* PH Avel Chuklanov
I heard this exchange between two friends on the metro in the city I was in a few days ago. It made me think that having a conversation is the most widespread means of engagement when we refer to civic participation topics, more importantly when we connect it to public policy reform, strategies or projects. Maybe sometimes dialogue loses its function as a “means to advance” and appears to become an end in itself.
In contrast, I thought about the great example of the roundtable of Huari in Peru. In 2001, the Antamina mining company began extracting minerals in Peru. After ten years, they failed to honour their commitments to the local community: the mining income the town received did not meet their surplus expectations, and an agreement on participatory budgeting towards Corporate Social Responsibility was not respected. Thus, the community did not see improvements in their quality of life. As a way to reclaim their power over the territory, the Association of Towns in Huari Population Centers (AMUCEP) paralyzed communications and traffic for three days, and took over one mining facility, arguing they were reclaiming it as investment.
When the conflict escalated, the government created a commission to collect the population’s demands and promoted, in 2012, two months of dialogue between the AMUCEP, Antamina, representatives of the national and municipal state, as well as the Episcopal Commission on Social Action. The work of the roundtables was a means to produce an alliance between civil society, business and government, that would result in the formulation and implementation of social, environmental and economical projects from a perspective of ‘learning by doing’.
We know that new communication technologies also have something to “say,” even when they are being blocked. We have already seen that participative dialogue with citizens has changed. In effect, in less than 20 years, this change can be seen in the word “chat”, a concept that is new to the Spanish language but now familiar. Observing the phenomenon occurring with regards to civic participation, it would not seem to fit the classical concept of regularity. In other words, when structures don’t matter more than a hashtag. The hashtag dialogue tells an infinite number of people who don’t know each other in the real world that they share a common issue.
Global phenomena like #MeToo, among many big milestones, started a dialogue on common themes of gender violence and attracted billions of people, changing forever an only way to see the world. These dialogues contribute to achieve zero tolerance for some abusive gender behaviours, and accepted as “normal”.
In terms of civic participation, dialogue includes and exceeds the information exchange level, since it implies a more active involvement of its participants and -in the best cases, it is supported on true information. This allows for a direct exchange of perspectives, advanced in a virtual way that could impact the real world. The same world where social movements push agendas and public policy with unprecedented transformations.
To find out more about dialogue opportunities with the IDB Group, good dialogue practices and other information such as grants and calls for project competitions, visit WiConnect3 and join the regional conversation on #CivicParticipation.
Senior Operations Specialist and adviser to the Vice President for Countries in citizen participation and civil society engagement. Expert in citizen participation topics, and lead in the creation of the new IDB Group-Civil Society Engagement Strategy.