The title, ‘Ways and means to develop national capacities for inclusive policy processes’ like the term social inclusion, means, different things to people in different situations and also different things to people with different relationships to the same situation. To me, as a UN staff who is basically an ‘outsider’ to any national situation, it means accompanying national stakeholders tocatalyze a process that develops locally-derived and owned, sustainable national capacities for increasingsocial inclusion.

In these brief remarks, I want to introduce several lines of thoughtand try to draw linkages and parallels between them.

First, I will to describe how I see the UN’s thinking has evolved in this area.

Second, I’d like to share some experiences that I have had working in DESA with other UN departments and agencies and local peacebuildersin building national capacities for conflict management, conflict prevention and social cohesion, which I believe have close linkages to social inclusion.

And finally, I’llclose with what Ithink we are learning from these programmes and where we need to go next.

First, the sea change in the UN’s work is that we have gotten more inclusive not only in our rhetoric, but in our practice. In what is broadly and, perhaps sloppily, called conflict prevention and peacebuilding, our approach is focused very much on building capacities for co-existence and social inclusion so that antagonists can come together in non-threatening venues and collaborate in processes where perceptions of and real divisions, disputes and conflicts can be addressed, resolved and hopefully transformed so that the root causes behind the conflicts and the soured relationships that have developed can be repaired.

To that end, our approach at the UN has shifted radically in the past ten years from one that was very segmented along sectoral lines to one that is multi-sectoral and integrated. The old perception of the UN taking a purely political approach involving preventive diplomacy, good offices, high level negotiations, and traditional positional negotiation has evolved. Now that experience has shown the limited success of this approach, we are really shifting our approaches and expanding our repertoire. So political measures separated from economic or others have now evolved into integrated planning and programming where the political side works hand in hand with the developmental. Similarly, we have moved from a Headquarters-driven approach to a field level initiated one, from a UN system ‘alone’ methodology to one that interacts intensively with governments and their civil societies and other international partners, from a capital-based approach or one dealing mainly with elites to one that includes local level stakeholders and a cross-section of civil society actors, and finally from a content-based approach on the issues of dispute to one that prioritizes and balances process skills development prior to and alongside of the content issues.

We have called this conflict management capacity-building and it is based on the premise that it is not the ideal for the UN to intervene or mediate directly in the content of the conflict or exclusion or even helping groups to resolve one conflict. That in a sense is disempowering the stakeholders by implying that they can’t do it themselves without outside help. Rather, we are imparting the capacity to local stakeholders to analyze and problem solve future inequalities, problems, conflicts with the own set of skills in their own way. I see this as very applicable and transferable to social inclusion. We outsiders can’t help create social inclusion, but we can impart skills to empower local stakeholders to analyse their situation, determine what would be an enabling environment for inclusion, identify what skills, capacities and disposition are needed to achieve that (as determined by the stakeholders specific to their situation), and then help them gain that capacity and develop those skills.

I’ll briefly describe three projects that exemplify this approach: the Strengthening Democratic Governance programme in Ghana, the Social Cohesion Project in Guyana, and the Conflict Transformation Skills Development programme in Zimbabwe.

The Ghana project was initiated to address a protracted chieftaincy succession dispute in Northern Ghana (Dagbon) that resulted in several cross-tribal massacres that left the king and scores of others dead and also directly affected the security and stability of almost two million people. While trying to bring the leadership together to resolve the dispute in a collaborative manner, the programme so impressed the regional governor that he brought it to national attention and the national government asked for assistance to develop a National Architecture for Peace. This means that from national level, to regional to local level, peace committees have been established and in many places replaced security committees so that police, civil servants, and civil society are sitting together regularly to discuss potential threats to human security – everything from drought to land pressure, to tribal or ethnic disputes to anything that might exclude, overlook, or ‘not take into consideration’ any segment of society and result in violence. We are now trying to publicize and then replicate this model in other interested countries.

In Guyana, where the words ‘conflict prevention’ and ‘inclusive governance’ were taboo, a UNDP project called Social Cohesion worked for two years to support a rather intransigent government and its newly formed Ethnic Relations Commission to undertake really inclusive policy consultations across the country. First, the programme was able to get government on board, by doing confidence-building training with the political party leadership, then it trained peace promoters on how to conduct social dialogue and helped them create their own network to support each other. It also worked with political party youth leaders and local government officials to impart negotiation and consensus-based problem-solving skills. The youth leaders and local government folks from both parties, took to this so much, that national leadership became nervous and some of it stopped, other parts redirected. But, during its three years, the programme was instrumental in toning down the level of political discourse to the point where Guyana had its first non-violent election in forty years.

In Zimbabwe, in 2000 when the tension was at a different level, DESA was invited by UNDP to offer a workshop with the provision that we didn’t mention ‘conflict’ only ‘challenges’. One icebreaker was an exercise asking mixed groups to brainstorm on human needs……They agreed on food, shelter, identity, respect, etc. and found them inextricably tied to human rights and what people had a right to fight for if denied.Within three days of teambuilding, dialogue and conflict resolution skills development, we went from a tense, uncommunicative group to one eager to engage with their content issues because, they said, now they felt they had a vocabulary to discuss them collaboratively and constructively without reverting to shouting and anger. Parliamentarians involved in the project that ensued from that workshop reported more effective committee meetings, changes in the tenor of the debate in Parliament and better working relationships amongst MPs that will hopefully outlast the current dynamic.

What I have gleaned from this and similar engagements in other politically fragile situations is that there has been a lot of work done on what may be called the content of inclusion and good governance in terms of creating the ‘right’ regulatory framework and enabling environment, i.e. strengthening the judiciary and rule of law, developing minority protection legislation, establishing Human Rights Commissions, Ombudsman’s offices and the like. And, there is a fair degree of literature on what works and what doesn’t.

But, our problem and challenge lies not in knowing what to do in terms of content – of what constitutes strengthening the Parliament or the judiciary, but how it can be locally derived, locally owned, and fully absorbed so that it will be defended and championed by the majority and not undermined by those it doesn’t serve so that it will have sustainable impact and not fade away once the international community leaves. To that end, we haven’t done as much work, research or evaluation of the practices that impart process skills in preparation for the content to be absorbed and bought into. That is where process capacity-building like dialogue processes, conflict resolution skills like collaborative negotiation, and participatory problem-solving and decision-making are key to prepare the ground and lay a foundation for proper policy making on that content.

To that end, we are trying to develop a holistic, developmental approach to national capacity-building which includes institutional capacity-building, individual capacity-development, and whole-society strategies for changing societal mindsets to lower resistance, accept change, and construct a shared national vision and find more constructive collaborative ways of coexisting.

A case can be made, that governments of almost all stripes have agreed with, that they and their civil society counterparts all need a range of interrelated competencies to be able to develop and sustain inclusive societies that can manage disputes, diversity and conflicts equitably and constructively. Competencies relate to both institutional and individual capacities. On the institutional side, I refer both to an optimum constellation of institutions that address social inclusion. This includes having dedicated institutions like Human Rights or Ethnic Relations Commissions whose primary goals are directed to inclusion-sensitive policy and practice. But it also means ensuring that all government institutions with overarching goals like Parliament or the judiciary or even seemingly unrelated goals, like security, health, infrastructure and the like, also are imbued with a social inclusion-sensitive attitude.

On the individual side, we need to think of what aptitudes and attitudes the people who staff these offices have, as well as how their civil society counterparts are oriented and capacitated to respond to them.

The first competency is, I believe, what we call the capacity for social inclusion sensitivity through peace & conflict analysis and response development – the capacity to unpack, understand and articulate one’s situation. It looks at what are the negative forces promoting social disintegration, but also what are the peace promoting forces working albeit quietly for social cohesion.

Normally I would call this a ‘peace & conflict analysis’ but I think for our purposes a better term would be ‘situation analysis’, because whatever might potentially cause destructive conflict is very likely to emanate from policy formulation or implementation that is, at best, unintentionally non-inclusive and at worst, intentionally exclusive. Now, this type of analysis is not done by intelligence officer sitting alone in a room, but through a joint participatory dialogue which also serves to enhance dialogue, build trust and forging a common, accepted understanding.

In addition to conflict analysis skills, the list would also include skills a range of general management and group process skills such as active listening, meeting facilitation skills, brainstorming etc. Dialogue should be mentioned here, not as an end in itself but as a tool and adjunct to skill-building and confidence building and as preparation for more targeted work on, at least, the envisioning of a shared future and, ideally,for movement toward negotiated agreement on contested issues. A caveat on dialogue –there are rarely level playing fields and the facilitators need to ensure that any planned dialogue doesn’t mask or deny asymmetric power imbalances and relationships and hopefully compassionately addresses them.

Then there are more specific, targeted skills for collaborative, interest-based negotiations, participatory decision-making and leadership skills meaning skills that influence people, involve people and empower people.

Finally, and particularly for developing countries, there are a range of capacities that government officials and civil society need in how to do conflict-sensitive or inclusion-sensitive development. Borrowing from my experience in peace and conflict, people in fragile situations, understandably need to see a tangible benefit for themselves and their communities. Hence there is a need to ‘deliver the goods’. So, it is usually preferable not to do stand-alone projects, but to combine development work and across-conflict work so that people learn to work together through doing.

Finally, strategies for awareness-raising to change mindsets… Leadership skills and strength need to be looked at more deeply. How can people who have been transformed by conflict prevention processes be empowered to convert their constituency without being attacked for selling out? This includes targeted mass media campaigns as in Ireland and Zambia. And, a general widening in concentric circles of stakeholders ability and disposition to participate….speak in meetings, identify and distinguish between overt causes and root causes of conflict, brainstorm together on possible responses, and ensure locally owned, participatory processes to develop inclusive policies.

An approach for building national capacity for social inclusion requires, of course, a programme tailor-made for the specifics of the situation, but one that involves a carefully balanced set of predominantly process capacity-building skills at the inception and little content, gradually shifting to more content once trust and respect begin to develop, relationships begin to be built, fears are brought to the surface and shared, and content can be jointly addressed collaboratively.