In the last decade, policy dialogue has evolved into the key means for international cooperation to broker partnerships in developing countries. The INSPIRED approach aims at making existing and emerging spaces for policy dialogue more inclusive and participatory. It does so by engaging those actors who are deeply affected by policy reforms but whose voices are rarely heard or taken on board in government-led consultations. INSPIRED not only improves the potential impact and political sustainability of the policies supported by international donors, but also contributes to reconﬁguring the relationships between stakeholders, who progressively recognise each other as valid interlocutors and begin to understand each other's interests and incentives for change as legitimate factors of the policy process.
The basic assumption of the INSPIRED approach is that those groups that are affected by a given policy reform should have a say in it and therefore be considered as ‘key’ stakeholders, even if they lack leverage or direct inﬂuence on actual decision-making. In other words, for policy dialogue to be meaningful, legitimate and effective, it needs to be inclusive and allow for real participation of the main parties concerned.
This in turn enhances the chances that the participating stakeholders adopt a more pluralistic outlook on their society. By working together, they are compelled to recognise the existence of a diversity of interests and beliefs regarding a given problem, which naturally leads to different positions towards political choices meant to solve this problem.
This acceptance of ‘pluralism’ by the key social and political stakeholders can in turn function as a safeguard against an excessive accumulation of power by any single actor in the political system, as well as a means to overcome the winner-takes-all attitudes that still prevail in many electoral democracies and that lie at the heart of the phenomenon known as populism.
The two core values of inclusiveness and participation are streamlined throughout the approach, which was designed to ensure that multi-stakeholder dialogue can be successful in delivering outcomes at three different levels: policy, process and partnerships.
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