TRANSFORMATION THROUGH EMPOWERMENT
The theme for the Ninth Session of Ghana International Model United Nations conference is “Transformation through Empowerment”. Empowerment has many meanings and is not a new term to the United Nations, and does not translate easily into all languages. An exploration of local terms associated with empowerment around the world always leads to lively discussion. These terms include self-strength, control, self-power, self-reliance, own choice, life of dignity in accordance with one’s values, capable of fighting for one’s rights, independence, personal decision making, being free, awakening, and capability—to mention only a few. Adams (2003: 8) defines empowerment as “the means by which individuals, groups and/or communities become able to take control of their circumstances and achieve their own goals, thereby being able to work towards helping themselves and others to maximize the quality of their lives.”In another way, it is also the process of enabling people to increase control over their lives, to gain control over the factors and decisions that shape their lives, to increase their resources and qualities and to build capacities to gain access, partners, networks and a voice, in order to gain control.
Empowerment is of an intrinsic value; it also has an instrumental value. Empowerment is relevant at the individual and collective level, and can be economic, social or political.The term can be used to characterize relations within households or between poor people and other actors at the global level. There are important gender differences in the causes, forms, and consequences of empowerment. Hence, there are obviously many possible definitions of empowerment.In its broadest sense, empowerment is the expansion of freedom of choice and action. It means increasing one’s authority and control over the resources and decisions that affect one’s life. As people exercise real choice, they gain increased control over their lives. But we notice that there is a huge gap between the world we live in and the world we want.One important aspect of empowerment in global developmental agenda is one which strengthen the most vulnerable for them to feel part of the society and also work towards their aspirations of self-dependence. It also gear towards enhancing the operations of agents of transformation such as Civil Society Organizations, Private and Public Corporations as well as Governments.
The choice of this theme is to engage young people to know how they believe empowerment and transform the lives of people in the world. Participants will discuss the assets, the actions, and the capabilities that will be used in different ways to increase people’s well being.
According to one of the most recent estimates, in 2013, 10.7 percent of the world’s population representing 767 million people lived on less than US$1.90 a day. Poverty is taking the best part of humanity making many dying out of hunger and common diseases like malaria. 22,000 children die each day due to poverty related issues like hunger and preventable diseases. Lack of access to health facilities is sending people to their graves even before their time. A huge number of over 500,000 women die from pregnancy or childbirth; and diseases from inadequate and unhygienic drinking water and sanitation also killing 842,000 people each year. Lack of decent jobs has pushed our youth to resort to all manner of notoriety and crime posing security threats to societies. Our forest reserves and water bodies are being destroyed. With discrimination, gender inequality, press intimidation and many other challenges hanging, we are held back.
On the adaptation of a new path to develop our world through the Agenda 2030 which enables us to plan from the future to the present, it is necessary we take time to access the strength and opportunities we have in our inventory and the weakness that could be transformed to build a suitable world for the present future generation.Therefore, to achieve sustainable development, we will need to adopt action plans which will empower individuals and institutions to ensure the global agenda of transformation becomes a reality.
Thus, empowerment is the expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable of institutions that affect their lives.Poor people’s choices are extremely limited, both by their lack of assets and by their powerlessness to negotiate better terms for themselves with a range of institutions, both formal and informal. Poor women and men need a range of assets and capabilities to increase their well being and security, as well as their self-confidence, so that they can negotiate with those more powerful. Poverty is multidimensional, so are these assets and capabilities.
“Assets” refers to material assets, both physical and financial. Such assets—including land,housing, livestock, savings, and jewelry—enable people to withstand shocks and expand their horizon of choices. The extreme limitation of poor people’s physical and financial assets severely constrains their capacity to negotiate fair deals for themselves and increases their vulnerability.“Capabilities”, on the other hand, are inherent in people and enable them to use their assets indifferent ways to increase their well being. Human capabilities include good health,education, and production or other life-enhancing skills. Social capabilities include social belonging, leadership, relations of trust, a sense of identity, values that give meaning to life, and the capacity to organize. Political capability includes the capacity to represent oneself or others, access information, form associations, and participate in the political life of a community or country.
Assets and capabilities can be individual or collective. Due to lack of voice and power and deeply entrenched social barriers, even in many formal democracies, poor people are often unable to take advantage of opportunities to invest in their assets or exercise their individual rights.Poor people’s organizations, groups, and networks working with others can mobilize resources to improve individual health, education, and security of assets. Working through representative organizations, poor people can express their preferences, exercise voice and hold governments and state service providers accountable for providing quality services in education, health, water, sanitation, agriculture, or other areas.
In an institutional context, empowerment is about changing unequal institutional relationships. Institutions are rules, norms, and patterned behavior that may or may not take organizational form. The institutions that affect poor people’s lives are formal and civil society organizations at the local, national, and global levels, as well as international organizations. Informal institutions include, for example, norms of inferior or superior status, expectations of bribes, networks of kin, friends, and neighbors, informal restrictions placed on women inheriting property, or the cluster of practices surrounding treatment of widows.
State policies and the culture of state institutions shape the actions of all other actors: poor men and women, other excluded groups, the private sector, civil society including unions and faith-based organizations, and international agencies. When states are captured by the wealthy and powerful and become mired in a culture of corruption, clientism, exclusion and discrimination, even well- meaning policies and programs fail to promote investment or reduce poverty.
Poor people are generally excluded from participation in state institutions that make the decisions and administer the resources that affect their lives. This is what leads poor people to conclude, “Nobody hears the poor. It is the rich who are being heard” or “When the rich and poor compete for services, the rich will always get priority.” To bring about systemic reform, it will require changing these unequal institutional relations that reflect a culture of inequality. Intermediate civil society groups have critical roles to play in supporting poor people’s capabilities, translating and interpreting information to them, and helping link them to the state and the private sector. However, such groups have to stay vigilant to ensure that they really do represent poor people’s interests and are accountable to them.The social and cultural context is particularly important for empowerment approaches.
Therefore, both state reform and efforts to build poor people’s assets and organizational capability must take forms that reflect local norms, values and behaviors. Empowerment approaches will sometimes be controversial; for instance, local women’s demands for autonomy and equal access to resources may run up against cultural norms of female exclusion.Institutional strategies to empower poor people will necessarily vary. Strategies to enable poor women to inherit property will differ from strategies to make local schools accountable to parents or to have poor people’s concerns reflected in national budgets.
At GIMUN 2018, Delegates and Officials will discuss various agenda in relation to how the lives of the people of the world would be made better through empowerment. The discussions will focus on:
- Access to Food, Clean Water, Hygiene, Sanitation and Health Facilities to Improve Healthy and Good Living
- Technical and Vocational Skills, Creative Arts and Agribusiness as Means for Youth Employment and Economic Growth
- Promoting Information Communication Technology to Enhance Education, Good Governance, Job Creation and Security
- Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, People Living with Disabilities, Immigrants, Refugees and Minorities on Employment, Income and Opportunities
- Waste Management, Renewable Energy and Climate Action
- Joint Actions and Partnerships
Humanity must enjoy better lives and it begins from now.