Let’s talk about Best practice
Johanna Larsson is a second-year master’s student at the Department for Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, currently writing her thesis on the motives behind participation in reconciliation processes. Johanna has previous experience from the field and has worked for the Swedish Foreign Ministry and Sida.
It is time to talk about the concept of best practice. Best practice brings hope to a world that feels increasingly chaotic and cynical by introducing the hopeful idea that throughout the years we have created societies filled with knowledge, quality, and experience from which we can learn.
The Stockholm Forum on Security and Development (Stockholm Forum) confirmed the value of identifying and sharing best practices. At the Forum, a female participant remarked that no decision should be taken on women without women. Her statement, which reflects a best practice on inclusion in peacebuilding, simply and powerfully expresses the importance of inclusion for the 2030 Agenda. Best practice was also emphasized in relation to migration and practitioners highlighted the many possibilities on sharing best practice between countries. As an outcome of the Stockholm Forum, and many more, I hope to see more specific examples of best practices and ways of making them available across the international field soon after we encounter them. There are many practitioners with hands-on experience from whom we can learn. More opportunities to share this experience is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.
I suggest three ways international development can be improved in regards to best practice:
Inclusivity and acknowledgment – Many at the Stockholm Forum highlighted inclusivity as one of the most important best practices to apply during implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The inclusion of civil society actors in particular was named as key should the 2030 Agenda bring about the changes which it intends to deliver. With practitioners from all over the world gathering at the Stockholm Forum, we have a perfect opportunity to realize this recommendation. I suggest participants in events such as the Stockholm Forum could be invited to a special workshop aimed at sharing success stories from their home countries. This workshop would capture lessons learned and generate ideas on how to monitor best practices that could then feed directly into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This exercise could be improved with voices from civil society.
Part of the agenda– Best practices are often employed as a problem-solving mechanism and should be readily integrated into the process of addressing development challenges. We should aim to make better use of our daily encountering with best practices and encourage practitioners and scholars to become more practically oriented in their work. This could be done by highlighting examples of best practices to provide us with valuable instruments. Many good examples of best practice exist and through the 2030 Agenda we are in an ideal position to explore and talk more about this. By making best practice part of the agenda where we include civil society and acknowledge their expertise, we are further positioning best practice in the realm of opportunities to bring about change from a bottom-up approach and with sustainable implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Dialogue– The sessions at the Stockholm Forum highlighted migration as a global responsibility. Sharing responsibilities both on the migration crisis and also for the whole 2030 Agenda means having information, implementations strategies, and outcomes available for everyone, and would benefit from being communicated in more informal language. Denoting issues on peace and security is an opportunity for sparking more conversations on best practice. For best practice to be part of the global responsibility for change we have to invite civil society into dialogue and share information and examples of best practice through informal language.
The international development discourse and associated policy agendas are primarily developed through formal processes that give priority to issue experts. While expertise is important, a wider range of stakeholders should be engaged in the development, implementation and monitoring of global policy. The concept of inclusivity features prominently in best practices from around the world with relation to peacebuilding and development. Time and time again the evidence reveals the importance of establishing informal dialogue between practitioners, scholars and civil society actors so that they can share experiences and learn from one another. Today, formal conversations dominate the field on peace and security but we should find space also for informal conversations where many more practitioners, scholars, and civil society actors feel comfortable to speak and discuss issues. Best practices should be shared at all levels, from individual to the international. For example, a Swede might take the opportunity to use the Midsummer holiday to help newly arrived immigrants learn about and integrate into their host culture, which could be relevant at the national policy level. For the international level, as one participant at the Stockholm Forum suggested, we should consider where the Millennium Development Goals succeeded and use those best practices in the implementation of the SDGs, where relevant. Examples will always be as simple or difficult as we frame them; it is often the simplest explanation of things that we best remember. We need to simplify our discussions on best practice and thus open the conversation to actors from all levels.
In conclusion, the concept of best practice creates many opportunities in the field of international development and we should take advantage of the knowledge we already possess on it. We do not need to come up with a completely new framework, or repeat the same mistakes to learn how to fix the problems we face. We should make best practice a priority for conversations on peace and security and continue to include a wide range of actors of development practitioners, civil society, and researchers.