(originally posted in Eldis Communities)

This is the theme for the third Diverse Voices Global Online Debate from 14-18 January 2013.  Towards the end of 2012 I began working with three great knowledge networkers in Accra, Sao Paulo and Cape Town on behalf of the Institute of Development Studies to pull together three spaces where citizen voices from diverse background could come together and simply talk about what matters to them – with no fixed agenda, policy or research framing.  It’s the New Year and in less than a week’s time we’ll be welcoming Facebook and Twitter users from around the world to expand and amplify the discussions begun in Ghana, Brazil and South Africa.

Diverse Voices began hosting Global Online Debates on themes suggested by people whose opinions are rarely heard in June 2012. Convened by the Institute of Development Studies, Diverse Voices aims to build a new global network that will increase the diversity of evidence and claims found in debates on national and international development policy.

Each quarter a diverse group of citizens in three different countries who are members or representatives of communities whose voices are rarely heard meet with no prior agenda other than to discuss ‘what will you be talking about over the next three months’.  The citizen discussions are facilitated by a national convener who captures the issues discussed and prioritized by the groups.  From these national priorities a theme for the Global Online Debate is chosen by the national conveners and IDS that best reflects the issues prioritised in all three countries.

The third round of citizen discussions were held in December 2012 in Accra Ghana, Sao Paulo Brazil and Cape Town South Africa. The discussions brought together 27 individuals from different walks of life including students, community leaders, street vendors, waste recyclers, homeless, disabled, unemployed, farm workers, parents, mechanics, human rights, health and labour activists. The discussions provide a space for those whose opinions do not have a good chance of reaching the ears of lawmakers, practitioners, researchers and journalists.

The overall aim of Diverse Voices is to encourage national, regional and international dialogue on more equal terms – and to gather creative ideas and to build new relationships that can revitalize efforts to eradicate poverty and promote well-being. The Global Online Debates invite citizens internationally on Facebook and Twitter who have previously been excluded from global conversations to share their experiences and ideas on the chosen theme and challenge established opinion formers to respond to the debate.

From 14-18 January the third Global Online Debate asks “Do You Think That Public Services Respect The Dignity Of The Most Vulnerable Citizens?” The theme reflects issues prioritised in Ghana, Brazil and South Africa including:

  • Lack of access to social protection, rights, and necessities
  • The quality health policies, access and affordability of health services
  • The failure of social protection implementation for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups
  • Maternity rights of women living on the street and in vulnerable neighbourhoods
  • Reactivation of the public services that take care of women who have abortions
  • The need to humanize public services (health, social assistance, justice) to respect people’s dignity as whole persons not just as ‘service users’
  • Protests about the failure of public service delivery in the context of broken electoral promises and corruption in housing, sanitation, water, education, healthcare and electricity
  • Campaigns to keep public transportation accessible to students and youth

In the Global Online Debate on Facebook and Twitter Diverse Voices wants you to tell other citizens what you think about public services and share examples from your part of the world.

Examples already shared include:

Now Diverse Voices provides an opportunity to explore similar experiences in countries across the globe and raise voices to say clearly what can be done to change these failings.

Diverse Voices invites you to a global debate on Facebook and Twitter from 14-18th January 2013. If you want to challenge agenda setting in national and international development here’s a chance to be heard. Or if you believe you have relevant research or policy perspectives to share it’s time to engage on equal terms.

www.facebook.com/Diverse.Voices.2012

www.twitter.com/#!/DVoices2012

The two previous global online debates have attracted over 11,000 people. Please help to make this a truly global conversation and please do share with your networks.