Latin American Government

Julian Portilla

Mediator and Facilitator for Fundación Cambio Democrático, Buenos Aires, Argentina, a Member of Partners for Democratic Change International

Gachi Tapia

Executive Director of Fundación Cambio Democrático, Buenos Aires, Argentina, a Member of Partners for Democratic Change International

Interviewed by Guy Burgess, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Julian: And I think the governance piece is an interesting part of working down there; I have very little experience in this country, so I don't have anything to compare it to. But in Latin America there are a lot of weak states and they tend to - small, or medium-sized conflicts tend to paralyze local government to such a degree that they either have to wait it out or sit in a stalemate for a while until someone gets tired. It could be years, and things, sometimes, might never move forward. So one of the things we focus on is trying to increase the capability of local government to have participatory decision-making processes, so they can actually make progress on the big local issues that affect them.

Gachi: Anyway, there are a lot of organizations working on citizen participation. They don't necessarily have the same approach that we have, but for us it's very useful to come from this language of participation and bring this kind of new methodologies. Because usually, as Julian pointed out, our governors are very weak, and sometimes they use this participation in order to bring more prestige to but they really don't believe in consensus decision making. So there's a lot of work to do there in order to help people and prepare them to talk in a different way, to bring some capacity to build consensus, and mainly to deal with some tensions, because it's not the same to decide some specific topic to the community, then working with this high, violent context in which we intervene that brings together the topics of conservation, social injustice, land distribution, democracy, corruption, which you know, is all there. I think in some way the kinds of cases we have in a very small way are the very small of the global main topics, because all the topics are, indeed, in this context. This is about development, this is about social injustice, this is about violence, this is about lack of democratic institute, lack of transparency, so these methodologies are bringing out this transparency to public policies, but they are also helping people to understand their rights. And there is a lot of challenge in being really equalizers in this kind of process because there's a lot of imbalance of power involved, so there's not a lot of work you can do with just one or two persons. In a lot of roles, you have to be sure they have to be working there in order to make the process be constructively transformative.