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People's Participation

People's participation is becoming the central issue of current period. Participation means that people are closely involved in the economic, social and cultural and political processes that affect their lives. People may in some cases have complete and direct control over these processes – in other cases the control may be partial or indirect. People have constant access to decision making and power.

Participation in this sense is an essential element of human development. It generally refers to people's involvement in particular projects or programmes. But today participation means an overall development strategy focusing on the central role that people should play in all spheres of life. Human development involves widening their choice and greater participation enables people to gain for themselves access to a much broader range of opportunities.

People can participate as individuals or groups.As individuals in a democracy they may participate as voters or political activists or in the market as entrepreneurs or workers.Often they participate more and more effectively through group action as members of a community organization or a trade union or a political party.

Since participation requires increased influence and control,it also demands increased empowerment in economic,social and political terms.In economic terms this means being able to engage freely in any economic activity. In social terms it means being able to join fully in all forms of community life without regard to religion,colour or sex or race.In political terms it means the freedom to choose and change governance at every level from top to bottom.All these forms of participation are intimately linked.Without one the others will be incomplete.

Participation from the human development perspective is both a means and an end.Human development stresses the need to invest in human capabilities and then ensure that those capabilities are used for benefit of all.Greater participation has an important part to play there.It helps to maximize the use of human capabilities and is thus a means of increasing levels of social and economic development.But human development is also concerned with personal fulfillment.So active participation which allows people to realize their full potential and make their best contribution to society is also an end in itself.

Many new windows of opportunity are opening. The cold war in East-West relations is over and there is a good chance of phasing it out in the developing world. The ideological battles of the past are being replaced by a more pragmatic partnership between market efficiency and social compassion. The rising environmental threat is reminding humanity of both its vulnerability and its compulsion for common survival on a fragile planet.

Many old concepts must now be radically revised. Security should be interpreted as security for people, not security for land. Development should be woven around people not people around development. It should empower people and groups rather than take away power from them. Many of the old institutions of civil society need to be rebuilt and many new ones created. The future conflicts may well be between people rather than between states, national and international institutions will need to accommodate much more diversity and difference and to open many more avenues for constructive participation. Participation is a process and not a event. It will proceed at different levels for different regions and countries and its forms and extent may vary from one stage of development to another.

The implications of widespread participation are profound embracing every aspect of development. Markets need to be reformed to offer everyone access to the benefits they can bring. Governance needs to be decentralized to allow greater access to decision making. Community organizations need to be allowed to exert growing influence on national and international issues. We must realize the fact that human development is the development of the people and for the people.

Current Affairs Magazine