Perspectives on participation and partnerships: Participatory planning and practice in Vanuatu

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    This issue of Development Bulletin includes some of the 86 papers presented at the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID)/Universities Linkages Conference held at the Australian National University on November 28-29, 2012. The theme of the conference was 'Challenges for Participatory Development in Contemporary Development Practice'. It was the third conference organised by the ACFID/Universities Network — a partnership between ACFID's NGO members and Australian universities. The Network is co-hosted by ACFID and the Institute of Human Security at La Trobe University. The Network grew out of a collective desire to widen debate on international development and to strengthen collaboration and research between academics and the members of ACFID. It provides a platform to develop partnerships within and between these two sectors and in turn, strengthen their collective impact against poverty and injustice. In particular, the Network focuses its work on harnessing quality research as essential for good international development practice. This means ensuring the best possible outcomes for those who are the beneficiaries and partners in this development work. The primary aims of the Network are to:  initiate stronger relations between ACFID members and individual academics with an interest in development, as well as with their departments/research centres;  provide a better understanding of the potential entry points and areas of collaborations between NGOs and academia; and  extend the existing network of universities linked to ACFID to foster future collaboration as well as information sharing of development related research. The theme of the conference was chosen because among donors, researchers and development practitioners participatory development tends to be taken for granted and its methods and benefits are largely unquestioned. Participatory development involves including people who are affected by development processes as planners and implementers and became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s as a response to globalisation and neoliberal development policies. Participatory development is inspired by the work of Robert Chambers who saw it as a way of overcoming the shortcomings of top down development and the limitations of expert research and planning. Participatory development's catch cry might be 'ordinary people know best'. It has, however, been criticised for being tokenistic and unable to address the issues of top down development and, more recently, results-based planning and inclusion. This conference explored these issues from both academic and practitioner perspectives. The keynote speakers at the conference included Professor Robert Chambers, a Fellow of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex; Professor Gita Sen, of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India, and Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health; Emele Duituturaga, CEO of the Fiji Ministry for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation and Head of the Pacific Women's Resource Bureau for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community; Dr Alan Fowler , Emeritus Professor at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague and for more than 30 years an advisor to, and writer on, civil society organisations involved with international development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)21-25
    JournalDevelopment Bulletin (Canberra)
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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