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Civil Society Policy Forum Attracts Record CSO Participation

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2009 AMs Civil Society Policy Forum Poster

Civil society participation at the 2009 World Bank – IMF Annual Meetings in Istanbul, Turkey was the largest and most intense ever. Over 1,000 CSO representatives were accredited and nearly 500 attended the 6-day Civil Society Policy Forum (CS Forum). The CS Forum sponsored 50 policy dialogue sessions on topics ranging from the global economic crisis and information disclosure, to climate change. Turkey’s civil society community participated actively, with leading national CSOs convening policy sessions.

Participation by civil society began many months earlier with the establishment of a CSO Planning Group by the Bank and Fund Civil Society Teams. The Planning Group was composed by 20 CSOs (see participants list) from various regions (Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, Africa). Turkey was represented by 6 representatives from leading Turkish CSOs. Their role (see Terms of Reference) was to help: select CSO representatives to be sponsored and be panelists for the Program of Seminars; discuss accreditation and visa issues; and plan policy dialogue sessions including a townhall meeting with the heads of the Bank and Fund. The CSO Planning Group held a planning meeting in Istanbul (see summary notes ), and two conference calls (1st conference call and 2nd conference call) over a three month period.  The Group held a last conference call on November 12, 2009 to share their final assessment of the civil society engagement work at the Annual Meetings in Istanbul, and provide recommendations for strengthening CSO participation in the future.  (see final report).

2009 AMs CSO Townhall 

During the planning group meeting, the CSOs met with representatives of the Turkish government and toured the conference site still under construction. As a result of these meetings, the Turkish Foreign Ministry agreed to grant visas free of charge and facilitated the granting of visas at the Istanbul airport for arriving CSO representatives. The smooth nature of CSO participation in the Annual Meetings and the policy richness of the CS Forum can be, in large measure, attributed to the important planning role played by the CSO Planning Group.

At total of 1029 CSO representatives were accredited, the largest number ever (the previous record having been 700 for the 2006 Annual Meetings held in Singapore). Of these 498 from over 70 countries travelled to Istanbul to participate (see participants list). The top ten countries represented were: Turkey, United States, United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Germany / Belgium, South Africa, India / Netherlands, and Russia. (See chart below).

2009 AMs CSOs Most Represented

Over half of the civil society participants (234) were from Turkey, as the CSO Planning Group participants were able to mobilize CSOs from Istanbul and Ankara to participate. This was reflected in the fact that 11 out of the 15 largest organizational delegations were from Turkey. These included NGOs, business associations, foundations, and youth groups which work with economic research, youth mobilization, women empowerment, business development, and civil society strengthening.


We also sponsored the largest number ever of CSOs from developing countries to attend the Annual Meetings. The purpose of this sponsorship (now in its 5th year) is to increase the participation of developing county voices and perspective in the Annual Meetings, and the CSO representatives were selected through nominations made by Bank and Fund country offices and CSO networks. The sponsorship program is funded by funds provided by the Bank, IMF, Department for International Development (DFID), and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

A total of 44 CSO representatives (including members of the Planning Group) from 39 countries were sponsored and had their full or partial travel, hotel, and per diem costs covered to participate. (see sponsored list) The sponsored CSOs participated actively in the CS Forum, organizing and or speaking in policy sessions, and three were panelists in the Program of Seminars. One of these was Sam Worthington (CEO of InterAction) who spoke on the panel on “Development Finance in Light of the Crisis” and called for greater Bank – CSO collaboration in addressing the global food crisis. (see online interview)

 CSO Reception
The CS Forum was also the largest to date, with 50 policy dialogue sessions on a range of topics which included: impacts of the global economic crisis, climate change negotiations, addressing Africa’s food crisis, integrating human rights into the Bank’s work, role of IDA in mitigating the financial crisis, debt sustainability and transparency, improving development results through evaluation, lessons learned from IFC extractive industry projects, strengthening civil society in Nigeria, and listening to the voices of the poor. Turkish CSOs organized sessions on the impact of the global crisis on the Turkish economy, mobilizing youth volunteerism, strengthening civil society, and women’s role in democracy building.

While the Bank Group and Fund organized a number of sessions including formal consultation meetings on IFM governance, IFC’s performance standards, and the Bank’s environmental policy, most of the policy sessions were proposed and organized by CSOs. In addition to the well know policy advocacy CSOs (e.g. Bank Information Center, European Network on Debt and Development, Oxfam, and World Resources Institute) who generally organize policy session, several organizations such as the Center for Global Development, CIVICUS, and German Marshall Fund also hosted sessions for the first time. Over 100 panelists including CSO leaders, government officials, Bank / Fund staff, and academics participated in the various panels including well known figures such as Joseph Stiglitz, Nancy Birdsall, and Nick Sterns. Please visit the online schedule for summaries, participants lists, and photos of many of these sessions.

2009 AMs CSO Townhall

The CSO Townhall with Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was well attended, with some 250 CSOs present (see storyphotos, and transcript). The major issues addressed included the prospects for global economic recovery, continued impacts of the food crisis on the poor, and the significant reforms being undertaken on international governance, including at the Bank and Fund. The Townhall was chaired by Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane of the African Monitor in South Africa. Archbishop Ndungane talked about linking up the creative and innovative minds of CSOs with the World Bank on today’s key issues—hunger, climate change, financial crisis. He emphasized the need to develop mechanisms for translating ideas into action. (see online interview).

The Bank also held a reception for the launch of the “World Bank - Civil Society Engagement: Review of Fiscal Years 2007 to 2009” which represents a comprehensive accounting of Bank – civil society relations across the World Bank Group over the past three years. (see related story)

Background on Annual Meetings
CS Forum Schedule
List of CSO Participants
Photo Gallery 
Civil Society Rates World Bank Policy Forum

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