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URUGUAY: Development from the Ground Up

MONTEVIDEO, Sep 2 2009 (IPS) - Putting people, not the economy, at the centre of development by coordinating and designing initiatives based on the interests of the target populations themselves is the goal of the Support to Territorial Networks (ART) programme, which is growing year after year in Uruguay.

UNDP resident coordinator in Uruguay, Pablo Mandeville, reviews projects with heads of provincial governments. Credit: Esteban Zunín

UNDP resident coordinator in Uruguay, Pablo Mandeville, reviews projects with heads of provincial governments. Credit: Esteban Zunín

The programme now encompasses a vast array of activities: urban clean-up projects, the promotion of community gardens, support for carnival performers and other fields of art, support for cultural and tourism centres, training in apicultural production and marketing, the creation of schools for brick-making, support for milk production and artisanal fishing, and sewing workshops, to name just a few.

All of these initiatives, formerly undertaken as part of isolated and fragmented efforts, are now coordinated throughout Uruguay through the ART programme network, which involves the national government, provincial and local government authorities, civil society and the private sector and is supported with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international development cooperation agencies.

Washington Núñez, the local ART network representative in the northern province of Rivera, told IPS that this new approach is a response to “the failure of the neoliberal policies” imposed in the 1990s and the corresponding approach to development aid, which was not people-centred. Another key element of this new concept is that it considers development “from an integrated point of view,” he added.

Projects underway:> Support for sugar cane producers in the northern city of Bella Unión

> Support for carnival in the northern province of Artigas

> Promotion of nature tourism in Artigas

> Support for horticulture in the eastern province of Cerro Largo

> Sewing workshop in Rivera

> Training for small and medium-sized enterprises in Salto

> Sustainable management of artisanal fishing in the western province of Paysandú

> Community facility for honey harvesting in Rivera

> Creation of a development agency in the southern province of

> Creation of a regional cultural centre in Cerro Largo

> Enhancement of apicultural sector competitiveness in Salto

> Promotion of community participation in urban clean-up initiatives in Montevideo

> Support for rustic wool producers in Salto.

As a result, it places emphasis not only on financing but on efforts to integrate all sectors in defining areas of cooperation, and to build local capacities, so that the local networks in each province can carry out the projects involved, he explained. The ART Local Development Programme emerged from a series of agreements in 2005 and was put into motion in 2007 with the mobilisation of resources.

Since then, working groups have been created in the respective provinces (known as departments) and the network has grown exponentially, Pablo Mandeville, the resident coordinator of the UN system and UNDP country representative in Uruguay, told IPS.

Mandeville presented a report on the ART programme to the Congress of Intendentes (the heads of provincial governments in Uruguay) held in August.

The funds mobilised as part of the ART programme have grown steadily, from 144,000 dollars in 2006 to 462,450 in 2007 and 1.1 million in 2008. The figure is expected to rise to 2.5 million dollars this year.

The programme operates in agreement with the administration of President Tabaré Vázquez, provincial authorities and international agencies including the UNDP, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, among others.

Aimed at fostering a “new multilateralism” by facilitating cooperation among numerous actors in the same territory, the programme encompasses local development projects financed by different sources, including UNDP grants, government resources, contributions from bilateral donors, and decentralised development aid.

The ART network is now operating in all 19 provinces of this small South American country wedged between Argentina and Brazil, with 49 projects currently underway.

In each province a working group is formed, made up of representatives of all sectors. These groups function as a non-governmental public space for defining the main development needs of each particular region.

In Rivera, for example, four points were defined as targets for action: large industry; the logging sector; tourism and trade; and efforts to combat poverty and promote equality, Núñez told IPS.

The local ART representative in each province acts as a liaison “who brings together local actors and creates spaces for coordination and discussion, assists and accompanies them in the identification of strategic areas of development, training needs and group strengthening, and in the formulation of projects, among other activities, and fundamentally in building spaces that generate trust among the actors,” Vicenta Camusso, the representative for the eastern portion of Montevideo – the capital – told IPS.

Initiatives supported by the ART programme are generally aimed at achieving the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed upon by the world’s governments in 2000. The main targets include guaranteeing universal primary education by 2015 and halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, suffering hunger, and living without access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2015.

Other goals are promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

The fact that the ART programme allows the stakeholders themselves to make decisions about the focus and execution of the initiatives inspires considerable enthusiasm. People from the communities are able to express their concerns through the working groups, which means that the development plans that are formulated clearly reflect their needs.

“There are significant levels of acceptance and commitment, both from the institutions that are active members in the projects as well as the local communities, which identify with and support the activities. The projects have clearly been generating the desired impact,” Diego García da Rosa, the local ART representative from the northern province of Salto, told IPS.

Climate change: a cross-cutting theme

In his presentation to the Congress of Intendentes, Mandeville also offered an overview of a project aimed at promoting “resilient local development” in the face of climate change in the metropolitan area of Montevideo.

This is a pilot project involving activities to mitigate the effects of global warming, organised within the framework of the ART network. It will be presented internationally at the next climate change summit this December in Copenhagen.

As the UNDP experts explained to the heads of local governments, climate change is responsible for 300,000 deaths worldwide every year, in addition to an upsurge in pollution-related diseases and the collapse of global and local fisheries, which have suffered a 90 percent reduction in stocks of large fish.

A number of ART programme initiatives focus on the problem of climate change. In Salto, for example, “the local working group has decided that the environment and especially concerns about climate change and its impact on water resources should be a major cross-cutting theme in all of its activities,” said García da Rosa.

“That is why we have submitted a project proposal for the strengthening of local organisations in five rural towns, through a series of distance training sessions on the use of new technologies for environmental management and biodiversity conservation,” he explained.

“It also includes an awareness-raising campaign around the same issue, as well as two pilot projects for collectively managed animal feed banks to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he added.

García da Rosa stressed that “these activities have high priority, given that we are dealing with one of the regions of the country that is most vulnerable to these processes, with a significant loss in biodiversity and a serious water shortage.”

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