In practice… using ‘video loops’ to bring questions and suggestions from rural people to officials, and feedback from officials to farmers
  35. 35.  Thirdly, funding studies by Lao researchers and students, designed to encourage critical thinking (rather than sub-contract research to foreigners)  In practice… ‘AgriNet’ is the framework developed by NUDP for supporting Lao- owned studies Meeting the challenge
  36. 36.  NUDP has made a start with these activities …  … but it hasn’t been easy!  Stakeholders from outside of Government – including private sector and farmers – have welcomed the opportunity to contribute ideas  But some stakeholders within Government have been reluctant to contribute…  … and others have been reluctant to listen Meeting the challenge
  37. 37.  Looking ahead, NUDP could have greater success in stimulating dialogue by collaborating with new partners Meeting the challenge  Discussions have been taking place with the Coalition for Lao Information, Communication and Knowledge  And the NGO Land Issues Working Group
  38. 38.  Policy development is not just about hiring experts to write reports  It is also about making sure the voices of all stakeholders are heard  Facilitating discussion and encouraging critical thinking are key requirements Everybody has a role to play! To conclude
  39. 39. Andrew Bartlett Agricultural Policy Adviser, NUDP Any Questions?