Social Watch Assembly report- Rome, Nov.2000
Published on Tue, 2009-10-06 14:41
A Summary Report of the Proceedings
Rome, 27- 29 November 2000
Sixty Social Watch members from all over the world gathered in Rome to discuss how the network should move forward in the light of its now five year history. For three days, participants discussed issues of substance and process, and took a series of decisions affecting the work programme of Social Watch and its governance structure.
Despite the unfortunate and lamented absence of Marina Ponti, our host and long-time nurturer of and activist for Social Watch, the meeting was full of energy and very positive. There was clear and strong endorsement for the project to continue, and for ITeM to continue as its secretariat. The strong leadership role played by the secretariat was warmly recognized, particularly over the last year in the preparations for WSSD+5. The key role of Novib in sponsoring the project as well as working as Social Watch members was also recognized with gratitude.
The following report provides a brief overview of the proceedings, highlighting in particular the areas of discussion, points of contention and decisions taken. The reporter is responsible for mistakes of omission or misunderstanding, and invites Social Watch members to send corrections and comments.
The report loosely follows the chronological order of the meeting, following the agenda below. Decisions on governance and structure are grouped together at the end.
CC Coordinating Committee
Monday 27 November
Introductions; Purpose of the Meeting
Tuesday 28 November
Juana Kweitel on using the World Bank’s Inspection Panel
Ann Pettifor, Jubilee 2000
Areli Sandoval and Gustavo Luna on the Word Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Programmes
Maggie Schmeitz on Structural Adjustment in Suriname
Roberto Bissio on the proposed Anti-Poverty Convention.
the role of the assembly and future meetings
the role of the secretariat
the role of the coordinating committee
Select representatives for the coordinating committee
Monday 27 November
>Panel on Globalization and Financing for Development
Martin Khor (Third World Network) presented an overview of Globalization, referring to three texts: his book, Globalization and the South, the “Shrink or Sink” statement by NGOs on the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a recent statement from NGOs about the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) discussion.
Martin argued that globalization is essentially an economic phenomenon, breaking down the control that newly independent states put in place after colonial rule. A number of measures designed to protect and promote local industry, investment, agriculture and other sectors have been attacked. Finance is the most important facet of globalization. While most of the measures are about liberalizing and privatizing the economy, there are also protectionist elements related to intellectual property rights. The combined effect of the policies and programmes is to limit developing countries’ prospects for development and their chance to challenge the hegemony of the larger economic powers.
Globalization is not an inevitable phenomenon, but the result of deliberate policy choices. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and WTO create an over-lapping and inter-locking web that effectively covers all developing countries. The United Nations has been restructured and systematically disempowered since the early 1980s. At that time, the South was asserting its right to reorder global economic structures. Today the United States holds the UN hostage to its financial contribution and refuses to engage in serious economic discussion in any UN forum.
Seattle was a key moment in the struggle to challenge the rhetoric and actions of liberalizing forces. The protests in the streets were important. But most important was the willingness of developing countries, particularly from the Caribbean and Africa, to refuse to sign a declaration that they had not been party to negotiating. This marked a change from Singapore, where developing countries accepted the prevailing system and signed a declaration they had not seen before and that they did not negotiate.
The WTO is a significant problem. The agreements are unjust, the worst being the agreement on agriculture. The secretariat’s idea of technical assistance is to redraft laws for countries to bring them into compliance with the Uruguay Round Agreements. Intellectual property rights, protected by TRIPs, give multinational companies a monopoly advantage of knowledge and therefore of profits. The rules encourage a reverse technology transfer, taking resources from the South to patent in the North.
We need to review the existing agreements and rebalance them so as to end the economic domination of the largest economies. We need to stop the expansion of the WTO agenda into new issues, such as investment, competition and government procurement. We need to oppose the launching of a new round of trade negotiations. At this time, new negotiations will only exacerbate imbalances and move more economic activity from the domestic to the international sphere. While many countries in Africa and Asia object to the idea of a new round, many governments in Latin America support the proposal. The “Shrink or Sink” statement and the TRIPs statement circulating are both NGO initiatives to limit the power of the WTO.
The Role of Social Watch: Martin suggested that Social Watch members might create a WTO Watch in different countries to hold governments accountable for the positions they take at the WTO. He underlined the importance of Social Watch’s monitoring work, particularly the national platforms that gather information on what is happening in countries and what the impact of different policies is. The action and advocacy to change policy needs the international dimension that Social Watch brings as well, as countries have less and less space to change policy on their own. The North South cooperation in Social Watch is essential; we have to have change in the North to get the changes we need for the South. The Northern partners in Social Watch are an essential conduit for a Southern perspective. Martin recommended, however, moving from watching and writing to more direct engagement.
Jens Martens (WEED-German NGO Forum, Germany) introduced the UN Financing for Development (FfD) process as a kind of sequel to the WSSD. He gave an overview of the timing and agenda of the event, as well as his thinking on why Social Watch members should get involved in the process.
The event will now be held in the first quarter of 2002 (N.B. this was confirmed the day after Jens presented). No date or place is yet formally decided, but it is likely to be in March and possibly in Chile. The event, which has been in preparation since 1997, promoted by the South, but blocked by the European Union and the United States until last year, brings the UN into areas that have been dominated by the World Bank, WTO and IMF since the early 1980s. The first preparatory committee was held in June 2000, and in early November there were hearings for civil society members to present their views. The private sector hearings will be held in New York on December 11-12. There is an excellent web site where you can find the background papers and a full description of the process (www.un.org/esa/analysis/ffd). The secretariat also offers a listserve; you can sign-up on the website, or send an email to Frederica Pietracci at the secretariat (<email@example.com>).
The agenda covers six areas:
The mobilization of domestic resources (where NGOs see an opening to include discussion of currency transaction taxes)
Foreign direct investment and private capital flows.
International development cooperation, including official development assistance.
Coherence in the international monetary, financial, and trading system for development.
The FfD process offers NGOs the opportunity to discuss the global financial system in the most democratic and inclusive multilateral forum we have. There is also the danger that, with the involvement of the World Bank, IMF and WTO in the event, the UN will be further co-opted into actions such as the Global Compact, where the UN is cooperating with multinationals in a very uncritical manner.
N.B. The discussion on FfD was picked up throughout the three days, with broad agreement that SW should put collective energy into the process.
In the discussion following these presentations, the following recommendations were made (in bold) and issues raised:
Coral Pey (Alianza Chilena por un Comercio Justo y Responsable, Chile) said the liberalization of capital flows is one of the principal causes of unemployment and poverty in Chile. It is essential not only to monitor the WTO, but regional and bilateral trade agreements as well, for Social Watch to do its work. Social Watch should not only monitor but also develop alternative documents to counter the free trade agreements.
For the Arab region, globalization has also brought the benefits of open and easy communications; it hasn’t all been negative. In the region, it is national governments and their rejection of human rights and democracy that is the main barrier to social development. The problem is not simply North against South, as the G77 leaders are also benefiting often from liberalization, although their peoples are not.
Atila Roque (IBASE, Brazil) said that the main problem is not that there is not enough democracy, although that is also true, but that the democratic decision-making bodies, even where they exist, are not involved in the policy-making that underlies globalization. He agreed that Social Watch should include the monitoring of globalization, perhaps with WTO Watch committees, to its agenda. He also supported the proposal that Social Watch engage with the FfD process.
Atila also proposed the following:
1. The UN should be the central reference point for the network. The fact that the UN is weak means we should fight for it, not abandon it. But Social Watch should be less diplomatic and more aggressive at the UN.
2. Social Watch should strengthen its cooperation with other NGO networks looking at globalization issues, preserving its identity as monitor and implementer of WSSD.
3. At the national level, Social Watch members should orient their action not only towards government, where the capacity for change is very different in different countries, but also, and above all, to our societies. We are losing the propaganda battle on whether globalization is good or bad and we have to fight harder.
It was suggested that Social Watch needs to understand how globalization is changing the North as well as the South, to build in a more nuanced analysis. The political and cultural impact of globalization has been more important than the economic impact in some regions, although all regions need education and capacity-building on the issues, including the globalizing economy, to ensure an informed popular debate.
David Obot (DENIVA, Uganda) pointed out that governments are often not well equipped to do analysis and to develop policy recommendations, so that NGO proposals are welcomed and taken seriously. While people’s movements need to assert themselves, in street protests and elsewhere, we need to be sure we are well informed and know what we are asking for.
Taoufik Ben Abdallah (ENDA-Tiers Monde, Senegal) illustrated the kinds of problems we face with the example of two recent meetings on trade in Africa. The Organization for African Unity organized a meeting for all African Trade Ministers to define a shared WTO agenda in September. The final declaration focused on the lessons learned in Seattle and rejected the idea of a new round. Then, three weeks later, the WTO organized a meeting for the same ministers in Libreville. Also invited was Pascal Lamy, European Union Commissioner for trade, some US officials and Michael Moore, Director General of the WTO. The Libreville meeting concluded with a “strong declaration for Africa”, drafted by the WTO secretariat, which proposed a new round of negotiations. In the event, most Ministers did not have a position, although 5 strongly opposed the statement (including Egypt, Zambia and Kenya), while a few were strongly in favour (South Africa, and the host, Gabon).
The lesson is that African countries remain weak when confronted by a powerful force such as the WTO. The solidarity within the African Group is weak. Few African countries support public debate on the issues, even those that see there are problems with the WTO. There is a lot of work to do to build a demand from the public for governmental accountability on their trade policies.
Roberto Bissio (SW secretariat, Uruguay) introduced the Secretariat Report. Roberto shared some overall reflections, including the energy of the process and the visible effect that Social Watch has had at international meetings, and the reports of successes from national and regional levels as well. The process has been a creative one, based on a shared assumption that there was work to do. There is no good record of the initial process and its activities, although Mirjam Van Reisen did document the 1993 – 1995 process that led to the creation of Social Watch. Social Watch was initially about creating a product, the report, but has grown to be a global coalition, owned in the South but working North and South.
One of the challenges now facing Social Watch is how to reinvigorate and replace the members of the coordinating committee. The members that are active on its agenda own Social Watch, and the list has grown considerably since 1995. With that, the demands on the secretariat and the network have also grown. To stay relevant, Social Watch needs to be able to grow and to take on new ideas. It is time to re-evaluate what the functions of the Secretariat are and what might be moved elsewhere. There will possibly be bridge funding from Novib, until May 2001, but there is an urgent need to do long-term fundraising.
Another question raised in the evaluation is the lack of regional balance in the Social Watch membership. While Roberto saw some reasons for this, he said the question does need to be addressed and remains a challenge for the whole of Social Watch to consider.
On Social Watch’s strengths and weaknesses, Patricia Garcé (SW secretariat, Uruguay) said that the platform is a rare vehicle for North/ South cooperation on a number of issues with a shared message. It is also a rare chance to link local and international concerns. With limited resources, she said Social Watch has established a strong international voice. The challenge is keep the analysis current and to stay on top of opportunities.
Roberto said that Social Watch’s strength was the simplicity of its premise – that governments should be held accountable for the promises they make. The practice is well established in the field of human rights, but not yet in other spheres.
Working groups were created, each with the task of brainstorming on Social Watch’s strengths, weaknesses and issues at the national, regional and international levels, and with a view to setting the mission, structure, and priorities for the network in the coming days.
>Working Group Reports
+ Working Group 1
Strengths of Social Watch
Joint Social Watch statements powerful in lobby work
Report is a high quality document
Social Watch helps keep social development on the agenda and deepens the work of other initiatives at the national level
Social Watch is a very useful platform for advocacy in the UN context
Social Watch approach offers a distinct perspective on social development that allows a discussion of poverty less readily taken over by the Bretton Woods organization
Issues for Social Watch
There is a need for public education, as many issues are new
It is a challenge to keep human rights and poverty on the local agenda
It is not always clear how to use Social Watch at the national level; should be the focus of a discussion
National contributions from different regions not even; need to look at who writes the reports and to be sure they are credible
The organizational fuzziness was a strength because it allowed flexibility but it has now become more of a problem; need to add structure as the network grows
Should revisit focus on the CSD when it is so weak – need to look at other venues
Should broaden from anti-poverty focus to social justice agenda; the Bretton Woods Institutions have co-opted the anti-poverty language
Should agree a division of labour with other large networks, such as ATTAC
Question of financial future of Social Watch, and how to diversify the funding
There is still the problem of how to translate the commitments at the local level; for example, the Philippines is discussing legislation to implement the 20:20 initiative but the drafting is stuck on how to define social development.
On the question of whether to focus on the UN or to look at other multilateral institutions, perhaps in addition to the UN, there was some debate. Some think the focus must go beyond and others are concerned not to keep strengthening the others by engaging with them all the time, while neglecting the UN. This discussion was picked up again when the Mission was discussed (see below).
+ Working Group Two
Presented points on a possible mission
Social Watch must be about a new paradigm for development
Social Watch is a forum for sharing ideas and strategies
Social Watch is a forum for learning about advocacy work, using the report as a tool
Social Watch is about collective action
On the Social Watch report
It is a platform for the national processes
It offers the chance to put national experiences into an international context
It creates a reference for advocacy work and consultations at a number of levels
Need less qualitative analysis in report
Should focus on special issues; currently focus is too broad
Need to think about what report represents, how it relates to individual Social Watch members
Other issues: Social Watch needs to think about how to build national platforms where don’t yet exist; need to keep clear link with powerful countries in the North; need to network with organizations working on other processes and conventions
+ Working Group Three
Strengths of Social Watch
The link between national and international.
Social Watch is a good tool to monitor the social development agenda and for advocacy.
Social Watch report is a powerful information tool.
Social Watch has triggered the creation of natural alliances.
Social Watch has been a very positive experience of North/ South collaboration; there is a strong affinity on objectives.
Issues to consider
The process of exchange has been bilateral, between secretariat and members, rather than among members themselves.
There has not been a strong political group to lead work (the steering committee did not work for several reasons).
There are some limitations in continuing strong link to a UN process – how will that be sustained into the future?
Still need to meet challenge of building a strong public voice to advocate on social development issues
Should more work be decentralized from the secretariat to the regions?
+ Working Group Four
What is Social Watch to us?
Holding governments accountable for their commitments
Useful exchange of information among NGOs
Enables dialogue between government and wide group of NGOs in the region
Allows monitoring of progress in meeting social development goals
Provides a pressure point on international policy-makers and Northern governments to promote social development
Builds advocacy capacity of Southern NGOs
Builds a global perspective on the issues
What problems does Social Watch face?
A lot of work is done by only a few people
Not enough information flows among the different Watchers
Need more coordination
What are the key issues for the future?
Need to develop alternative and preventive strategies
Need to link poverty issues to environmental issues
Need to analyse specific situations in different countries in the South
Should propose joint advocacy strategies for work on International Financial Institutions
Should do advocacy work on the use of Overseas Development Assistance
Should involve academics and teachers to reach more young people
Tuesday 28 November
>Overview of Social Watch Evaluations
(The assembly considered two evaluations, one an internal one done by Novib and the other commissioned by the Social Watch secretariat.)
Patricia presented the evaluation done by Leila Hessini and Anita Nayar. Caroline presented the internal evaluation done by Novib. Both presenters urged the group to reflect on the full evaluations; they only touched on a few highlights to start the discussion. The presentations were intended to provide some highlights to stimulate a full discussion in plenary, following Yvonne’s presentation on gender issues.
Caroline Wildeman (on the Novib internal evaluation)
Novib found the evaluation to be a useful exercise. They decided to do an internal process because of the scale of Novib’s involvement in Social Watch. They had never managed this kind of project before, with several different units within Novib involved.
Overall Novib has a strong commitment to continue with SW as a project. However, they also see room to improve:
1. The commitment to the all the commitments made in Beijing and Copenhagen is important but might be worth considering a single-issue campaign as well to increase the strength and impact of the network.
2. Need to review the report, which is now too long. Not enough changes in a year to make an annual report useful. Maybe make only every 2-3 years. In between, could do briefing papers on specific issues.
3. The focus on social development is important, but Social Watch should look at other actors than the CSD because there is no commitment for further WSSD reviews and the CSD is so weak.
4. Should discuss developing a stronger human rights focus.
Patricia Garcé (Social Watch secretariat)
· The capacity of national coalitions to write national reports, gather data and network within a country should be strengthened.
· National reports should be diffused and used to develop tools for public education. (examples from Senegal, Chile, the Arab region, etc.)
· Best practices should be incorporated into the report so they can be shared across regions and globally.
· Need to consider the possible role of regional coordination – should they be created? Should they have a political role? Should their mandate be practical (coordination, logistics, information-dissemination)? How similar do different regional coordination efforts need to be?
· How should Social Watch address the uneven participation from different regions?
· Assumptions about Social Watch’s relationship to CSD should be re-examined. SW should strengthen its relationship to the UN secretariat and bring media attention to CSD. Also proposed that other institutions could be engaged with. A clear advocacy agenda needs to be defined.
· There are important decisions to make about the SW report - everyone likes the report, people accept it can’t keep growing longer and longer, but if national reports are cut, how can the report maintain its role as a channel to profile national concerns? Should the editorial content be changed?
· Thematic reports should have a stronger advocacy focus to support campaign work. Need guidelines for editorial content of national reports to increase consistency and quality control.
· Need to find national sources of information and data rather than rely on UN sources whose information is several years out of date and is not always consistent.
· Need to improve information sharing across network. How should SW cooperate with other networks?
Roberto emphasized that ownership of the evaluation should be with SW. It is for SW members to decide how to use the results. Recommendations have different levels and apply to different functions (report, secretariat, national groups, etc.). The evaluation is a completed process; the question now is how to respond to the ideas.
Initial Clarifications in Plenary
The secretariat clarified that the lack of field-level work by the evaluators was due to lack of funds and not lack of interest. The evaluators were conscious of the need and tried to find ways around this in their questions to SW members.
Caroline noted that Novib has found it difficult to play two roles, as participant and as funder. Want to continue to do the advocacy in the North, and therefore to be a participant. Novib is concerned about the need to diversify funding and will do what it can to help, for example by inviting again the other members of the Oxfam International group. She said the role of other funders is understated in the financial report, as many donors support national level activities of Social Watch which are not captured in the secretariat’s finances.
Yvonne Underhill-Sem (DAWN) on Gender Mainstreaming
(DAWN is the acronym for Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era. DAWN is a network of women scholars and activists from the economic South who are working for development alternatives that are equitable, gender-just and sustainable. See their website at http://www.dawn.org.fj).
The problem: the WSSD left women invisible. SW as a coalition has not taken up that challenge.
There are a number of instances where DAWN has chosen to work in coalition to make particular advocacy points. DAWN has been delighted to work with SW, but now is beginning to question the power relationships – not a question of mistrust, but of democracy. It is easy to sideline women’s issues, to write them off as Western issues, or as problems that women alone need to address. But a critical feminist perspective is concerned with power relations writ large, as well as at how power relations affect women, and women living in poverty in particular.
There are different ways to bring a gender perspective to your work. One simple but effective way is, before you ask about women and poverty or about women and trade, is to ask, who is being left out of the picture? Who has not been heard from? That is part of the link to democracy and participation that a gender analysis leads to.
The policy and practice of gender have a public and a private face. The public face of gender analysis sees gender as a tool and this has widespread use. The adoption of this analysis has been welcome. It highlights problems, such as the lack of gender-disaggregated data. There is still a very strong assumption that what is good for men is good for women, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary. For example, what affects life expectancy and how it is calculated is not just biological. Or work load – we have proven that women around the world use their time differently to men and, consistently, women work longer than men. This is still often taken for granted and is true in developed countries as well as in the South. The question and challenge is, are we going to continue this pattern or change it?
This takes us into the private face of gender analysis – thinking about power relations in our own lives. To what extent are we prepared to fight for equality? The point is not to publicize our personal lives, but we have to look at our own power and be conscious about not using it to the detriment of others.
We have to democratize our processes: Who is being left out of debate? There is probably more than one group left out. Maybe women, probably some political and social groups. There is a constant response from NGOs that they do not have time to include women’s issues – DAWN requests from its coalition partners that they take the time. DAWN is also concerned that their coalition partners don’t take time to really focus on women living in poverty. For many women these questions and challenges are uncomfortable because it has meant criticising groups that have been collaborators and allies. Yet DAWN’s research has shown that many poor women are actually losing from the political struggles they fight in coalition with others. This is not acceptable.
The international discussion on good governance has turned into a discussion of who will be most efficient provider for international markets – this has the effect of privatisating governance issues. DAWN has done a regional and national research process to examine this problem. The results to date were presented at WSSD +5 in Geneva. The findings confirmed the assumption that globalisation is not creating a simple division between good and bad, or rich and poor, or North and South. Instead there are constellations of power, and we need new strategies to keep economic and gender justice to the fore in a complex situation.
>Discussion in Plenary
Ann Pettifor (Jubilee 2000, UK) noted the current discussion on global governance stops at stability for investment and does not look at democracy, or involving people.
Atila described how gender analysis was helpful to uncover dynamic of inequality and the structural nature of poverty as a whole. In Brazil, it is feminist analysis that has led to looking at race, age, and regional differences in the structure of poverty. Gender analysis helped to show how complex issues are. For example, in Brazil over the last 10 years, women have been benefiting from access to education much more than men. Gender analysis also helps to understand these things, and to relate to them in a sophisticated way (women have more education, but still earn less). As a tool to understand poverty, gender analysis is very valuable. Cannot understand poverty without a gender analysis.
Maggie Schmeitz (Ultimate Purpose, Suriname) said without gender analysis, will misinterpret facts. In Caribbean, girls also do better than boys in education. But closer view shows that economic situation has deteriorated. Cannot live from office work, so boys drop out of school and earn real money in informal economy, while girls are doing the now underpaid work with their greater qualifications.
Coral said gender needs to be interrelated with our work. Should look at how new investment regimes are affecting women in particular. Eg. Chile- EU trade agreement has increased unemployment, affecting women disproportionately (overall unemployment level is 12,5% while for women it is 15%).
Meena Raman (Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia): many groups committed to ideal, but need to discuss more about tools and how to develop reflex to include women’s analysis. Eg. On safety standards, find that women and men have different tolerances for chemicals used in pesticides.
Kingsley Offei-Nkansah (GAWU, Ghana) said in Ghana had experience where men wanted more weeks for maternity leave and women less, because it jeopardized their chances to get work in the private sector. This fact reflects very badly on women’s standing. As agricultural union are looking at possible quota for women’s employment – using the US example of affirmative action.
Yvonne reminded the audience that there is a politics to the use and acceptance of statistics. No matter how good the data or rigorous the methodology, can still have findings rejected if they do not suit the dominant power – have to face the politics behind what information will be accepted.
The morning finished with a discussion on vision, mandate and strategies/ activities in plenary -- this section is below, with the rest of the discussion specifically on the annotated agenda.
1. Juana Kweitel on using the World Bank’s Inspection Panel
2. Ann Pettifor, Jubilee 2000
3. Areli Sandoval and Gustavo Luna on the Word Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers
4. Maggie Schmeitz on Structural Adjustment in Suriname
5. Roberto Bissio on the idea of an Anti-Poverty Convention.
1. Juana Kweitel (CELS, Argentina) on World Bank’s Inspection Panel
CELS is a Human Rights NGO, mostly lawyers, that provides legal assistance at local tribunals and in international HR mechanisms.
In 1999, the Government of Argentina was proposing to put only US $4 of $10 million needed to continue a social programme that covers whole country, providing seeds and nutritional education to poor people. The programme was unique for not simply providing cash, but offering more creative ways to help the poor, avoiding problems of corruption or misuse of the funds in the process. The cut backs were related to elections and the goverment’s objective of balancing the budget. CELS considered taking the case to a local tribunal or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but it did not prove possible. However, the most recent structural adjustment programme guaranteed $680 million for social programming, and actually listed the programmes that needed to be maintained. The social programme in question was on that list. The list was written into the contract for the loan made by the World Bank for the 1999 fiscal year. CELS decided to pursue the case with the World Bank.
The World Bank Inspection Panel has mostly heard cases related to Indigenous Peoples and displaced people. By 1999, only 12 cases had come before the panel. The process to get a hearing is complicated. First, you have to complain to the World Bank representatives in your own country, asking them to intervene (in this case, to monitor spending on social programmes that the government is neglecting). When CELS did this, the local World Bank office answered that the Argentinean government had exceeded the minimum US $680 million total spending on social programmes, so there was no grounds for intervention.
CELS argued that the specific programmes listed in the contract should also be preserved, and sent that argument directly to the World Bank office in Washington DC. When the local office heard this, at a public meeting with CELS, they were concerned. The money suddenly appeared in the budget again. The Inspection Panel nonetheless heard the complaint, and came to Argentina to meet with lawyers and the social programme beneficiaries. The panel recommended that the World Bank needed to do more research, and to meet with programme beneficiaries before making recommendations or endorsing government decisions on programme priorities.
The experience suggests the panel is an interesting tool for social development advocates. It makes WB officials feel vulnerable because it is an internal evaluation and so has direct impact on their work.
2. Ann Pettifor on Jubilee 2000
When Jubilee 2000 was established in the UK, they were clear the campaign would be time limited and would end in 2000. They also committed to close the organization when the campaign folded. The founders knew too many development groups that became institutionalized and wanted to keep the benefits of a time-limited framework. When launched, the idea seemed radical and attractive, but have to admit it is harder now the end has come. Still, the time limit has meant tremendous focus and energy in the office. And those involved still support the idea of campaigning being like a race, where participants need to break and regenerate and renew their thinking occasionally, before re-entering the fray.
The campaign succeeded in mobilizing huge energy, pressured worlds’ leaders, generated disapproval of how the rich exploit the poor, but still has not changed the minds of the Group of 7 Finance Ministers. In that sense, for now, the campaign has been a failure.
An example of issues still not resolved is the Oxfam GB analysis that shows HIPC-based debt relief will actually double the level of Zambian debt repayments. The issue came up in Prague, at the World Bank/ IMF meetings in September 2000, but there has been no clear response. Jubilee 2000 focused a lot of energy on this problem, highlighting the role of Kohler and the IMF in creating the problem. The campaign has also worked closely with the Zambian campaign and government, and the Zambian finance minister has spoken out in strong terms on the problem. But no clear solution is yet in sight.
It has been decided to set up “Jubilee Plus”, under the aegis of the New Economics Foundation in London. There, the campaign will spend a year considering next steps. In the meantime, they are committed to keeping the information flow open and to thinking how best to generate the right policy changes. Some staff will work on other campaigns during 2001, for example, helping Italian NGOs to prepare for the G7 summit in Genova.
Jubilee 2000 would like to cooperate with Social Watch. Jubilee 2000 has N and S members, like Social Watch. Anne said SW should be more focused. Should choose indicators that are powerful in the international arena – eg. in Chile in 1979, the richest 10% owned 20% of the country’s assets; now they own 48% of the total. The debate should not be about poverty, but about finance. Take the numbers on income distribution and use them. Brings message on justice, not charity. Be more political about the numbers profiled. Don’t lose sight of the rich when you look at poverty.
3. Areli Sandoval (Equipo Pueblo, Mexico) and Gustavo Luna (CEDLA, Bolivia) on World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers
The full presentation is appended in annex 1. Below are the recommendations for SW.
What we, as SW, should do at the national, regional and international levels?
We suggest some points to be discussed in the near future:
· We propose that SW get involved in this important field of advocacy that has to do with the Bretton Woods Institutions. It fits with the need of strengthening SW strategic alliances with other networks, such as SAPRIN, EURODAD, and Jubilee 2000.
· To continue the monitoring work of SW around the Copenhagen commitments but including the anti-poverty programs analysis and its results.
· To put pressure on governments and Bretton Woods Institutions to make public the negotiations of adjustments programs and PRSP (documents like CAS, Letter of Intent)
· To carry out some national and regional campaigns about the real causes of poverty, main responsible actors.
4. Maggie Schmeitz on structural adjustment in Suriname
Maggie compared Suriname to a sick patient who is endlessly diagnosed by people who do everything but ask the patient herself what is wrong. Suriname covers some 163,000 square kilometers, 80% of which is tropical rain forest. The relatively small population is made up of descendants from slaves and runaway slaves, indigenous Ameri-Indians, contract workers from India and Indonesia, Chinese, Jews, Dutch and others. It is truly multicultural. The country gained its independence in 1975.
The economy depends on natural resource exploitation, especially bauxite, which is used to make aluminium. The country has one big donor – the Netherlands. The economy is very dependent on this one resource and donor, so it is vulnerable to economic shocks. The first structural adjustment programme was signed in 1994. It contained mostly monetary provisions. The social impact was not good, although it did include a social programme. Politically, the country moves between two governments – one that emerged out of a military coup in 1980 and the other that ran the country from 1975 until the coup, and that was elected back in 1987. One party is somewhat more open to foreign direct investment and trade links with the rest of the world. Both allowed corruption and economic mismanagement, leading to cuts in social programmes because of budgetary problems. The cuts led to mass demonstrations in 1999. These demonstrations included labour unions, the private sector, and a huge range of others. The elections held early in 2000 changed the government, but not the policies.
While the patient is evidently sick (for example, in one year, the exchange rate went from 1,000 to 2,500 Suriname guilders to the US dollar). But the constant diet of “antibiotics” is also a problem. Sixty percent of employment is with the civil service. Giving people work in civil service buys favours, fostering other kinds of corruption. Jobs are used as a form of patronage. The problem with Suriname is not economic but political. People are pushed into a political corner, where you either support the government or the military. No other options are presented. Internationally, this is reinforced by the behaviour of donors. For example, the Netherlands announced after this year’s elections that they approved the new government and its policy, even before any change of policy was announced.
5. Roberto Bissio on Anti-Poverty Convention (APC)
Roberto read from the Desertification Convention, and by substituting the world poverty for desertification made the point that we almost have the language we need already. Even the United States has ratified the Desertification Convention!
Roberto said one of the weaknesses of the outcomes of WSSD and the World Conference on Women (WCW) is that they are not binding. When confronted with legal agreements such as structural adjustment programmes, the UN commitments always give way. Poverty is a global problem that needs local solutions in an enabling environment – just like desertification. The Convention would be about ODA, but also about currency transaction taxes and new and additional resources for development, picking up the discussion on Financing for Development. Could also be about the impact of other factors on poverty – for example, intellectual property rights, trade, etc., and what international rules should prevail in cases of conflict among international laws (such as between multilateral environmental agreements and trade agreements).
>Discussion on various presentations
Some of the points raised in discussion of the convention included:
· UN conventions take enormous energy to draft and negotiate; not clear that is a good use of scarce NGO resources
· Need to focus on income distribution not just on poverty-eradication. Should focus on social justice, redistribution of wealth.
· If we do focus on the UN, we need to move beyond talk to binding commitments. Not yet clear how to get that from government.
· We already have binding agreements, such as the Human Rights Conventions, so why start a new process on poverty?
· Although we do have other documents, we do not have much that discusses how to put the Human Rights Conventions into practice. An Anti-Poverty Convention offers a way to generate debate and raise the stakes.
· If you focus on the World Bank and the IMF, you are focusing on the bureaucracy, instead of on a political process. Need to work nationally and remember the political actors - Ministers, for example.
· Globalization is really only about one thing: capital liberalization.
The day finished with working groups on four areas and then report backs. The four areas were: 1. a revised mission statement for Social Watch; 2. the role of national reports; 3. the calendar of international events; and 4. strengthening national coalitions.
This is moved to the section on the annotated agenda below.
2. The Role of National Reports
The discussion focused on three questions
The group concluded that the report was valuable. Emphasised the need to maintain high quality work. Recommended that national groups do research on key issues to provide qualitative information. The group recommended frequent updates. National report writers should be responsible for dissemination of information at different levels. Should be national level responsibility to decide methodologies for the report.
It was suggested that key issues should also be incorporated in report, including gender. The SW secretariat depends on what get from national level, putting onus on national committees to bring good quality work. Need to identify shared indicators to ensure consistency.
3. Calendar of events and processes for SW to consider
The group focused on three tasks:
1. Financing for Development (FfD) – prepcom in Feb., coinciding with CSD, and second prepcom in late April (both in New York). Final event in early 2002; location undecided.
2. Free Trade Area of the Americas– Third Summit Meeting in April 2001, Quebec City
3. Third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries – 14 – 20 May 2001, Brussels
4. G8 Summit – July 2001, Genoa
5. World Conference On Racism – August 2001, Durban
6. World Summit on Children – September 2001, New York
7. Rio +10 -- 2002; location unknown (likely South Africa)
8. Ongoing process of Ecosoc reform
9. World Social Forum – January 2001, Porto Alegre
Strong recommendation for Social Watch to focus on FfD process. The final event will now be held early in 2002. The next phase will be a report from the Secretary-General’s office, before the second substantive prepcom in February. Need to decide a strategy for SW – propose a closed list-serve to strategize as SW on FfD. The Commission on Social Development meets at the same time as the next FfD prepcom, offering the chance to bring SW members into the FfD process. The CSD should be maintained as a focus for SW, despite CSD’s weaknesses. SW has a relationship with the Commission that should be continued. Emphasis on social services for CSD 2001 offers a good link to the debate on the General Agreement on Trade and Services now going on at the WTO.
The group discussed the timing of the next Social Watch report. Seems unlikely that it could be ready for February CSD meeting, so need to discuss timing before we leave Rome. Raised question of whether the secretariat should be asked to produce a shorter document on GATS as a specific contribution to the next CSD meeting.
On FTAA, there is a lot of work already going on. The North and South American members of Social Watch have discussed the possibility of a collective presence in Quebec City. They also discussed the idea of publishing a joint regional report of national chapters to provide a perspective on social development and the impact of economic integration.
The NGO steering committee preparing for the Least Developed Countries Conference has asked for Social Watch to be present in the planning for the event. A policy group has been created that would welcome input and ideas. Eurostep is a member of the Brussels-based NGO planning group and can play a bridge role. IATP is a member of the international steering committee and provides another link to Social Watch. Another suggested special publication would focus on LDC national reports to be published in time for the May conference.
There is some active SW membership involvement in the World Conference on Racism, especially from the Brazilian national platform.
For the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil in January, there has been some thought on a Social Watch specific activity. A Latin American regional SW workshop is under consideration, but that could be opened to other regions as well. Social Watch could also focus on an issue, eg. FfD, and hold a workshop. Members should coordinate with the secretariat on how to use the space Social Watch has reserved.
The G8 offers another outlet for a SW publication or event. The other processes were not discussed much. Rio +10 is obviously important, but there are already many other actors involved.
A strong proposal came from the floor for SW to host its own event in the next 3-5 years, for instance a people’s summit, making up for the lack of government commitment to a further review of the WSSD. Roberto suggested that the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre was probably the closest we would get to a people’s summit at the moment, especially given the limited resources of SW.
4. Group 4 on National Coalition building
1. How can SW members build and strengthen national platforms?
Identify priorities of the people.
Help build capacity on identified priorities.
Build coalitions around specific themes.
Bring all stakeholders at the national level together to discuss identified issues.
Combine national initiatives with international efforts to build on local priorities.
Analyze the policies of international organizations in the country and help with analysis of different specific sectors (for eg. free trade agreements).
Anchor platform in local coalition structures.
Facilitate linkages within and beyond national coalitions.
Use the media to sensitise and build awareness of national coalition initiatives.
Enlighten citizens and other NGO partners on social development issues
2. What tools can national platforms use?
Information from national and international sources for advocacy
Monitoring budget allocations
Social Watch indicators – but these need more work to be made more user-friendly
3. Advocacy strategies
National coalitions should hold regular meetings with policy makers.
Coalitions should build regular network sharing on activities of other actors in this area.
Issues should be identified for work with media and to promote public debate. Work with media specifically on social development issues.
In the subsequent discussion, it was noted that there is a need to foster more direct communication among SW platforms, rather than relying on the secretariat to relay everything. Also that SW members do not know each other very well, so we may need to think of ways to overcome that.
>Annotated Agenda Discussion
+ Discussion on vision, mandate and strategies/ activities in plenary
This discussion was guided by the annotated agenda provided by the secretariat (questions 1 and 2).
1. On the mission statement for Social Watch
The formulation “women and people” was rejected.
Several speakers requested a specific mention of human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights. (Supported by group).
It was suggested we strengthen the language on advocacy and add an element of urgency to the mission.
The issue of Social Watch’s link to the outcomes of WSSD and Beijing was raised. Should this be explicit in the mission? Is this still the focus of the network?
Several speakers rejected a direct mention of the conferences. Some suggested “UN and social development” should be used, keeping the UN focus but allowing other institutions and processes to be considered. Some noted that if poverty eradication is the focus then Social Watch cannot ignore globalization and the impact it is having on the poor. Others pointed to the problems with the commitments themselves (they are inadequate) and so did not want to be confined to them alone. It was suggested Social Watch be more aggressive with the UN, less diplomatic, while maintaining the UN as its principal focus.
There was concern about the possible duplication of effort, particularly if Social Watch takes on trade work. Some felt strongly that a trade focus was essential. Others thought the UN had been marginalized in the past ten years and that to focus on it exclusively was a mistake. To focus only on the UN was to risk irrelevance. It was also suggested that Social Watch focus on the G7 and the G77 - on governments rather than bureaucracies.
On the other hand, some argued that in the 1990s, the UN conference cycle cumulated in an agenda, albeit incomplete and imperfect, that reflects many people’s concerns. From UNCED to HABITAT, there was an important process of integrating agendas and building consensus around a vision for development. The UN could even perhaps be stronger if the World Bank started to play more of a role there, or if multinational corporations did, but weakness and strength is the wrong indicator for an NGO strategy. The UN offers the most democratic space available among global institutions, where the actor is the individual nation state. The UN is a better stick for society to use (not for government, but for people). We need to occupy the space created by the UN rather than leave it to other, less benign, forces.
It was also suggested that focusing on poverty was a strategic mistake because you end up debating which structural adjustment programme is best, rather than getting to the strucutre of the economy as a whole. The problem is as much wealth as poverty.
It was suggested that Social Watch’s work on indicators provides a good basis for collaboration with NGOs active on trade advocacy.
It was suggested that the language in the mission on national and regional platforms be changed to raise their prominence. Some said national governments were the vital link, where decisions are made and implemented, so to emphasise the national dimension of SW’s work.
On the other hand, some speakers said it was limiting to say “monitoring national governments.” They wanted to sharpen the language to reflect current work on the enabling environment and the economic institutions that take decisions at the global level, as well as on national governments.
Roberto pointed out that national platforms could decide the exact configuration of institutions and commitments to follow in their own contexts. The principle of Social Watch was to monitor and ensure accountability. How can be decided at the national level. The need here was to clarify the vision for Social Watch as an international platform.
It was suggested that putting people at centre of development was a key concept. Also suggested that natural resources should be a central element of the recommendations.
It was suggested that Social Watch members meet more often to discuss the current moment of international policy-making.
One speaker suggested that Social Watch was based on commitments, not institutions, and so there could be flexibility about where to concentrate advocacy efforts. This was seconded with the comment that the commitments are still young and evolving; we should pick our targets as we go. Again, the Financing for Development process at the UN was recommended as a next logical focus.
+ The Chair offered the following summary:
1. Overall role of international organization like Social Watch is to focus on the importance of poverty-eradication. Internationally and nationally.
2. Intermediate objectives – national, regional and international accountability for signed agreements; the creation of a new development vision to help national platforms
3. Strategies mentioned at different times. Building awareness, coordinating among networks and advocacy (includes media, policy development, campaigns). Also capacity-building.
4. Topics and issues – globablization, economic relations, social policies, gender discrimination.
5. Target group of SW as consortium. This is the most contentious area. G7 and G77 or UN, etc.? How many international institutions? Clearer at national level. Some say that all should be targeted, depending on context and others ask about resource levels and how to manage.
The working group met after this debate and proposed the following draft mission statement:
Social Watch is an international network of citizens organizations focused on poverty eradication (and the redistribution of wealth) in the context of social, economic and gender equity.
Social Watch holds governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the fulfilment of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty
Social Watch will achieve its objective through a comprehensive strategy of advocacy, awareness-building, monitoring, institutional organizational development and networking. Social Watch will be an active part of the international debate on people-centred sustainable development.
In plenary, the following comments were made:
We need a reference text to describe what we mean by poverty eradication – in UN texts, the focus is only on extreme poverty and we want something broader.
Key words missing about life, humanity – has to be more than economic.
Should not be a philosophy or full elaboration of thinking.
We need to add language on human rights (echoed by many).
Strengthen language on advocacy, eg: “Poverty eradication through the struggle for social, economic and gender equity”
The inclusion of international organizations in the second sentence was debated, but the majority agreed it should be included.
(A final text was agreed at the end of Wednesday and is found below).
Wednesday 29 November
Item 3. from the Annotated Agenda: Organizational Structure
>Membership and Constituency (ref. 3.b.)
Roberto introduced the discussion. The original points on membership were written down in the “letter of understanding” that established Social Watch. They were reproduced for the assembly in the background book. The principles laid out were based in the practice and experience of the preparations for the Copenhagen and Beijing conferences. Initially, one organization wrote the chapter for the report, but over time alliances and coalitions emerged to do the national Social Watch work.
It is clear that the national reports should not be the work of consultants – that might produce good quality but would miss the point of the network. The point of the exercise is to strengthen civil society at the local level and to build their capacity and power to participate in policy dialogues on social development. The writing of the report is only one part of the exercise – how it is used afterwards is as important (the advocacy and education work).
At the moment, the understanding is that Social Watch members are those that write or contribute to their national reports. The secretariat is then entrusted with compiling and publishing the report. The secretariat provides guidelines, helps with statistics, etc. National groups are responsible to raise their own money and decide their own process at the national level.
The current challenge is how to acknowledge the need to formalize existing relations without spoiling the nature of what makes SW work – openness and flexibility. The network needs to be able to handle situations, for example, two competing national platforms each claiming to be the SW member. At the moment, there is no policy body that can help the secretariat with such problems.
The existing criteria and mechanisms for membership in the international network are:
Group has national base and does local work
Group has capacity to monitor government
Group is committed to building national alliances
Group has capacity to do advocacy work with government
Group cooperates with other SW members at regional and international level
Group contributes to SW reports
Group disseminates SW report and makes it visible in advocacy and education work
Group is not governmental.
Group has established history of monitoring and advocacy on issues
Participants pointed out the dangers of being too strict in setting membership criteria. This could risk excluding groups that need help to be brought into the network. There are also differences in local situations to take account of. There are regions where Social Watch needs to go out and actively seek members, and other areas where there is a strong base to guide the network. People acknowledged the difficulties of judging what is happening on the ground from afar.
People pointed to the importance of sub and regional networks to help with membership questions and to give Social Watch legitimacy.
It was pointed out that Social Watch can cooperate with groups without requiring membership.
Roberto gave an example of the membership issues that need clarifying. The secretariat frequently gets people coming to ask what they can do in their country. If a national platform already exists, the secretariat provides the contact. National platforms are expected to welcome new members, although there might have to be limits on that. Sometimes two different national groups come forward, not knowing each other, offering to set up a national presence. So far, the groups have been willing to cooperate once they are put in touch with each other. But, could have problem if would not cooperate – how could secretariat decide? Might be task for coordinating committee.
The discussion on a coordinating committee that followed showed some real differences in the degree of formality needed, with some people emphasising trust and flexibility and others concerned that whoever is on the coordinating committee remain strongly accountable to the membership as a whole through more formal mechanisms. All agreed that the current ad hoc situation was not satisfactory. The question was returned to after the discussion of the secretariat’s role.
+ 3.e. Secretariat Role
(the reference text was included in the annotated agenda and the report from the secretariat)
Roberto – Many of the existing secretariat roles could be decentralized. Would be good to identify people who would be willing to contribute. So far national coalitions do national reports and the secretariat packages that into an international report. There is a tendency to hand off international activities to secretariat, which is not necessary; others could also do representation work, or capacity-building with other members. Roberto does not want the central bureaucracy to keep growing in response to demand as the network expands.
Izzat Abdul Hadi (Bisan Center for Research and Development, Palestine) – We need more institutionalization at this stage. Do we want a core document? Need to produce a project document for SW, with 3-5 year plan and budget and then plan for fund-raising. Should produce a programme document out of discussion in assembly yesterday. Assembly would agree to it and secretariat would implement. Need indicators to be able to evaluate in the future. Need to decide if we are a membership based organization and how decisions will be taken. Need to decide an intermediate structure, between assembly and secretariat (a coordinating committee – CC). Need to decide how far we want to institutionalize, but definitely need programme plan and a CC.
Kingsley – there are some issues currently with the secretariat that are too political and need to go to a CC, including the formulation of policy, guidelines on new members, etc. The secretariat should be an executive/ implementing agency. Not difficult to identify which tasks would stay with secretariat (eg. editing and publication of report).
Jagadananda (CYSD, India) – Moving to a more institutionalized set-up and this is necessary. Production of report has been excellent. Some other tasks, highlighted in evaluation and in own experience, need more attention. Secretariat should assume role of capacity-building for regions that need help. Secretariat needs to facilitate exchange and dialogue among members to ensure members learn from each other. If FfD a major issue in next year, need briefing paper to provide background and to get people on board.
John Foster (North-South Institute, Canada) – List of tasks as it stands is incomplete/ understated. Not sure what communication flow is through secretariat office, but imagine it is considerable. Supports the idea of building more cross-communication. On indicators, quality control and credibility – pressure to be more “scientific”, also scope to share experiences of building and using indicators, question of how we take on board gender and what is role of secretariat to meet such an objective and what is role of national platforms. The role of the secretariat in providing political leadership is too modestly stated in current formulation. The secretariat provides valuable leadership at the global level and that is widely recognized and appreciated.
Atila – we have to recognize that this discussion has evolved from a process. The achievements have been incredible, including at a political level. There has been too much weight on secretariat and on Novib, who have been left to take decisions on own. That is what needs to be addressed now. The tasks for the secretariat include: editing and producing report and innovating indicators (secretariat could work with national platforms on this). Representation can be done by secretariat, but should not discourage them from asking others, whether coordinating committee (CC) or national platform members. Then there is another level of work, on new proposals, expanding networks, accrediting new members, responding to regional crises that need an international response. In these areas, the secretariat should now work more closely with a CC, a body that was not really functioning before. This new body essential.
Taoufik – a lot of functions can be decentralized, but this should be a means not an end in itself. We need to establish procedures between members and secretariat and some ways of working together. The editing and publishing of occasional papers could be decentralized. The secretariat should continue to consult with national and regional levels. At regional level, look at other networks and research centres that have capacity and should be engaged in monitoring work. Need strong democracy on addressing issues – eg. views on anti-poverty convention vary considerably. Secretariat should ensure network participates in indicator discussion, but network itself needs to be represented to keep strength in regions and at national level.
Peter Eisenblätter (Terre des Hommes, Germany) – on work of secretariat, have seen the workload and effectiveness of secretariat, especially in last year. Have benefited from this work directly. Strongly support John’s comment on the effectiveness of the secretariat’s international leadership. The secretariat has established Social Watch as a place that has to be consulted on social development issues. This is an enormous contribution.
Izzat – don’t agree with Taoufik. Secretariat is not political but facilitate, coordinate. Secretariat should facilitate capacity-building or development of position papers, but not implement work. Representation is a political task – mandate of members and coordinating committee. Not sure to what extent secretariat should represent SW. Secretariat should not act as fund-raiser for members
Kingsley – on the question of representation, the secretariat must have some political authority, mandated by the Assembly or the CC so that it can take decisions and represent SW on a daily basis. The limit on the secretariat’s fund-raising role is right in general but should not be a hard and fast rule. If secretariat is decentralizing activities, it might help to get money to support the work devolving to national platforms that need increased resources. The principle should be that fund-raising activities do not undermine the unity of coalition and then allow some flexibility.
Amir Salem (Legal Research and Resource Center for Human Rights, Egypt) – A bit worried that tendency always to build pyramid, establishing a hierarchy with considerable power at the top. What are we building? Best to destroy pyramid and keep very flat, equal relations. This requires full participation of members in planning and process. If meet again in 3 years, will see new power relations. Need maximum from national and regional level to have full ownership. Should have something new, innovative.
Roberto – Do not see pyramid as likely outcome. SW members have choices about how and when to use secretariat. Groups raise their own money to write and disseminate their reports. With e-mail and the Internet, communications are very flat. When report is published, all can see and judge editorial work. Of course, it is good to be vigilant. SW is a network, but in the process of increasing its formality. This does not need to be heavy, but should re-establish a better balance of power.
Meena – It is also the responsibility of members to communicate with each other and the secretariat.
Taoufik – we are establishing a network for political purposes, so we should not be afraid to delegate some political power to the secretariat. We must have capacity to intervene effectively, or the exercise is pointless. Secretariat has to have some authority to identify issues, put people in touch, do some analysis and should give us capacity to be more effective. Fact that ITeM is a part of Third World Network is a richness we should be glad to exploit. Does not mean we have hierarchical relationship.
The Assembly agreed to maintain secretariat at IteM.
+ 3.d. The Coordinating Committee
The present committee is composed of:
Caroline Wildeman – NOVIB
John Foster – now with the North-South Institute, Canada – was also invited to join the CC.
Roberto described the role of the Coordinating Committee (CC) as two-fold:
In practice the CC met during prep coms and at the WSSD+5 meeting. In practice all CC meetings have been open to any member of Social Watch and allied coalitions.
Izzat suggested the CC should contribute to the programme document/proposal of Social Watch, the activities elaborated, etc.
Develop an implementation plan and a budget.
Monitor the implementation of the plan and the budget.
Assist in developing guidelines for financial procedures.
Monitor the quality of the product. Assure regular evaluation.
Represent Social Watch in various fora.
Assist in fund-raising.
The group began questioning the size of this list, and the chair proposed we focus first on the role of the General Assembly (GA), to clarify the discussion. This was agreed.
The discussion that followed was not really resolved. The differences were between those who wanted strong leadership from the Assembly and those who thought this impractical and too cumbersome for Social Watch to really take on. The cost of annual meetings would be prohibitive. And some people anyway wanted to keep a looser system in place, based on trust. There was also a long discussion on transitions – several speakers wanted a clear transition period demarcated, with a move towards exploring and then adopting a new model for the Social Watch structure. Others wanted a more modest agreement, to set the course for the next 2 to 3 years and then to check again with an Assembly if more structure was necessary. In the end, a number of these questions were put on to the CC’s agenda.
Izzat said the GA should approve and endorse, has the highest decision-making authority in SW. Its task is not managerial or executive but the policy, priorities, goals, broad directions. We should approve the project document. Its most important function is for policy development and debate.
Simon Stocker (EUROSTEP) agrees with this approach in principle, but it moves towards much more structure. How would it actually work in practice? There is a basic objective of achieving certain goals, and the structure should facilitate it. You have to have a discussion about membership, who’s there and who makes a decision about who’s there. Don’t get too rigid. A lot comes down to trust, we mustn’t lose that. How will we implement in practice?
Kingsley said he agreed in general, but suggested we talk about how we operationalize the principles, like flexibility, which guide us already. We are moving away from a loose networking approach. The number of groups coming into the action, how do we achieve a useful level of coordination and order without losing flexibility? At a GA like this we should put in place guidelines to govern work till the next GA, perhaps in three years, and the CC would present a report on the work, the finances, evaluation, etc., to that GA for accountability. The GA should elect the CC and the coordinator of the SW.
Meena reminded the group that we have decided some directions already at this meeting, mission statement, etc. Guidelines for the future and the longer term should facilitate us in continuing to take decisions, recognizing that we can’t decide everything here today. Things must evolve.
Roberto said there is a need for a structure that provides some ongoing guidance, deal for example with people leaving the CC and not being here, etc. We should have people assuring accountability to processes suggested by the GA. The issues we identified in the last days are relatively short term, and we need a group who look beyond five years. The CC should also assure continuity and coherence with the mission. Let’s build on the good work that’s already been done.
Maggie said dictatorship does not only come from above, but also from ourselves. There needs to be some active initiative from the GA, it should not be passive. It should suggest initiatives. Keep the GA active, and we should all keep active day by day through the list-serve, etc.
Amir indicated that at a national level, an assembly has the opportunity to be physically engaged in action, inter-action, frequent meetings, etc. With the international level, a GA has to be based on study of exactly how we do it, how we function. Do we just come every three years for a day to deliver the power? We could be creating dictators. I wouldn’t give the trust in this fashion. What I need is a real practical and clear relationship, it should be like a business or contract, out on the table. We need to work harder on the relations between the GA, the CC and the Secretariat. We need a code of conduct on what type of relationship we want to have. We have structure because we just need it. We need to study the issue and we need time to study the whole issue. How do we develop a flexible international network? We need time to study this. My proposal would be for everyone to study and propose ideas, about how to shape these inter-active relationships.
Peter suggested flexibility, and care with terminology – are we moving to formal membership (excluding or including). The SW is inclusive up to now.
Jagadananda noted that we have discussed principles and future directions and the tone of how we should be behaving, tight or loose, etc. The broader parameters have been set. There is no need to repeat that. It’s interesting that regional meetings are springing up, it will grow more and there will be a new dimension to SW. I don’t want us to have a totally open-ended process. But simply to agree on general guidelines, set up a CC and then come back in three years or one year, and see how we are doing.
Atila agreed with much of what has been said by Kingsley and Simon. We’re not creating a new international bureaucracy, we don’t want a level of formality that becomes quite heavy. There is a basic trust has been created through a process of work. Not just two days but much longer. He wouldn’t call it a General Assembly, but a Group of Members of Social Watch. We need a minimum structure of coordination beyond the present. We are not talking about a powerful world political party.
Meena said we need a minimum structure.
Taoufik agreed with both Amir and Atila both. The issue is trust, yes, but we have to move. What is the minimum of formality, and it needs a clearer element of contracting a relationship. The procedure of working together, concretely, can we define and adopt a procedures document re membership, principles, role of CC, issue of representation and decentralization, etc. What do things mean concretely, i.e. coordinating committee cannot represent us everywhere, it could mandate members to represent us here and there. It should ask different parts of the network to write different policy or briefing papers. Such a document should include communication, for example, how to organize representation on panels in international processes, etc.
Adib Nehmeh (Social Progress in Lebanon, Lebanon) – when we came here we had a secretariat and we are “watchers”. Our main activity was to produce a report. However our documents suggest we go bit further, we need to expand our mandate a bit further, and develop our structure. It’s partly because we were successful and we need to build on it. We need time, but at least we need to agree on a strategic process of defining beyond our current vague situation. He favoured going a bit further. The opposite of flexible is rigid not formal. You can be formal and flexible. Regarding delegation, but we’re not delegating all the power of regional and national networks, we are talking about the delegation to SW as an international entity. For example, a People’s Summit may be beyond our present structure, but suppose each national and regional part started organizing like our friends in Brazil and the World Social Forum. Are we accepting hidden rules of the funders? We need to have an intermediate body.
Martin said SW began as a report. It came alive as a movement in Geneva, the action against Bretton Woods for All etc. For example in Financing for Development, SW could emerge. Having a secretariat is not enough for an emerging movement. Today’s proposals reaffirm the role of the secretariat, we have come together in Geneva, here at this assembly and perhaps in a future moment at the UN or elsewhere. This group will meet in two or three years probably. We need a CC, but we need to think how the broader assembly can assert itself between broad meetings. Perhaps a closed list-serve would include documents of what we are doing, proposals for CC, reports from CC, etc. Such a list-serve could provide a voice of the GA between three yearly meetings. We know that this is an effective way for expressing democracy.
Roberto indicated that there is a list in English and Spanish that would capture this need. But it is not as active as we would like. He feels we have a win-win situation, if we don’t it isn’t working. In the seven points on membership we establish what groups are committed to and entitled to. If the powerful see SW internationally and also nationally it has more weight. It is like a franchise, but to have a franchise (the name) you need to meet certain basic rules. Social Watch also gains from the list of all the names of those who contribute. Practically, there are groups who made reports, earlier on, but don’t any more. This could mean that we lack a report from a key country, like South Africa, for example. Someone has to make a decision, how to move, to approach new groups, or consult re frustrations with the former group, or what. This is a role for a group advising or supporting the Secretariat.
Meena suggested there is an emerging consensus that we need to:
· Talk about CC and its role between General Assembly and secretariat
She said these things could be pursued with the use of an active list serve.
The Assembly agreed with her summary.
Amir said this isn’t exactly a GA and he isn’t exactly at GA member. What we probably need is a preparatory committee, keep coordinating and organizing the work, but basically to produce the guidance of the social watch, through receiving different proposals of how to have a new democratic network model. Not sure now that he wants to give his vote or trust to someone he doesn’t know. Main idea is that it is a transitional period.
Filomeno Sta. Ana III (Action for Economic Reforms, Philippines) said we all agree we need a flexible institution (it can be a network, organization or coalition). He worries about the stages. We will always be in transition, we will always develop. Let’s make things as simple as possible. We need a procedural document, yes, it can be a basic guideline. We have a mission, we agree on how to accept members (adherence to mission/vision), about the assembly (we should be cautious). Proposes the SW GA meets to develop “unities” (agreements) on principles and strategies and programmes, to exchange ideas, share experiences and debate on essential issues.
Atila noted there remain real differences, he has difficulty with another “transition”, we are always in a process of transition, evolving through the last five or six years through an experience of working together. He’s not prepared to go in the direction of a People’s Assembly, etc.
Meena said we are all basically saying the same thing.
Amir clarified that in two days he is not expecting someone to represent him for two or three years. We are not just talking about continuing the services of the secretariat, we are talking about building something, give me a chance to study whatever you say.
Roberto clarified that we are not trying to push anyone ahead of where they or their organization wants to go. If people have real differences, its good to clarify and be very open and transparent. There is no hidden agenda. People are here because they want to be here, because they want to get something from it, and it is empowering at national levels for people at home. The reports come from organizations, not individuals, their organizations are involved and we benefit from people working on the ground. We do not represent civil society in general, but the organizations that are part of the effort. We want people to expand and to join. We have to have structures that will adapt to more groups, and structures that have comfort for people. There is a permanent transition, but it’s not provisional. We are doing a report, we will do a report, we are also evolving, growing and moving forward.
Izzat said it’s a simple issue. We need a mandate, we need a structure. We need to improve on the aspects of organization we have already, we want to strengthen the governance. We need governance, management and administration. Where was the governance for the last five years.
Kingsley said we can go ahead and discuss how we compose the coordinating committee. It mandate is to continue the work in a more efficient fashion, and report back at a further group meeting, not too long away. The composition should reflect a certain regional balance: Africa, Latin America, Europe, etc.
Meena noted that we might have regional representation: Asia, Latin America, North America, Arab Region, Europe, Africa. Plus two ex oficio members (Roberto, Patricia).
Yvonne asked about including Pacific and Caribbean small island countries.
Atila said that we should not attach a committee so strictly to regions. There is always someone missing. He suggests we take into account regional and gender balance, and take into account the political direction of the committee. He feels it should be small.
Meena said all persons on the committee should be global in orientation, not represent only their region, but embodying the political will.
Adib suggests a one-year mandate, that the Committee come back with a detailed document, then it will be an agreed on structure. We can channel and convocate at various meetings in the coming year (FFD, Porto Alegre, etc.)
Meena wondered if one year was adequate, and if we would have enough members and time present at FfD or other meetings. She appealed for a two-year period of work. No one objects.
John checked the issue of how the CC would work, the governing assumptions, the committee must meet, that means money, it also means time and energy of the members and some contribution of their member organizations.
Izzat said clearly we don’t want a superficial committee, it has to develop a budget, a programme document.
Sophia Murphy (IATP, USA) said the CC should be smaller rather than larger, focus on accountability, and that representation could come from a much broader group. The CC should take responsibility in difficult situations so that the secretariat is not left in a vulnerable position.
>Coordinating Committee (CC)
Europe nominated Marina Ponti (Italy) as member of the Coordinating Committee, and as regional coordinator, Simon Stocker (Belgium) as an alternate.
The Arab region nominated Ziad Abdel Samad (Lebanon).
Asians nominated Jaganadaranda (India) with Janet Carandang (Philippines) as an alternate.
Africa nominated Yao Graham (Ghana) and proposed a new place for small island states and others: Maggie Schmeitz (Suriname).
Latin America nominated Atila Roque (Brazil), alternate Areli Sandoval (Mexico).
North America nominated John Foster (Canada) with alternate Sophia Murphy (USA).
The discussion about creating non-regional members eventually decided against the idea. Maggie remains on the committee as Africa’s alternate. The issue will need attention at the next meeting of the General Assembly. In brief, the African group was concerned that non-regional concerns were important as well, including gender balance. The regional division inevitably leaves some regions not accounted for (eg. the Pacific, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, etc.). On the other hand, some were concerned that the CC not get too large.
In the end, the question was put on the agenda of the CC to consider further and to make proposals. Some members expressed dissatisfaction with the way the conversation went.
Roberto noted that in the Latin American group it was discussed that we shouldn’t confuse the role of the CC with the possibilities of involving others in the decentralized work and sub-regional work of the SW (for example Mario Paniagua working on Central American region).
It was agreed that Patricia Garcé and Roberto Bissio are members of the CC.
The problem of gender balance was very clear, unless alternates and principals were all considered CC members. This and other issues were left to the CC, including whether the designated alternate from a region could not attend a meeting, whether another alternate could be invited instead. The Assembly did not finalize the mandate of the CC. It was suggested that the group take into account the discussion at the assembly in Rome, the preparatory materials for the meeting and the history/experience of SW. (would it be useful to draft something at the next CC meeting to share with the membership by email as an interim step?)
It was suggested that the CC meet at the conclusion of the assembly to decide some parameters for future meetings. This did not happen, although several members discussed the possibility of meeting in New York during the next CSD meetings, either February 17 or 18.
>Final List of Members of the COORDINATING COMMITTEE
First nomination: Aternate:
> 2001 Report
Roberto reported on the state of preparations for the year 2001. Few groups are likely able to produce a draft by the end of December. Patricia reminded the group that the secretariat needs six weeks for editing and translating and two weeks for design (8 weeks in all). The length of national contributions remains the same (1500 words).
Possible launch dates included the Bank/Fund meetings on 28 April, the third FfD prepcom in late April and the G7 summit in July. The CSD in February would be too early.
Possible themes include the FfD process, the Conference on Racism, and a link to the reports prepared for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Roberto reminded the group that some sets of indicators appear in every report, providing an overview of social development situation. Within that, SW could decide to focus on an issue, such as FfD or the distribution of wealth, and the secretariat can highlight these in the editorial work. It is also possible to redraft guidelines to bring out particular emphasis, but we have to remember that national priorities will not always match international priorities, and allow those differences to emerge. The guidelines are meant to be a reference, not a straightjacket.
Patricia said the CC would get a draft of new guidelines as soon as possible and hoped to have them finalized by mid-December.
The final deadline was set at the end of February.
The (Revised) Mission Statement
Social watch is an international network of citizens’ organizations struggling to eradicate poverty and the causes of poverty, to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights. We are committed to social, economic and gender justice.
Social Watch holds governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the fulfillment of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty.
Social Watch will achieve its objectives through a comprehensive strategy of advocacy, awareness–building, monitoring, organizational development and networking. Social Watch promotes people-centred sustainable development.
The Assembly agreed to accept the statement as revised with the understanding that the Coordinating Committee will review it, do any final editing and circulate to all on the list-serve.
Yvonne drew the meeting to a close, saying we had done very well, and were only 20 minutes after the agreed time of adjournment. Appreciation was expressed to the chair.
Roberto recognized that it wasn’t for Marina Ponti, the Italian Social Watch Coalition and Mani Tese, we would not have had this meeting. It contributed so substantially to making the meeting possible and successful.
He hopes that everyone feels as much satisfaction as he does for the quality and success of the work.
· Thanks to Novib for their ongoing support
· Thanks to Soledad and Patricia for all their work
· Thanks for enduring my long speeches (Atila), a very well-processed Assembly, thanks to Marina and sorry she’s not here, appreciation
· Thanks to Sophia and John for recording
· A good human quality to the meeting, humour and other matters, it is very encouraging and supportive and a very good start
· Thanks to all who are working on the French version of the report.
Geoff Prewitt from UNDP New York, indicated that although he was late he wanted to express the support of Social Watch. As a donor, hearing this evaluation makes us feel very worthwhile.
It was agreed to reconvene informally to hear input on Colombia and Palestine.
JOINT PRESENTATION ON POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY PAPERS BY GUSTAVO LUNA (SOCIAL WATCH BOLIVIA) AND
This presentation is divided in three parts
1) Characteristics of the WB and IMF’s vision on the PRSP approach.
1) What is the PRSP all about?
The PRSP is the new International Financial Institutions’ poverty focus. These Strategy Papers are the new basis for development cooperation, all donor and creditor relationships with a developing country. The Fund and Bank intend that this new approach will first adopted in low income countries that have already qualified for the HIPC Initiative (like Bolivia) or are likely to do so in the near future. Further in the future, the intention is that other developing countries will also develop PRSPs (like Mexico).
Defining PRSP approach
· It considers poverty reduction as the aim, main objective, of the relationships between poor countries and their donors and creditors.
· It sets goals for poverty reduction that are tangible and monitorable outcomes, like universal primary education.
· It supposed to be comprehensive: stressing the need for integrating macroeconomic, structural, sectoral and social elements to achieve the goal of poverty reduction.
· It supposed to represent the consensus in a country on what steps need to be taken to reduce poverty. This means that the country’s own antipoverty strategy is encapsulated in a PRSP document.
· It is participatory: all stakeholders in the country should participate in a transparent process of choosing poverty reduction strategies.
· It is a long term process: reforming institutions, building capacities and so on.
· It is linked to debt reduction under the HIPC Initiative.
· The Bank and the Fund role is to provide policy advice in different areas: trade liberalization, financial sector liberalization, legislative reform, governance, corruption, structural reforms (like tax policy, privatization). More precisely, the Fund staff will advice on prudent macroeconomic policies, fiscal management, and the Bank staff will advice on the design and costing of poverty reduction strategies, institutional reforms.
2) What is wrong with the anti-poverty strategies like the PRSP?
In our view:
· The PRSP approach has not modified the traditional structural adjustment logic. It considers the rapid economic growth as the recipe for poverty reduction. This economic growth implies more adjustment reforms for example: deregulation of the labor market, better conditions to completely open the economy to foreign investment without an equitable income distribution strategy.
· The social policies have compensatory role rather than an integral one to address the structural causes of poverty.
· The participatory process determined by the PRSP is not being implemented in all levels of the decision making process. During this design period the discussion among civil society organizations and government never takes into account the real causes of poverty (structural adjustment effects and so on) only issues around the debt relief resources allocation and some of the demands of the population related social policies.
· The starting point of the PRSP is a confidential Bank’s diagnostic made with governmental data. The diagnostic is not participatory. Besides, with the data of this diagnostic what is shown is that the policies against poverty have not been effective until now. As we said before, the PRSP continues the same logic of the former programs, the only difference is that all these programs are grouped in one single strategy.
· The PRSP approach lacks from an integral human rights perspective, particularly the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. For instance, the possibility of a sustainable development is in risk because of the process of opening the economy to foreign investments is made without criteria to protect the environment. Another example is in terms of full and safe employment because the PRSP in some cases considers to create emergency employment which is temporary and without any social protection.
· On debt relief, despite the advances in terms of a public debate about increasing resource allocation for social expenditure, there are some aspects that we must consider: the resources are still not enough, for instance in Bolivia the total amount of debt relief per year divided by the total poor population means more or less 18 dollars per person every year. Moreover, what countries like Bolivia loss every year in poor terms of trade is greater than what it gains on debt relief (which is 90 million dollars per year). Finally, the debt relief amount must be produced by the country’s economy in these not enable environment.
· Summarizing, the gap between economic and social policies keep going on and it shows its terrible contradictions during the implementation phase: this is because the strategy supposed to be integral when in fact what it does is to carry out isolated and insufficient measures and programs.
3) What we, as SW, should do at the national, regional and international levels?
We suggest some points to be discussed here in the near future:
· We propose that SW get involve in this important field of advocacy that has to do with the Bretton Woods Institutions. It fits with the need of strengthening SW strategic alliances with other networks, such as SAPRIN, EURODAD, and Jubilee 2000.
· To continue the monitoring work of SW around the Copenhagen commitments but including the anti-poverty programs analysis and its results.
· To put pressure on governments and Bretton Woods Institutions to make public the negotiations of adjustments programs and PRSP (documents like CAS, Letter of Intent)
· To carry out some national and regional campaigns about the real causes of poverty, main responsible actors.
 With much appreciated help from John Foster, North South Institute.