Watch General Assembly
A Summary Report of the Proceedings
Rome, 27- 29 November 2000
Report by Sophia Murphy, Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy
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
CSD UN Commission for Social Development
FfD Financing for Development
FTAA Free Trade Area of the Americas
GA General Assembly of Social Watch
ITeM Instituto del Tercer Mundo
ODA Official Development Assistance
SW Social Watch
UN United Nations
WSSD World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen)
WCW World Conference on Women (Beijing)
Monday 27 November
Introductions; Purpose of the Meeting
Overview of Globalization by Martin Khor
Overview of Financing for Development by Jens Martens
Overview of Secretariat Report by Roberto Bissio
Discussion in working groups: The strengths, weaknesses, and
issues facing Social Watch
Working Group reports
Tuesday 28 November
Presentation of Social Watch and Novib internal evaluations
Presentation on integrating gender into Social Watch’s
work by Yvonne Underhill-Sem
Discussion on Social Watch mission, mandate and strategies
Juana Kweitel on using the World Bank’s
Ann Pettifor, Jubilee 2000
Areli Sandoval and Gustavo Luna on
the Word Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Programmes
Maggie Schmeitz on Structural Adjustment
Roberto Bissio on the proposed Anti-Poverty
Working Groups – Mission Statement; the Social Watch
report; the calendar of international events for advocacy;
and national platforms.
Reports from Working Groups
Wednesday 29 November
Review Organization and Structure of Social Watch
the role of the assembly and future
the role of the secretariat
the role of the coordinating committee
Select representatives for the coordinating
Finalize mission statement
Monday 27 November
(N.B. the reporter was not there for the introductory session)
>Panel on Globalization and Financing
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 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
The agenda covers six areas:
The mobilization of domestic resources
(where NGOs see an opening to include discussion of currency
Foreign direct investment and private
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Information needs to be more accessible
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
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
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
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
There has not been a strong political
group to lead work (the steering committee did not work for
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
Useful exchange of information among
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
Builds a global perspective on the
What problems does Social Watch face?
A lot of work is done by only a few
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
Need to link poverty issues to environmental
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
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
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
Some recommendations from the report propose new initiatives
or activities, while others reinforce existing initiatives.
Patricia went through a few of the suggestions and questions
raised (see report for the full list) and made some comments
of her own.
· 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
· 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
· Need to improve information
sharing across network. How should SW cooperate with other
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
Yvonne Underhill-Sem (DAWN) on Gender
(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
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
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
5. Roberto Bissio on the idea of an
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
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
· To carry out some national
and regional campaigns about the real causes of poverty, main
4. Maggie Schmeitz on structural adjustment
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
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
· 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.
1. Draft Mission Statement from group 1
This is moved to the section on the
annotated agenda below.
2. The Role of National Reports
The discussion focused on three questions
1. Should the report continue to be annual exercise?
2. How can we improve the content of the report?
3. How can we use the report for national advocacy?
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
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. Identify events and processes that could be relevant to
2. Assess relevance to objectives of SW and look to see what
planned involvement already
3. Focus on key processes
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;
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
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
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
Facilitate linkages within and beyond
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
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
>Annotated Agenda Discussion
(from Tuesday morning)
+ 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
The formulation “women and people”
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
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
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
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
It was suggested that Social Watch
members meet more often to discuss the current moment of international
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
3. Strategies mentioned at different
times. Building awareness, coordinating among networks and
advocacy (includes media, policy development, campaigns).
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
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:
>Membership and Constituency (ref.
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
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
Group has capacity to monitor government
Group is committed to building national
Group has capacity to do advocacy work
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
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
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
+ 3.d. The Coordinating Committee
The present committee is composed of:
Caroline Wildeman – NOVIB
Roberto Bissio – Secretariat
Yao Graham – Third World Network, Ghana
Leonor Briones – Philippines - now resigned, as has
Gina Vargas – Peru – now resigned as moved to
Europe to complete studies.
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:
· supervise the report
· organize advocacy work
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
Develop an implementation plan and
Monitor the implementation of the plan
and the budget.
Assist in developing guidelines for
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
· Talk about a project document
· Talk about a funding strategy
· Talk about a procedures document
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
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
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
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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
First nomination: Aternate:
Marina Ponti Simon Stocker
Atila Roque Areli Sandoval
Jagadananda Janet Carandang
Yao Graham Maggie Schmeitz
John Foster Sophia Murphy
Ziad Abdel Samad
> 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
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
· Thanks to Novib for their
· Thanks and complements to Novib for their self-evaluation
and the honesty thereof
· 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
· 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
ARELI SANDOVAL (SOCIAL WATCH MEXICO)
This presentation is divided in three
1) Characteristics of the WB and IMF’s
vision on the PRSP approach.
2) A critical analysis of the PRSP since the perspective of
SW Bolivia and SW Mexico
3) Some proposal of the SW involvement in this issue.
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
· 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,
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
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
· To carry out some national
and regional campaigns about the real causes of poverty, main
 With much appreciated help
from John Foster, North South Institute.
 This summary of main characteristics of the PRSPs were
taken from the EURODAD (European Network on Debt and Development)
secretariat draft for discussion: An independent guide to
PRSP. Spring meetings, 2000.