Wednesday, 31 October 2012

World Social Forum 2013 in Tunis

The World Social Forum 2013 (WSF 2013) will take place in Tunis from the 26 to 30 March. Its website was launched on 15 October, and that kicked off the registration process for organizations and for proposals of activities. In the Tunisian Secretariat members of the WSF 2013 are listed the two focal point of Social Watch in that country: the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) and the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD). This decision on the venue was taken by the WSF International Council in Paris, and confirmed last July in Monastir, Tunisia, after several consultations among social movements from this country and others from the other North African countries.

The ATFD, the LTHD, the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), Raid-Attac, the Tunisian Union of Unemployed University Graduates, the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD), the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT) and the Tunisian Bar make up the Tunisian Secretariat of the WSF 2013. The Secretariat was deployed to prepare the Monastir meeting, to start negotiations with the Tunisian authorities, to make efforts to involve new social movements, and to broaden the process in thematic as well as in geographical terms, despite the ongoing difficulties in Tunisia and in the whole Maghreb and Machrek region barely two years after the events that have shaken the region, remarked the Maghrebian Social Forum's Steering Committee.

The WSF 2013 Tunisian Secretariat has set up a number of commissions which have been working for several months and presented its plan, later endorsed by the Maghrebian Social Forum's Steering Committee, and which is the following :

● 15 October: Launching of the WSF 2013 website and of the registration process for organizations and proposals of activities;

● 1 December: End of the phase dedicated to proposals of activities, and publication of the proposals, including the contacts to get in touch with their promoters;

● 2-15 January 2013: Merging process;

● 16-31 January: Registration of the demands for assemblies and distribution of the rooms and spaces;

● 1-28 February: Production of the final program and translation into the main WSF working languages;

● 1-20 March: Logistical setting up, printing of the program and organization of the WSF physical space;

● 26-30 March: Worls Social Forum 2013;

● 30 March: Closing March;

● 31 March-1 April: Meeting of the WSF International Council in Tunis.

The Maghrebian Social Forum's Steering Committee and the WSF 2013 Tunisian Secretariat are inviting movements, unions, organizations and groups of activists of civil society from Tunisia, from the Maghreb, from the Machrek, from all Africa, from the Mediterranean region and from around the world to make a success of the 12th World Social Forum. “As in previous forums, the WSF 2013 will enable encounters between all the women and the men who fight, in their communities and their basic activities, against the neoliberal management of economy, the financial markets' diktats, social fragmentation, and who struggle to build democracy, equality for all, solidarity, justice and peace, to protect the environment and commons,” said the Maghrebian Social Forum’s Steering Committee in its statement. “To make the WSF 2013 a success, we call all social movements to participate, together, in the setting up of the process, to contribute to the internationalization of the preparatory commissions (methodology, logistics, finances, communication, mobilization, youth, women, culture...). More particularly, we call on you to seek the human and financial means that will foster the broadest participation in the WSF,” added the Committee.

The WSF 2013 will have an “extended” form, which means that it will allow civil society organizations, networks and movements that wish to do so to actively participate in the WSF 2013 wherever they will be in the world, and whatever the size of the delegation they can send to Tunis.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

After the IMF meeting: The trade union view

According to Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) the recent annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank confirmed what the ITUC and trade unions around the world have been saying for more than two years: The idea that you can create ‘growth through austerity’ is an illusion that has destroyed million of people’s livelihoods. “The IMF should use the important findings it made public this week and support a jobs- and income-led growth strategy, not let a few countries or its partners in the European ‘troika’ dictate a continuation of austerity policies.”

Before the 12-14 October meetings opened in Tokyo, the IMF’s chief economist revealed that the Fund had seriously underestimated the impact of budget-cutting austerity measures on national economies, apparently due to using an incorrect “multiplier” in their economic models. However the final communiqué of the IMF’s ministerial committee (IMFC) asserted that only emerging-market economies, not industrialized countries, should “use policy flexibility [to] support growth”, even though ten European economies are expected to be in recession in 2012. “It is incomprehensible for the IMFC to tell Europe to pursue structural adjustment and fiscal austerity, even though it is in recession, while only countries that are already enjoying growth are encouraged to support pro-growth policies. It seems evident that this totally incoherent approach came from some industrialized-country governments that have obviously not learned the lessons of the IMF’s research revisions,” said Burrow.

Burrow also praised the G24 group of emerging and developing countries at the international financial institutions for drawing appropriate conclusions from the World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) 2013 on the theme of employment. The G24 stated in a communiqué issued at the Tokyo meetings: “We note the finding of the World Bank’s recent World Development Report that a focus on jobs is the most effective means to reduce poverty, empower people, and promote social cohesion.” According to Burrow the World Bank and IMF should re-examine all of their policies through the ‘jobs lens’ as the WDR proposes. “We also agree with the G24 that it is unacceptable that governments have missed the deadline for the 2010 quota reform by not ratifying in sufficient number a modest shift of some votes at the IMF to emerging economies. The G24 also made important suggestions, which we share, about the need for the IFIs to do more to combat commodity price volatility, especially in light of the recent food price hike which will drive millions more people in developing countries into extreme poverty.”

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Europe’s engagement with civil society: Policy inconsistencies

The European Commission recently published a new communication aiming to set out a more strategic engagement with civil society organisations (CSOs). Entitled The Roots of Democracyand Sustainable Development; Europe’s Engagement with Civil Society in External Relations, the communication draws on a “structured dialogue – for an efficient partnership in development” with CSOs as well as a public consultation undertaken earlier this year. The Communication credits civil society as being ‘an asset in itself’ and a great contributor for bringing about development outputs. However, as Frauke de Weijerin of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) notes, the Communication fails to explain how the new strategic engagement with CSOs will actually translate into practice.

Although it emphasises the importance of civil society at country level, the Communication is unclear as to how it plans to engage with CSOs, particularly those with who it is less familiar, such as faith-based organizations, unions or even social movements from these countries. For CSOs to be eligible for inclusion in policy dialogue the Commission wants them to be ‘accountable and transparent and share its fundamental values’. However, as Weijerin argues, the ‘full spectrum of perspectives’ must be brought on board in order for the development policy to be broadly owned by society.

A 2008 evaluation of EC aid delivery through civil societyorganizations found an inconsistency between the Commission’s policy objectives and the actual use of the civil society channel. For example, it noted an inability of the Commission to mobilise the CSO potential in governance related processes and a tendency to utilise European NGOs at the expense of local civil society organisations. Additionally, the evaluation noted the existence of an institutional culture within the Commission which is not conducive to the proper engagement of CSOs – mainly due to limited political backing from the top. While institutional changes have been made since the evaluation was undertaken and it is hoped that the new communication will provide the necessary push to remove the barriers to a proper engagement with civil society, according to the EuroStep network.