Bracing for a More Inclusive Approach to Rural Development in Balochistan

An analysis of the role played by the Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) Programme

Inclusive development is a regularly re-discovered topic in most development debates. Following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) it became clear that Inclusiveness is a key element in all the 17 SDGs, from poverty to hunger, education to health, reduced inequality to gender equality, climate change and so on. The shocking reality is that Pakistan Ranks at a low 134th position out of 166, in the 2020 SDG Index, way below all other South Asian countries in this region. Most recently, the COVID-19 Pandemic made painfully clear how important it is for a government to be able to ‘inclusively’ reach out to all its citizens. Socially mobilised and organised community institutions are key factors for effective and all-inclusive outreach. Although much work has been done on this in Pakistan, it still has a long way to go.

This article presents how the EU-funded BRACE Programme nurtures, strengthens and institutionalises a stronger ‘inclusive development approach’ through community institutions at the grass-root, village level and through more effective and sustainable (eg gender inclusion) inclusive development programmes and policy reforms.

Inclusive development is an all-encompassing, ethical, political, social and developmental philosophy, which is the foundation for fair, self-determined, equitable, and sustainable human development. One way to measure this is the Human Development Index (HDI) ; a tool which measures the wellbeing of citizens in a country. The HDI is measured by consolidating three indicators; i) Per capita Income, ii) Education (literacy rate) and iii) Health (life expectancy). According to the UNDP 2019 Human Development Report, Pakistan declined two points in the global HDI report and ranked at 152 out of 189 countries. The HDI immediately shows us the (in-)equity – or) non-) Brackets not clear inclusive development – for these three indicators.

According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the overall literacy of Balochistan, as measured by the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) 2018-19 Survey, of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, is only 40 per cent. The female literacy rate is at a very low 24 per cent; way below to male literacy rate of 54 per cent. The inequality in literacy rates increases when we move further away from urban centres that have the literacy of 55 per cent, compared to rural areas where it is at 34%. In urban areas female literacy is 40, while only 17 per cent of women are literate in the rural areas, compared to a 48 per cent male literacy in the latter. These statistics clearly show that the education sector is ‘non-inclusive’ in its development with the rural population lagging behind the urban and with women lagging far behind men, especially in the rural areas. Similarly in health, the UNDP Human Development Report 2019, the global life expectancy at birth is 72.6 and that of South Asia is 69.7, with Pakistan ranking lowest in the region with only 67.1 per cent births expected to live.

Given the stated disparities, Pakistan ranked at 47 out of 74 countries in the Inclusive Development Index (IDI) produced by the World Economic Forum in 2018. The IDI is an annual assessment of 103 countries’ economic performance that measures how countries perform on eleven dimensions of economic progress in addition to GDP. It has 3 pillars; growth and development; inclusion and; intergenerational equity – sustainable stewardship of natural and financial resources

The above statistics show the miserable state of development in Pakistan in general and in Balochistan in particular.

These conditions stimulated the European Union (EU) to support the federal as well as the Government of Balochistan. The Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) Programme was launched in 2017, for a period of five years, in nine districts of Balochistan to achieve sustainable rural development and poverty alleviation by mobilizing communities and implementing inclusive development programmes. The overall objective of the BRACE Programme is ‘to enable the Government of Balochistan in reducing economic deprivation, poverty and social inequality, environmental degradation and climate change by building empowered and resilient communities who participate actively in socio-economic development activities in partnership with local authorities on a sustainable basis.’ The specific objective of the Programme is to effectively support the Government of Balochistan in its objective of improving public service delivery.

On the demand side, the BRACE Programme has engaged the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs), which have an excellent track record of Community Driven Development and time tested Social Mobilisation approach for poverty reduction in Pakistan, with a country-wide network and the ability to reach out directly to poor, local communities. The European Union, the RSPs and the Government of Balochistan were mindful of the geographic vastness, the challenges and the diversity of Balochistan and thus included northern, southern and central districts in the BRACE Programme, which include the districts of Loralai, Duki, Zhob, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Khuzdar, Washuk, Jhal Magsi and Kech.

Since its inception, the BRACE Programme is successfully implementing activities in these nine districts through three RSPs and the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN). These are the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and the Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP). The BRACE programme is very inclusive in nature and works with the poorest of the poor in the province, identifying the poorest households through an officially recognised Poverty Score Card (PSC). The Poverty Score Card baseline is a proven, effective and reliable tool to identify the poorest of the poor populations and this was done in 249 Union Councils of the BRACE programme districts. The PSC ranks poverty on a scale of 0-24 and ensures that the most marginalised households are identified. It is these households that become members of Community Organisations that the RSPs and government work with, thus ensuring the inclusion of marginalised women and men in BRACE.

The RSPs organise, mobilise and empower communities by first forming Community Organisations (CO), federated into Village Organisations (VO) and then Local Support Organisations (LSO) at the union council level. The ‘BRACE RSPs’ also provide a range of support activities to these community institutions and their members in the form of financial support and capacity building through Community Investment Funds, technical support in all interventions, vocational training support and related linkages, adult literacy programmes, leadership and management training for community institution leaders. Realising that women are ‘left out’ in a patriarchal society, the BRACE Programme makes a deliberate effort to include women, addressing the challenges to their inclusion. More than half of the direct BRACE beneficiaries are women.

The BRACE Programme aims to empower community members, especially women, to enable them to interact with their local government representatives and articulate their ‘demands’ and development needs. Organising women into their own institutions facilitates this process. These demands are channelled and processed through a micro-level planning process involving the multiple tiers of community institutions. The first planning level is each household, which produces a Micro-Investment Plan. At the village level, a Village Development Plan (VDP) is made, with VDPs further consolidated upward into Union Council Development Plans (UCDPs) and then District Development Plans (DDPs). Community members have been empowered through an intensive process of social mobilisation by the RSPs, to make sure that these Plans involve the rural poor and marginalised.

This extensive planning process has resulted in 300,000 Micro Investment Plans, 3,103 Village Development Plans, 249 Union Council Development Plans and nine District Development Plans. It should be noted that these plans are prepared by the poorest of the poor community members who are capacitated and guided by the RSPs, in this process.

On the ‘supply-side’ the BRACE Programme has engaged two Technical Assistance partners; namely DAI/Human Dynamics (HD) and Oxford Policy Management (OPM), to facilitate the Government of Balochistan to come up with an innovative Community-Driven Local Government and Rural Development (LG&RD) Policy and a Fiscal Framework. This ‘CD LG&RD Framework’ will ensure that community institutions and the Plans they make are included in the policy and fiscal framework for improved service delivery, especially to the poorest. HD is focussing on the development of the provincial Government of Balochistan ‘CD Local Government and Rural Development Policy Framework’ and district level Joint District Development Committees are to ensure this at the district level. OPM is facilitating the GoB to improve its Public Financial Management systems.

The BRACE Programme is targeting and mobilising about 1.9 million citizens in 300,000 poor households of 249 union councils in 9 districts, by organising them into 19,129 Community Organisations, 3,103 Village Organisations, 249 Local Support Organisations and 31 Local Support Organisation Networks at the tehsil and district levels.

The focus of the European Union on developing community leadership is addressed by the RSPs through a series of leadership training and capacity building modules. A Community Management Skills Trainings (CMST) is being imparted to 38,258 Community Organisation activists/office bearers, while 9,592 Village Organisation and Local Support Organisations office bearers are being trained in Leadership and Management Skills Training (LMST). Similarly, 823 Community Resource Persons are receiving training and providing services to Community Institutions in specific, technical areas of work. At the same time, 372 government officials and elected representatives also get training in participatory, community development approaches.

The officially notified Joint District Development Committees provide a platform for exchange and collaboration between community institutions, the RSPs, Local Government representative, district line/development departments and the District Administration. JDDCs are chaired by the Deputy Commissioner who is the administrative head of the district. The JDDCs are to ensure that the demand and supply sides meet, and ensure that all stakeholders are involved in preparing inclusive District Development Plans supported by effective resource mobilisation strategies.

The BRACE Programme aims to improve the incomes of 25 per cent of the targeted households, on a sustainable basis, with 40 per cent of the households to graduate from the lowest (0-11) PSC band to the upper poverty scorecard bands. Also, 50 per cent households of the targeted areas are to report improved access to basic social services with a 50 per cent improvement in citizen’s perceptions of their involvement in local governance processes.

It can be said with confidence that the BRACE Programme is an impressive example of ‘inclusive development’ through a strong Community Driven Development approach that is bottom-up and reflects the genuine demands of the poorest people of Balochistan. The strengthened state-citizen relationship and the building of trust between people and the state will ensure the inclusion of the poor and poorest in the development process on a sustainable basis. The BRACE Programme is an example of the commitment of the EU in Pakistan, to the CDD approach in a challenging province like Balochistan and demonstrates that the development priorities of the EU and the people of Balochistan are fully aligned.

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