Over 350 civil society representatives from over 50 countries attended the 2008 Annual Meetings, a marked increase from previous years. These represented a wide diversity of CSOs from trade unions and NGOs, to foundations and professional associations. Of these, 26 CSO representatives from developing countries were sponsored to attend the Annual Meetings, in order to ensure that Southern perspectives were heard. These were identified by Bank and Fund country offices, CSO networks, and donor agencies and based on such criteria as geographic coverage, constituency diversity, and gender balance.
Some 30 heads of CSOs were invited, for the first time, in order to raise the profile of civil society as development actors in the Annual Meetings. By cultivating relations with leaders of influential NGOs and foundations, it is hoped that we can better explore operational collaboration in important areas such as food security. In addition to attending a breakfast with Mr. Zoellick, the CEOs also spoke on several of the Program of Seminar panels.
Youth leaders involved in the Bank’s ‘Youth, Development and Peace Networks’ and country-based ‘Youth Advisory Groups’ also participated in Annual Meetings for the first time. Some 18 youth from 14 countries were sponsored to attend and these were joined by Washington-based CSOs and others. Various Bank Units joined forces with Friends of Africa International to host a special "Youth@Annual Meetings” program to discuss a broad range of issues including youth citizenship and school-to-work transition. The objectives were to recognize young people as equal partners and provide youth a space to discuss major development concerns from the youth perspective, institutionalize the dialogue and exchange of experiences in the field between the Bank and youth organizations, and increase the knowledge of young people on the World Bank to become stronger partners in development. The plenary sessions focused on two issues of interest to youth and the Bank: youth citizenship and the school-to-work transition. During the breakout sessions, participants drafted a “youth action plan” to guide collaboration and coordination between the Bank and youth leaders over the next year. See the Youththink site for more details on the action plan and youth leader interviews.
The plenary sessions focused on two issues of interest to youth and the Bank: youth citizenship and the school-to-work transition. During the breakout sessions, participants drafted a “youth action plan” to guide collaboration and coordination between the Bank and youth leaders over the next year. See the Youththink site for more details on the action plan and youth leader interviews.
Bank and Fund Civil Society Teams also hosted a series of programmatic events, including a ‘Townhall and Reception’ (summary, video, transcript, photos) with RBZ and DSK, a workshop on the food crisis, and the Civil Society Policy Forum with over 30 dialogue sessions. Topics covered during the CS Forum included climate change, governance, financing for development, and IFC's water and sanitation strategy. They also organized a Food Crisis Workshop co-sponsored by InterAction, the IMF and World Bank and chaired jointly by Sam Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It included reports on the Bank and Fund’s response to the crisis, and civil society analyses of the impact of high food prices in Latin American countries, Malawi and India, and the impact on small farmers.
The Dutch NGO “Both-Ends” and Freshwater Action Network (FAN) co-sponsored a ‘Political Café’ on the right to water. This innovative space for political dialogue, produced animated and substantive debate between CSO representatives and the Bank’ water sector staff on how the “right to water and sanitation” can help to enhance the Bank’s policies and practice in this sector.
In his interactions with CSOs, Mr. Zoellick asked for specific actions/input from CSOs in the following areas: work with the Bank to help turn the food price crisis into an opportunity, especially for food producing countries; promoting country ownership, including providing incentives for broadening citizen participation; and partner with the Bank to strengthen governance and the rule of law at the country level.
CSOs, for their part, made a number of suggestions to improve the quality of engagement. They acknowledged that the Bank had made significant improvements in the structure, content, and facilitation of its dialogue with CSOs. They called for CEOs' attendance at Annual Meetings to be institutionalized going forward, to ensure enhanced dialogue, and effective follow up on recommendations. They also requested more formal contact with Executive Directors in the future, as this can both help strengthen the government-civil society interface at country level, and raise the profile of CSOs in the eyes of developing country governments.
In order to ascertain what CSOs impression of the Annual Meetings, we interviewed three CSO leaders who came to the Annual Meetings for the first time.
Ingrid Srinath is the new CEO of Civicus, which is one of the world’s largest international CSO networks. She said that her image of the Bank and Fund improved as she was able to grasp the human dimension of what is often perceived as a “faceless monolith”. She chaired the townhall meeting with Mrss. Zoellick and Strauss-Kahn, and felt that CSOs where perhaps too “deferential and polite” in this setting, and would have liked to see a more frank exchange. In addition to welcoming CSOs to the Bank, she would like to see the Bank go to civil society ‘spaces’ as well.
Mamadou Fofana is the head of Mali’s National NGO Network (SECO-ONG). He readily admitted that he had preconceived opinions, generally negative, about both institutions, but changed his mind somewhat as the meetings were quite informative. He particularly liked the Program of Seminars and the food crisis sessions. Unlike Ingrid, he seemed surprised by the straightforward nature of the dialogue. He said: “We gave the staff members of both institutions a very hard time in the meetings, but yet they responded to our questions and remained courteous at all times”.
Mark Garcia is a youth leader from Silliman University who heads a youth education project in the Philippines supported by the Bank. He felt that the experience was quite worthwhile, particularly the youth sessions and being able to network with youth leaders from other countries. He feels that the youth program should become a regular feature of t he Annual Meetings, but that youth should be involved earlier in the process to help plan the agenda and topics to be discussed.
Baquer Namazi who heads Hamyaran, an Iranian NGO Resource Center in Tehran. He stated that “you have given space for voices of dissent and thus set a fine example of giving space to those with different views”. He further noted that the Bank even facilitates for resource persons to be part of the panel and criticize the work and policies of the Bank. “I find really admirable and I hope all your colleagues in the Bank appreciate the value of such engagement.”
CSO Opinion Survey on Annual Meetings
2008 Annual Meetings Civil Society Policy Dialogues
General Information About the 2008 Annual Meetings