Leading up to the 2006 Annual Meetings in Singapore, the World Bank has been liaising with CSOs in the Asia and Pacific region in an effort to be responsive to the interests of CSOs who wish to participate in the Meetings and to ensure that they have a prominent voice in the discussions taking place at the Annual Meetings.
A World Bank-IMF planning meeting with a group of over a dozen CSOs from the Asia and Pacific region was held in Singapore on March 28 and 29. A report back from these discussions, list of participants as well as a summary of small group discussions are available below.
Civil Society Planning Workshop for the 2006 World Bank/International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings in Singapore
28-29 March, 2006
Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore
FINAL SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS
Reporting out to plenary from small working groups
Agreed Next Steps
Summary: Small Group Discussions
List of participants
Representatives of 20 civil society organizations (CSOs) from 11 Asian countries, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, ASEAN Secretariat and the Government of Singapore participated in a two-day workshop organized by the World Bank’s Civil Society Team and the IMF’s NGO Liaison Office. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the role of civil society in the 2006 Annual Meetings which will be held in Singapore, to identify specific topics and ideas of concern to Asian CSOs for discussion with the Bank and IMF during the Meetings, and to lay out a process for consultation with civil society going forward.
Peter Stephens, World Bank Representative in Singapore welcomed all of the participants on behalf of the Bank and IMF teams and laid out the objectives for the workshop. He emphasized that this workshop and the Singapore Annual Meetings are an opportunity to create a vibrant, relevant and engaged discussion of the issues that need to be addressed to keep Asia growing and fighting poverty. He stressed said the Bank and IMF view this preparatory meeting as part of an ongoing process of engagement that will continue to address civil society concerns even beyond the Annual Meetings in September.
Peter then invited the participants to introduce themselves and to share their interests and expectations for the workshop.
Don Marquez, ANGOC; Filomena Santa Ana, Social Watch/Philippines and Lauro Purcil, Philippine Printing House for the Blind reported that there had been 3 meetings thus far in the Philippines with a cross-section of 20 CSOs, including NGOs, sectoral groups, environment groups, trade unions, business sector organizations and others. These three were selected to represent their colleagues at the workshop. They circulated a document outlining the three key issues of interest among the Filipino groups would like to raise in this process. In summary, these issues are:
Equity v. Growth. The Bank and CSOs are both working toward same goal of equity, but with different strategies, and there is real need to synergize these strategies.
Partnerships. The Bank consults CSOs, but CSOs are frustrated because they do not know if and how these recommendations are implemented.
Financing for Development. Filipino CSOs are urging debt forgiveness to be expanded to middle-income developing countries, and also to those countries which are susceptible to natural calamities.
Don Marquez said that Filipino CSOs also were concerned about the possibilities for civil society to have space to organize themselves and express their demands outside of the conference center in Singapore where the Annual Meetings will be held. Carolyn Reynolds of the World Bank said that the Bank/IMF would take up this issue with the host government organizing committee.
Lauro Purcil expressed appreciation that the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) sector was represented in the meeting. He said that one of the major issues that PWDs would like to discuss is knowledge management and information sharing for transparency.
Dian Kartika Sari of INFID and Nila Ardhianie of Amarta reported that Indonesian CSOs also held preparatory meetings, which included sectoral meetings among religious groups, business groups and student groups as well as NGOs. Indonesia civil society are interested in discussing the following issues with the Bank and IMF: aid effectiveness, especially how the Kecataman Development Project (KDP) model is working in Indonesia; poverty and equity; citizen participation in, and feedback, on Bank lending programs; how debt sustainability frameworks can link to the Millennium Development Goals and the Human Development Index; conditionality, and Bank engagement with the private sector. Dian said that Indonesian CSOs were also interested to learn how civil society will be able to campaign at the Annual Meetings. She noted that some groups are considering holding an alternative meeting in September on the island of Batam, which is close to Singapore.
Ek Seiden and Haidy Ear-Dupuy representing the NGO Forum on Cambodia said that Cambodian CSOs had not yet held a meeting to discuss their priority topics for discussion. However, they reported that many Cambodian CSOs are concerned about corruption and would like to see the Bank focus more on transparency and accountability, especially with respect to natural resource management and the rights of indigenous peoples. There is a sense of urgency that CSOs and donors need to put more pressure on the Cambodian government to become more transparent and accountable before oil revenues make the government no longer financially dependent on donors. They also noted concerns among CSOs in Cambodia about decentralization and the need to build democratic processes and for civic and legal education at the provincial level. This is something that should be addressed in the country Poverty Reduction Strategy process.
Huang Homing, China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO) reported that there had been a preliminary meeting on 16 March in Beijing with more than 20 Chinese NGOs participating, including grassroots NGOs and those concerned with gender, environment, rural development, legal aid, healthcare, and employment. He highlighted 8 main issues of concern for discussion with the Bank and IMF:
Economic growth and equity: Concerns about the rapid growth in China accompanied by a dramatic increase in gap between rich and poor. China’s calculations of numbers living in poverty are very conservative, and when calculated by more updated means, the reality is that many more people are living below the poverty line.
Right to education: rural versus urban. There are far fewer opportunities for education in rural areas, especially for girls.
Job creation: 30% of university graduates are unemployed, and there is also a major problem of discrimination against women in hiring.
Civil society involvement in WB and ADB-financed development projects.
Environmental degradation: Globalization, urbanization, and industrialization are all creating challenges for the environment and in the management of China’s natural resources.
Vulnerable peoples: There are around 150 million migrant workers in China, creating a host of challenges, especially for the education and care of their children. One specific vulnerable group that needs the attention is the large disabled population.
Labor issues: especially migrant workers, basic insurance, social security and salaries.
Paul Martell, Council for International Development (CID) in New Zealand said that New Zealand CSOs are very focused on addressing the needs of the poor in the small Pacific island states. In some cases, these countries face development challenges that may be the same as those in the rest of Asia, e.g. corruption, but in many cases they are very different. Peter Stephens noted that the Bank also is interested in expanding its outreach to groups in the Pacific, and it was agreed that the Bank would collaborate with CID and ACFID on this. Other issues of concern to New Zealand CSOs are the Poverty Reduction Strategies, microenterprise, conditionality, and reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions.
Srilaporn Buasai of the Thailand Research Fund noted that the situation in Thailand is very different from that of other countries in the region, since the Thai government has put poverty eradication as a major priority and that many CSOs are actively involved in this effort. She also referred to the recent CSO-led protests in opposition to Prime Minister Thaksin as an example of civil society activism. She identified the following areas for possible discussion between CSOs and the Bank/IMF:
Access to natural resources for the poor to use for food, shelter, etc (e.g. forest peoples)
Managing transitions from agrarian to urban societies
Labor production and wage policies
Capacity building for local people to manage local affairs
Impact of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on the poor, especially farmers
Migrant workers in Thailand from neighboring countries
She said there would be interest among Thai CSOs in sharing experiences with groups in other Asian countries on policies, practices, and innovations in addressing these issues.
Mona Dave of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Trade Facilitation Centre in India noted that she represented an organization of 700,000 members. Areas of concern to SEWA members include:
Gender and trade: As globalization has created new markets, women and the poor are too often marginalized from these. How can women and women’s collective enterprises be mainstreamed in trade? How can technology help in this respect? How can the Bank support this?
Partnerships: Partnerships are needed between community-based organizations, the World Bank, WTO, and other stakeholders, as well as public-private partnerships.
Building capacity for entrepreneurs to enter the global marketplace: How can this be done to reduce poverty and create alternative employment?
Ved Arya of SRIJAN (India) reported that there had not been a meeting of Indian civil society groups prior to the workshop, so he is representing his own organization. He said that some of the issues laid out by the Chinese CSO representative are similar to those faced in India and should be discussed with the Bank/Fund, including:
Expanding employment opportunities in light of changes in the global marketplace.
• Support for women and marginalized groups.
Urbanization, especially issues related to access to power, water and space. The Bank’s history with dams and infrastructure in India has been a source of conflict, and there are concerns about the impact of privatization. The Bank has to engage more with political leadership in countries on issues of water equity and also to engage civil society more constructively. There is also the need to help people’s organizations to play a greater role in managing their water resources.
Access to primary health care and education: The Bank and government need to do more to engage CSOs in implementing its strategies to expand access. In the case of education, the state governments in India are not necessarily capable of carrying out the Fast Track Initiative.
Fighting corruption and promoting transparency.
Laurence Gray, World Vision’s Asia-Pacific Region said he agreed with the previous speakers who highlighted the need to focus on greater accountability and transparency, land rights and natural resource management, urbanization, and the special needs of the Pacific nations, women and the disabled. Other concerns he wanted the group to consider for discussion:
HIV/AIDS in Asia: Different countries in Asia have very different capacities and strategies to address the pandemic. Greater attention is needed to this challenge.
Cross-boundary issues: The Bank has an important role to play in addressing regional issues e.g. in the Mekong delta, labor migration and human trafficking.
Decentralization and engagement of CSOs.
Working in communities under stress or where there are internal conflicts e.g. Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Aceh. Need to look at and recognize situations where aid may exacerbate a situation or create distortions, and how donors can work most effectively with CSOs in these areas.
Keiko Kiyama, Japan Emergency NGOs (JEN) reported that there had been one meeting with some CSOs in Japan prior to the workshop, at which the following issues were raised for discussion:
Need for capacity building of CSOs in Japan.
Increasing gap between rich and poor in Japan – the poor are losing their rights to education and social security.
Environmental concerns, and the need to do more work on environmental advocacy.
Paul O’Callaghan, Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) circulated a written summary of the main concerns of the ACFID membership which were agreed at their preparatory meetings. These points are as follows:
Right to Protest: We are seeking a specific commitment from the World Bank and Government of Singapore that the right of legitimate and peaceful protest by local and international NGOs outside the WB/IMF venue will be protected during the Annual Meetings.
Transparency and Accountability: In light of the suspension of WB programs in a range of countries related to anti corruption efforts, we seek to ensure that such measures take fully into account the impact on vulnerable communities. We also recommend bolstering the role of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) and other review mechanisms to facilitate greater accountability of WB activities to recipients and donors.
Environmental Policy: We ask the WB to maintain and enhance safeguards to protect people and the environment in the case of very large infrastructure projects such as dams. In particular, we seek to ensure adequate consultation with, and compensation of, local populations where poor communities are to be displaced. With many further dams being planned in East and South Asia, we urge the WB to provide rigorous assessments of the development sustainability and benefits for the poor and marginalised in relevant cases in any country.
Pro-poor Growth: We ask the WB to refocus its policies on helping the poorest of the poor through a strong commitment to free primary education, water and basic health care. We seek clarification of the WB’s position on ‘user pays’ policies in this regard. We would also like more information on the extent to which the WB will be involved in microenterprise activities in the future. In addition, we urge the WB to expedite implementation of the MDRI and to commit to the principle of debt relief beyond the life of this program.
CSO Engagement: We ask the WB to demonstrate that civil society programs are linked in a meaningful way to the WB’s policy development process. Many NGOs are concerned that the WB’s Global Policy Forum, for example, is essentially a public relations exercise and that few CSO recommendations have been reflected in subsequent WB policies. We also ask that the WB take into account the full spectrum of CSO views, including the views of CSOs that remain outside official WB consultative fora.
At the workshop, Paul also stressed the following issues:
Equity: While Australian CSOs welcomed the statements in the Bank’s 2006 World Development Report on Equity and Development, they questioned how this was being implemented. They feel more attention is needed on the concerns of vulnerable groups, especially given the scale of transitions happening in some Asian countries.
Pacific Islands: Paul O’Callaghan concurred with Paul Martell that Pacific island nations have an important voice that need to be heard and also have very different development challenges from other countries in the region, for example the need to access labor markets in neighboring countries and remittances; the dampening effect of the public sector on self-initiative, as almost everyone is to some extent working for the government, a situation which is unsustainable; and poor coordination among donor agencies.
Reungrawee Ketphol, Local Information Center for Development in Nakornrachasima, Thailand highlighted the importance of independent media and other channels for public access to information as key to development. Good governance demands open and transparent mechanisms for information sharing and giving voice to citizens.
Abdul-Muyeed Chowdhury, BRAC, Bangladesh said that he was representing BRAC but that he also is chair of the largest federation of NGOs in Bangladesh. Among the issues of great concern to civil society in Bangladesh which should be discussed with the Bank/IMF are: the need to reduce corruption; improve natural resources management and response to natural disasters; and to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. There is a need for the Bank and IMF to ensure that development policies and projects are not abandoned when there are changes in governments, so consensus about development priorities needs to be built across all agencies and levels of government. The Bank also needs to strengthen its consultation with civil society and to promote stronger dialogue between member governments and their CSOs.
Hiroshi Takizawa, ICFTU-APRO said his organization agreed with many of the points that had been raised by others, and also is concerned with currency stability and social safety nets. He said there was need for more dialogue between trade unions and development NGOs.
Gillian Koh, Institute of Policy Studies, Singapore said that CSOs in Singapore tend to fall into three main areas: 1) groups that work with the aging (e.g. Tsao Foundation) which do advocacy around issues such as social security, accessibility and health care; 2) environmental groups, both “green” groups which focus on conservation of natural heritage areas and “brown” groups which focus on combating pollution; and 3) gender-focused groups which focus on questions related to sex trade and trafficking of children, as well as advocacy for gender equality.
Specific projects on which IPS would like to collaborate with other Asian CSOs are:
Social Entrepreneurship: Gillian noted that social entrepreneuship is still a nascent concept in Singapore and many parts of Asia, but will be increasingly important to Asia’s future development, given exploding inequality, lower financial capacity of governments to support growing numbers of poor and marginalized people, and the explosion of CSOs looking for financial support. She proposes to examine 3-4 Asian cities and examine how social entrepreneurship is taking off, opportunities and challenges.
Survey of Civil Society in Asia: She proposed that a short profile of civil society in each Asian country be compiled and produced as a publication for the Annual Meetings. This would be a useful tool for business leaders as they seek to understand the political climate for doing business in each country, and as a means for encouraging more corporate social responsibility.
Tan Kee Wee of IPS added they he was interested to see if other Asian CSOs would like to collaborate on an effort to decrease child pornography and to highlight in a seminar that issue at the Annual Meetings.
Peggy Kek, Singapore International Foundation said that SIF would be interested in working with other CSOs in Asia to look at the following issues:
International best practices in governance of the non-profit sector.
The role of the media in promoting a more vibrant civil society sector, and other ways in which a vibrant civil society sector can be developed.
To share the experiences and lessons learned of the Singapore effort on tsunami response, through which the government and people’s organizations worked closely together on relief efforts which were very loosely coordinated by the government. Could this experience be of interest to other countries? Is there a place for government and NGOs to cooperate on a humanitarian basis?
Simonetta Nardin, IMF NGO Liaison made a short presentation on the Annual Meetings, the different activities in which the CSOs can participate during the Meetings, and how to apply for accreditation.
Peter Stephens and Carolyn Reynolds of the World Bank thanked the civil society participants for their ideas and interventions in the morning session, pointing out that there were many areas of synergy and overlap. They said if the participants were to agree on a certain number of priority issues and recommendations for discussion before, during and after the Annual Meetings, then they would work to get Bank and IMF management to the table to participate. They noted that the Annual Meetings are a “supermarket” of activities where hundreds of meetings take place and there are thousands of participants from government, private sector, media, academia and civil society. Thus, the Annual Meetings are an excellent advocacy opportunity for CSOs, but they also require selectivity and advance planning in order to be most effective. The Bank’s country office staff could work with CSOs in targeting their interventions.
Peter and Carolyn also acknowledged some participants’ concerns about the ability of groups to hold a peaceful assembly outside of the conference center during the Annual Meetings. They said that the Bank and IMF also recognize the importance of this issue, that the Singapore government is aware of their concerns, and that the issue is under discussion with the authorities. Paul O’Callaghan pointed out that some CSOs may not be able to attend the Annual Meetings unless this issue is addressed satisfactorily.
Key challenges in Asia’s Fight Against Poverty
Gillian Brown, Social Development, World Bank Bangkok office opened up the afternoon session by outline the progress in recent years on social development indicators in Asia. She said that the figures on women’s participation in politics are particularly interesting, as they show that although there has only been a 1.6% increase in the number of women in parliament in Asian since the early 1990s, there has been substantial progressive change in institutions and policies with respect to gender. This has happened largely in response to CSO advocacy.
Gillian also spoke about the Bank’s growing work in the area of promoting social accountability. In some countries, it is much easier for CSOs to hold the Bank accountable than for them to hold the government accountable. While it is important for the Bank to be accountable, this should not be at the expense of citizens holding their governments accountable for their actions. She asked the group to consider, what is the appropriate role for the Bank in helping promote social accountability? There are different tools, models and mechanisms for social accountability, for example laws of association and public information, and the Bank can help share lessons learned and best practices across countries. The Bank also can help support better regulatory frameworks for civic engagement, in order to help protect citizens and CSOs who hold the government accountable. CSOs should be more proactive in helping the Bank define its proper role in this area. Carolyn Reynolds added that President Wolfowitz has stated his interest in how the Bank can do more to expand accountability, so there is a real opportunity for suggestions from CSOs to be considered seriously by the Bank’s management.
Mona Dave from SEWA said she would more sharing of lessons learned among the World Bank/ADB and CSOs about how they can work together more effectively. She said there is need for new financing mechanisms to help CSOs work with the MDBs. She noted that often the lessons learned from community development programs are note being captured and scaled up
Haidy Ear-Dupuy of the NGO Forum on Cambodia said there would be interest in seeing how the Bank can do more to strengthen protections for CSOs which criticize government or engage in political or sensitive issues e.g. advocacy on human rights activists arrested in Cambodia.
Ved Arya of SRIJAN said the group should examine how to create more sustained channels for dialogue among the Bank and IMF with CSOs beyond Annual Meetings, and moving beyond one-off discussions when senior Bank officials visit developing countries. He stressed that resources and structures will be required to do this more effectively than in the past.
Abdul-Muyeed Chowdhury of BRAC suggested the need for a consortium approach, whereby the Bank/IMF ensures that issues raised at the Annual Meetings are also taken up by bilateral donors at the country level where appropriate.
Lauro Purcil of the Philippine Printing House for the Blind appealed to the groups to include in their discussions the interests and concerns of PWDs, particularly on full participation and inclusion, universal designs and accessibility.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to small working group discussions on development topics proposed by the CSO participants. The topics discussed included: participation and local governance, urbanization and governance, CSO involvement in Bank and Fund programs, natural resource management, debt, gender and trade, market-led skill development, and social enterprise.
REPORTING OUT TO PLENARY FROM SMALL WORKING GROUPS
Wednesday, 29 March 2006
(Summary of Small Working Groups Discussions)
Paul O’Callaghan of ACFID led the group in a discussion of next steps in planning for the Annual Meetings. He reported that based on his experience attending the 2005 Annual Meetings in Washington, there will be a lot of issues competing for the attention of delegates and and the press. There are clearly some topics in which both CSOs and the Bank have an interest and so do the press (e.g. corruption and governance). For other issues, the challenge will be to go beyond raising an issue and debating it to expertly shaping a topic and inviting people with real authority to speak on it in order to draw an audience. He encouraged the CSOs to focus on what they want to accomplish and to define which audiences they want to influence the most.
Carolyn Reynolds of the World Bank reviewed the various options for civil society engagement in the Annual Meetings:
CSO Forum: The CSO Forum is tentatively scheduled for September 14-15 at the SunTec conference centre. Depending on the level of CSO interest, the CSO Forum could be concentrated on just these two days, or it could be extended throughout the Annual Meetings period, which concludes on September 20. The topics and number of sessions to be included will be based on the demand and specific proposals made by CSOs. Although the main participants have traditionally been CSOs and Bank or IMF officials, she noted that government officials also may be invited to speak and participate, and these sessions often attract press attention as well.
Program of Seminars (September 16-18): A number of CSO speakers will be included in the sessions already planned, and some of the ideas that emerge from this meeting may be able to feed into the POS sessions. However, many of the civil society issues may not well fit into POS agenda, much of which is targeted at the private sector. All CSOs accredited to the Annual Meetings may attend the PoS at no cost.
Townhall meeting: This is an open forum where CSOs can ask questions of the IMF and WB heads and of the ministers who chair the WB and IMF policy-setting committees, the Development Committee (DC) and the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC). CSOs may wish to consider making this townhall session focused on a few specific topics rather than leaving the agenda completely open as in the past.
Bilateral meetings for CSOs with their ministers/government delegations and Executive Directors: CSOs organize these meetings directly, but the Bank/Fund can facilitate upon request.
Press conferences and access to press: CSOs can hold their own press conferences and may also attend other press conferences on a space available basis, and Bank/Fund staff will facilitate their contacts/interviews with journalists.
AGREED NEXT STEPS
The CSO participants agreed that they would hold follow-up discussions with other CSOs in their respective countries to:
Report back on these discussions and next steps.
Determine whether, or how, CSOs want to engage with the Bank and IMF to help plan the Annual Meetings activities.
Elicit feedback on the proposed topics for seminars, and also any other topics that may be of interest to civil society.
Decide who should represent civil society in each country on the planning group and at the Annual Meetings (note that any interested CSO representative may apply for accreditation to the Annual Meetings).
The Bank country offices can assist in organizing these meetings, but this should be done as quickly as possible due to the time constraints. The outcomes of this meeting should be shared with counterparts in other countries ahead of time. The Bank’s Civil Society Team also will try to link up the Asian CSOs with global CSOs that may be interested in collaborating with them on the preparations.
Timeline leading up to the Annual Meetings:
April/May: Follow up face-to-face meetings with CSOs and Bank/IMF in countries to report out on the workshop, and also flesh out topic proposals via e:mail. Focal points should try to narrow down their topics and make them more specific, keeping in mind the type of audiences that will be at the Annual Meetings and which topics would be most appropriate for discussion there. They should indicate what type of support or participation would be desirable from the Bank or IMF.
Late May: Bank’s Civil Society Team to organize a videoconference with the interested participants to report back to each other and to the Bank and IMF about the more specific topic proposals. The ABCDE conference (29-30 May) could be an opportunity for some people to have a follow up face-to-face meeting.
June – August
: CSOs work with Bank and IMF to further develop and refine the CSO Forum program and other activities/dialogues, through virtual and face-to-face meetings if needed. The Bank offered to facilitate communications among the participants if needed, and also offered to the CSOs to use the discussion forum space on the Singapore 2006 website for the CSOs to use for coordination and planning purposes. The discussion forum is accessible at: http://app.singapore2006.org/forum/index.asp.
September: The Bank/IMF 2006 Annual Meetings activities will take place September 13-20 in Singapore, with the CSO Forum starting on September 14.
The following participants agreed to act as “topic coordinators” to narrow the topics and develop more specific proposals for seminars:
Paul O’Callaghan - People’s Participation and Local Governance
Laurence Gray – Urbanization and Governance
Nila Ardhianie and Carolyn Reynolds - CSO Involvement in Bank and Fund Operations
Dian Kartika Sari and Men Santa Ana - Debt Relief
Ved Arya - Market-led Skill Development
Gillian Koh - Social Enterprise
Haidy Ear-Dupuy and Mona Dave - Gender and trade
Don Marquez and Ek Seiden - Natural Resource Management
Paul Martell - Corruption and transparency (note that this topic was not yet discussed)
Don Marquez suggested that the participants think about an overall theme which might tie together the topics for discussion at the CSO Forum.
Finally, on the topic of peaceful assembly, Paul O’Callaghan reported to the group that he had discussed the issue with the Singapore government officials during the meeting. Paul said that the Singapore government is aware of the CSOs’ concerns that they be allowed to participate in peaceful assembly with placards outside of the convention space. He told the group that the government appeared to be open on this question and that it would be reviewing the policy shortly.
Peter Stephens and Carolyn Reynolds thanked the participants and adjourned the session.
2006 Annual Meetings - information for CSOs
Singapore Annual Meetings website (World Bank/IMF)
Host Government website
As of: May 16, 2006