ALBERT Einstein once said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
I remember this quote when I attended the foresightXchange workshop, organized by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Philippines and the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE) last May 18 and 19.
The workshop aimed to explore emerging development opportunities in the Philippines for the period 2017 to 2030. It was also in preparation for the drafting of issue papers that will precede the formulation of the new UNDP Country Programme Document.
The workshop discussed the probable futures (and future interaction) of key areas like environment and natural resource management, climate change and disaster risk reduction, peace building, governance and SDGs implementation in the Philippines.
Foresight was introduced to us as a strategic long-term planning tool for developing countries like the Philippines. It is a way to encourage innovation, strategic evaluation and the proactive shaping of the future for development workers in private and government sectors.
According to Leon Fuerth, "As a factor in governance, the purpose of foresight is to enhance the ability of decision-makers to engage and shape events at a longer range" (Fuerth, 2009). Where traditional planning has sought to prevent failure, strategic foresight-a planning- oriented subset of foresight-prioritises resilience, namely early detection and fast recovery. (Summary: Global Centre for Public Service and Excellence)
As a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and executive director of the Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University, the workshop was a good opportunity for me to deeply reflect on the factors that will influence the futures of key development areas in our country today. It also broadened my worldview in creating narratives that highlight the complex interactions of key players within the Bangsamoro and the people in Mindanao. It also showed new realities and strategic opportunities that these futures could bring in the areas of peacebuilding, governance, and education.
Learnings in the workshop
One of the learnings that I had during the workshop was the importance of visualizing how we implement programs and activities. Drafting, designing, planning policies are easy tasks. The challenge lies in implementing them.
The United Nations have identified the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs is an important framework for government policies and programs.
According to UNDP, these 17 goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas like climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace, and justice, among other priorities.
Looking closely at each goal, we can see that they are interconnected and interdependent with other goals, the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
However, it is easy to identify, plan, and draft policies in line with the SDGs. The challenge is how our government will implement these plans. The challenge is in our capacity to implement them and closely monitor, evaluate, and assess the activities and outputs of the government programs.
The current realities on the ground show that our government's action to improve compliance with the SDGs is uncoordinated and unsystematic. Different line agencies are doing their own programs. Sometimes these programs are redundant to other programs of different government agencies.
In improving our government's regulatory compliance to the SDGs, it requires increased attention to all elements of the chain of government action. This starts from problem definition to compliance monitoring. Those involved throughout the process of developing and enforcing laws and regulations need to be aware of the interdependent nature of their actions, and the need for consistency and coordination. Bringing about compliance-friendly to the SDGs regulation requires an integrated strategy.
Moreover, another challenge for our government is not only in developing regulations but also in terms of policy instruments that will move toward more results-oriented policies. Regulatory drafting, implementation, monitoring, and enforcement should be designed properly to maximize the potential for different agencies of our government and private sectors of our society to achieve substantive implementation of the SDGs.
Is the tool applicable to the proposed Bangsamoro government?
Yes. The tool must be applied as we draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law or the enabling law to implement the Bangsamoro peace agreements.
I learned in the workshop that international development is shifting from traditional normative thinking towards adaptive, complexity-aware approaches. Unfortunately, not all of us are aware of these current realities.
We live now in a complex and rapidly changing world. Leaders in the Bangsamoro must look back, assess, and learn to adapt to the current realities. We cannot build a government that is designed for the 19th-century context.
The Bangsamoro peace process cannot be "business as usual". The Bangsamoro people must learn how to engage the world and maximize the use of technology in delivering services and addressing societal problems.
Einstein was right. We need new thinking and framework for planning our programs for development.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on May 24, 2017.
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