NCBA CLUSA promotes cooperative principles at USAID workshop on democracy, rights and governance

usaid-logo-web 37d01usaid-logo-web 37d01NCBA CLUSA COO Amy Coughenour highlighted the cooperative principles at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) launch event last month called, “Improving Collaboration in Support of Resilient, Democratic Societies: Launching USAID’s Action Plan for Cross-Sectoral DRG Integration.” The workshop, held on January 28, brought together more than 50 USAID employees and implementing partners to discuss challenges, successes, approaches and potential solutions for integrating democracy, rights and governance (DRG) activities into international development projects.

DRG activities have traditionally constituted stand-alone programs focused on building government capacity and transparency and supporting free and fair elections, but it’s become evident over time that governance is critical for the sustainability of programs across all sectors, whether food security, climate change, energy, health or education.

However, cross-sectoral DRG integration has proven difficult for both donors and implementers for many reasons, including specific sector investments, lack of interest by sectors to use integrated approaches, legal restrictions and lack of a common policy and realities on the ground where projects are being implemented. As such, USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) has spent the past several months developing an action plan to guide cross-sectoral integration of DRG principles and approaches into strategy development, program design and implementation.

During a panel discussion implementing partner experiences in the field, Coughenour said that DRG integration has always been an important component of NCBA CLUSA’s international development work because of the internationally recognized cooperative principles that underpin the organization. She explained that the seven principles, which include 1) voluntary and open membership, 2) democratic member control, 3) members’ economic participation, 4) autonomy and independence, 5) education, training and information, 6) cooperation among cooperatives and 7) concern for community, are rooted in good governance, democracy and supporting people’s livelihoods.

“The cooperative principles are part of our DNA, so DRG integration is natural for us,” Coughenour said.

Coughenour stressed that for communities to engage in meaningful governance work, DRG activities need to be “practical and pragmatic” with targeted outcomes and deliverables. She discussed NCBA CLUSA’s local governance-strengthening strategies using the example of its citizen working group (CWG) model in the Yaajeende Food Security program in Senegal. The multi-sectoral CWGs—formed by representatives of community-based organizations, local businesses, and traditional leadership and local government—develop and implement local food security and nutrition plans. The CWGs have been effective largely because their purpose is to produce a specific deliverable with tangible outcomes. Coughenour also presented on the CWG model last month at a USAID employee workshop on strengthening inclusive civil society engagement.

A key test for the effective implementation of cross-sectoral DRG integration in the coming years is USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) initiative, which aims to build resilience in communities that face recurrent crises in West Africa’s Sahel region. Launched in 2012, the initiative brings together humanitarian and development funding from several bureaus, a true collaboration among sectors.

In 2013, NCBA CLUSA was awarded a five-year, $70 million cooperative agreement under the RISE initiative to lead the implementation of the Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel–Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-ER) project.

“Resilience is all about governance,” Coughenour said. “Ultimately, resilience isn’t just about effective interventions on the ground. It boils down to how governments are mobilizing, engaging their citizens and communities and responding to their people’s needs.”

With an action plan in place, USAID has committed to strengthening resilience in communities around the world by improving DRG integration in its programming.

“We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work through the challenges together,” said Neil Levine, director of USAID’s Center for Excellence in Democracy, Rights and Governance.


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