While it has long been accepted that participation is an important part of development planning and implementation – both in terms of its effectiveness in achieving sustainable development as well as its intrinsic value as a goal of development in and of itself – it has generally been seen as a method more suited to local level processes.
Using the example of the reform process in the Cook Islands, this paper argues that while participation could well increase the chances of success of national reform programs this participation should not just be limited to the initial consultation phase but should continue in a reflexive and iterative manner throughout the duration of the actual reform process.
The author discusses and analyses the key elements involved in the economic reform process undertaken in the Cook Islands in the 1990s.
The paper explores the recent move by the World Bank towards more comprehensive participatory developmental planning at the national level. It then assesses the particular case of the Cook Islands. The background to the formulation of the reform program and the implementation of the two phases of the reform period are also explored in detail. The author shows that subsequent restructuring and reform efforts also entailed large scale and comprehensive efforts to ensure the ongoing participation of wider Cook Island society.
The author argues that the success of this reform process has been due the process applied rather than the reform program itself. Specifically, three key elements contributed to the success of this reform process:
the reform process was highly participatory
the participatory process allowed a greater degree of consensus to emerge from wider population in the country
through greater consensus, a high level of constructive cooperation was evident between various sectors in the country in the implementation of the reforms
In conclusion, the paper argues that the success of the reform programs through participatory process can be applied at a national level. Further, it has been stressed in the paper that this participation should be included in both the planning and implementation stages to ensure sustainable and successful reform outcomes.