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civil society

Two Forums, One Common Goal

Ilya Domashov's picture
Also available in: Русский
Citizen participation in any issue is most often thought of in the context of formal procedures. Sometimes, civil society representatives, like me, are invited to events, commissions or programs that ensure formal connections with civil society. So while we are not ignored, our participation feels more like a cursory part of the process, without any significant opportunity to influence the processes or explain our position.

This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
 


The forum in question --  the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together  about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.

”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.  

The Poor, the Bank, and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français



Something Is Changing


Fifteen years ago, the international community designed the Millennium Development Goals, including that of halving extreme poverty, through a process that mostly took place in New York, behind closed doors. A few years earlier, the World Bank had developed the guidelines of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries from Washington, D.C. in a similar fashion.
 
Fortunately, this approach has changed.
 
Today, the process of identifying and consulting on the post-2015 development agenda has been opened to the general public including, importantly, those whom the goals are expected to serve. In fact, the United Nations and other partners have undertaken a campaign to reach out directly to citizens for ideas and feedback on the issues most important to them in the post-2015 agenda. Those who are formulating the post-2015 goals will no longer need to assume what the poor and vulnerable want: they will have a firsthand knowledge of what their priorities are.  
 
The World Bank Group has explicitly stated that our new goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity cannot be achieved without institutions, structures, and processes that empower local communities, hold governments accountable, and ensure that all groups in society are able to participate in decision-making processes. In other words, these goals will not be within reach without a social contract between a country and its citizens that reduces imbalances in voice, participation and power between different groups, including the poor.   

Good Practices for Engaging with Citizens for Greater Development Impact

Vinay Bhargava's picture

Last week I was a panelist at a civil society organization seminar during the World Bank Annual Meetings on the topic of “Engaging with Citizens for Greater Development Impact.” The task for the panel was to discuss good practices in citizen engagement to make governments and service providers (including the private sector) more accountable so that policies and project interventions have greater impact for all citizens. The other panelists included representatives from Civicus, Plan International, and the Bank and International Finance Corporation.

The invitation to this event made me reflect on a fundamental question: Is it realistic to expect citizens to hold service providers accountable given the huge asymmetry of power between the two, or are we setting unrealistic expectations that citizen engagement interventions can improve development outcomes?

As I searched for answers, I was reminded of the story of the mighty warrior, Goliath, and the shepherd boy, David, who stepped up to fight him when no one else dared. No one in his or her right mind would have given David a chance against Goliath. However, we all know how the story ends — David hurls a stone from his sling with all his might and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, causing the mighty to fall. Can we have similar happy endings in citizens vs. almighty service providers?

MDG Summit Gets Under Way; Zoellick Addresses Assembly

Julia Ross's picture

Following months of preparation, the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) officially kicks off this morning in New York. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper and security tighter than usual in Manhattan’s Midtown East area, but the 140+ country delegations gathered here are focusing on how to accelerate progress on the goals to meet the 2015 deadline.

At today’s U.N. General Assembly plenary session, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick called for a redoubling of global efforts to achieve the MDGs, which he said were “central to the World Bank Group’s mission and our everyday work.”

Stepping up engagement with civil society

Molly Norris's picture

“Engagement with civil society has stepped up in so many ways—in terms of quality and also in terms of quantity. This engagement is critical because we have different roles that we can play. I think that there is a realization between civil society and the World Bank that we have a single mission and we need to forge ahead towards that mission.”

Compelling issues of the day drew the highest volume of civil society organizations to register for this year than ever before for Spring Meetings, though volcanic ash caused some panels to be cancelled, according to Edith Grace Ssempala, a World Bank senior advisor.  Talks ranged from the ongoing effects of the financial crisis to the Bank’s energy strategy and new Access to Information policy. 

Civil Society Forum: Haiti response shows need for collaboration

Sameer Vasta's picture

Large parts of Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince have been destroyed by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on 12 January. Photo taken on 15 January 2010.. Photo: IFRC/Eric Quintero

A panel on strengthening partnerships that took place earlier this week at the Civil Society Policy Forum during the 2010 Spring Meetings looked at how partnerships were integral to the response after the earthquake in Haiti.

The panel, which featured speakers from the World Bank, USAID, IMF, Save the Children, and the German Marshall Fund, explored the ways various organizations came together to ensure effective post-disaster revitalization and development outcomes after the disaster in Haiti.

One such example of collaboration and partnership was in the sharing of Bank geo-spatial data with community groups like Random Hacks of Kindness and CrisisCamp. (More on the Bank's new open data initiative here.)

This is a different Bank than it was in the ‘90s

Marwan Muasher's picture

Istanbul Kongre Merkezi or Istanbul Congress Center. Istanbul, Turkey. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank The skies have darkened with rain outside the Istanbul Congress Center, but spirits are high inside. The labyrinth of conference rooms is abuzz with government officials and civil society representatives, looking for pragmatic and innovative solutions to today’s most important development issues.

I personally think the CSO functions are going really well. I’m seeing a lot of collaboration, a lot of common ground, and even more so than in the past.

I think this is due to the Bank’s position as a voice for the poorest and our demonstrated commitment to providing the resources countries need to deal with the food and financial crises.

InterAction's Sam Worthington chats about the World Bank and civil society

Sameer Vasta's picture

This morning I had the chance to chat with Sam Worthington, the President and CEO of InterAction, who is attending the Civil Society Forum here in Istanbul. Sam took some time between the sessions of the CSO Forum to tell me a little about InterAction, the work that they are doing with the World Bank, and what he hopes to come out of the Annual Meetings in Turkey this year.

You can watch the entire 5-minute chat below:

 

 

Annual Meetings get underway

Angie Gentile's picture

Istanbul Congress Center. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World BankThe buzz is building in Istanbul, our beautiful host city, as delegates, press and CSOs from around the world begin pouring in for the 2009 joint Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF.

The press room opened Monday, providing temporary work quarters for the more than 1,200 registered media who are covering the events over the next week for news outlets large and small.

They are joined by representatives from civil society organizations here to take part in a Civil Society Policy Forum being held from October 2-7. The event is jointly organized by the World Bank Group and IMF civil society teams. The forum will bring together Bank and Fund staff, CSO representatives, including from Oxfam, Civicus and Africa Monitor, to name a few, along with government officials, academics, and others to exchange views on a variety of topics ranging from the global economic crisis and climate change, to governance reform. Bank President Robert B. Zoellick and Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn will co-host a CSO townhall meeting Friday afternoon.

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