In 1992, seven Thai cities joined together in a project to develop and apply environmental planning guidelines for community priority-setting on environmental issues. Stakeholder groups were established with municipal support to engage residents and key sectors in the process. Specific projects are being funded to address the identified priorities. Chaing Mai municipality has developed its own Local Agenda 21 within this process.
2. Popular community participation must form the basis for planning of NGO assistance and activities. Furthermore, the community's development priorities must override the project demands of donors and NGOs with respect to funding.
3. People in the third world - women and men, the young and the old, but above all the poor - are often relegated to the status of subjects. Recognition of this lies behind the call for greater popular participation in development. Broadly-based development of this type is most likely to succeed when the various groups in poverty are well organized. Participation, or the opportunity to participate if one wishes, is of course an end in itself, but participation also has a number of instrumental values which makes it an important feature of human development.
First, participation in representative community-based organizations can help to identify local priorities, to determine which needs are essential or basic and which of secondary importance, and to define the content of development programmes and projects so that they reflect accurately local needs, aspirations and demands. Next, having identified priorities and designed the programmes which incorporate them, participation in functional organizations (service co-operatives, land-reform committees, irrigation societies, women's groups) can be used to mobilize support for national and local policies and programmes and local projects. Last, participation can be used to reduce the cost of public services and investment projects by shifting responsibility from central and local government (where costs tend to be relatively high) to grass-roots organizations (where costs can be low). In some cases, for example, it may be possible to organize the beneficiaries of an investment project and persuade them to contribute their labour voluntarily to help defray construction costs. In other cases some of the public services (clinics, nursery schools) can be organized, staffed and run by local groups rather than by relatively highly paid civil servants brought in from outside. Thus in an appropriate context, participation can flourish and in so doing contribute much to development.