What’s in a name? A Quick Poll

As a bride-to-be, I remember having quite a few conversations about whether to change my surname after marriage. Apparently, grooms have been increasingly considering this question too. The pros and cons are regularly covered in magazines so there is no need to repeat them here – but there is clearly no right answer – we have to respect individual preferences. In the end, I chose to adopt my husband’s surname, but I definitely grappled with the question. After all, a name can go to the very heart of your identity, how the world views you and even how you view your place in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, the Global Partnership Steering Committee – meeting in Addis Ababa – similarly seemed to grapple with an “identity” question, this time for the inaugural meeting of all Global Partnership members.They had just learnt that the inaugural meeting will be hosted by the Mexican Government in early 2014, and everyone was very excited by this. But at some point during discussions the question of what to name this inaugural meeting was raised.

So far, all Global Partnership documents (PDF, 207.43kb) have used the name “Ministerial-Level Meeting”. This is intended to convey that Ministers should attend the meeting (rather than, say, senior officials or diplomats), but also indicate to non-governmental organisations that their equivalents of Ministers – such as CEOs and chairpersons – would be the right attendees.

On the other hand, even just having the word “Minister” in the title is enough to make people associate the Global Partnership primarily with central governments. Yet, as Committee members pointed out, one of the major USPs (unique selling points) of the Partnership is that its membership is not just central governments – it’s civil society organisations, businesses, foundations, local governments, parliaments, international organisations, even think-tanks.  All these members are critical to development, and have an equal voice in the Partnership. If “Ministerial” was in the title, would the non-governmental groups feel truly welcome to make their voices heard?

So the other option was to use the title that some of its predecessors used – a “High Level” forum or meeting. However, while it was critical for the Partnership to build on these, Steering Committee members recognised that the Partnership was created for the very reason that something new was needed. So calling it “High Level” might send the wrong message again!

With this conundrum, some Steering Committee members started coming up with new ideas – a “Global Development Leaders Forum”, a “Global Partnership Leaders Event”, and so on. They thought having the word “Leaders” would communicate its high profile nature while respecting its multi-stakeholder USP. At the same time, like the word “Summit”, there was a bit of concern that “Leaders” meant Heads of State – was that the Partnership’s target?  And was “Leaders” too broad a term anyway?  Might the Partnership risk losing the interest of Ministers?

In the end, the Steering Committee decided not to spend the short time they had together debating this, but instead consult on it with their stakeholders over the next few weeks.

So, in spirit of consultation, I’ve set out below some of the options the Committee members mentioned for you, lovely readers, to vote on. Of course, like with a bride or groom-to-be, the final decision will be one that Mexico and the co-chairs of the Partnership make. But having a bit of an understanding of our stakeholder’s views will be very useful for them in making that decision, given that it will set precedent for years to come…

And if you’ve got any better ideas, please add them in the comments below!

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