Social Watch Strategy Document and Framework of Activities 2010-2011

The following strategy paper is based on the input from the various discussions in the 4th General Assembly of Social Watch, held in Accra in October 26 to 29, 2009. This strategy document elaborates and updates the strategy adopted in Sofia (2006) which outlined our principles, goals and objectives.

1. Background

Social Watch was created in 1995 as a “meeting place for non-governmental organizations concerned about social development and gender discrimination, and engaged in monitoring the policies which have an impact on inequality and on people who live in poverty.”

The basic methodology of Social Watch still remains the same: to make governments accountable for their commitments and thus promote the political will to implement them.

These commitments include:

  • the 1995 Social Summit,
  • the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women,
  • the Millennium Declaration (2000) on which the Millennium Development Goals are based,
  • 1992 Rio Summit commitments,
  • the Human Rights framework, which includes Economic, Social and Cultural rights, labor rights, women rights, environmental rights, rights of indigenous peoples and of migrants and the right to development, and,
  • national commitments, as formulated in national constitutions, government plans, budgets and laws, including in particular social, economic and cultural rights.

Social Watch believes that the key action to achieve poverty eradication, gender equality and social justice happen primarily at local and national level and, therefore, its international activities and structures should be accountable and at the service of national and local constituencies, and not the other way around.

Peace is a precondition for the realization of human and womens’ rights and the eradication of poverty. However, poverty and lack of respect for human rights are at the root of many armed conflicts. Therefore the devastating impact of conflict and post-conflict situations on people is of particular concern.

The governance structure of Social Watch is explained in a separate document that was adopted by the Assembly.

2. Mission Statement

At its first General Assembly held in Rome in November 2000, Social Watch approved a mission statement as the framework for its work. The Beirut Assembly (October 2003) reaffirmed this mission statement. In Sofia a particular emphasis on the rights-based approach has been added:

“Social Watch is an international network of citizens’ organizations in the struggle to eradicate poverty and the causes of poverty, to end all forms of discrimination and racism, to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights. We are committed to peace, social, economic, environment and gender justice, and we emphasize the right of all people not to be poor.

Social Watch holds governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the fulfilment of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty.

Social Watch will achieve its objectives through a comprehensive strategy of advocacy, awareness-building, monitoring, organizational development and networking. Social Watch promotes people-centred sustainable development.”

The Accra Assembly reaffirmed the mission statement with the changes listed above.

3. Social Watch in a changing environment

Many things have changed in the context in which we operate since the Sofia Assembly:

  • The global economic and financial crisis that erupted in September 2008 with its consequences of impoverishment and unemployment and the intellectual discrediting of the until then prevailing mainstream economics.
  • The stagnation of the World Trade Organization trade negotiations and the subsequent proliferation of regional and bilateral free trade agreements.
  • The recognition of climate change as a threat to the very survival of our planet Earth, together with the reluctance of developed countries to recognize their responsibility in creating it and to accept the notion of climate justice.
  • The election of president Barack Obama in the United States has created expectations of a turn towards multilateralism in US foreign policy and the retreat of militarism.
  • The emergence of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as a new power bloc, challenging the ability and legitimacy of the rule of the G7 over the world economy.
  • The expansion and deepening of European integration.
  • The increased economic and political integration of Latin America (and to a minor extent of Africa and South East Asia).
  • The formation and strengthening of developing and least developed country coalitions and movements such as the G-33 (within the WTO) and G-77.
  • The recent successes of popular movements on a global scale.
  • The growing popular mistrust of global economic, financial and political institutions.
  • The increasing gender inequalities across the world.

The Assembly was reminded of those trends by the opening speech from doctor Yao Graham and they were considered as the new framework in which this strategy was defined.
(link to the video of the speech)

4. Influencing global and regional decision-making

    4.1 The principle target institution for Social Watch is the UN as the legitimate universal institution. The focus of SW concentrates on the intergovernmental processes and events that are relevant to the main objectives of the network, among them the gender and Human Rights bodies, and the follow-up processes on financing for development and the UN conference on the financial and economic crisis. We will also participate in processes for reform of the UN system.

    4.2 In light of the crises and the responses, we take note of the reinforced role that the G-20 has taken upon itself and the attempt to strengthen the role of the IMF and the World Bank. Social Watch is against empowering these fora and institutions or expanding their mandate and supports the creation and strengthening of regional alternatives that reflect aspirations of the poor and marginalized populations.

    4.3 Social Watch will actively participate in the UN Summit on the MDGs (September 2010 in New York) and its preparatory process, highlighting the failure of the current approaches to poverty eradication and defending human rights based alternatives.

    4.4 Based on the notion of environmental justice, Social Watch will contribute to the current climate negotiations, an approach founded on its social and gender justice principles

    4.5 Social Watch will contribute to the global gender fora like the Beijing+15 review with the update, development and dissemination of its Gender Equity Index and the richness of experiences and analysis from its membership.

    4.6 Social Watch will actively participate in the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (Istanbul, 2011) and its preparatory process, in alliance with LDC Watch

    4.7 Social Watch will participate in the discussions around innovative sources of financing, including in them the consideration of migration/related issues.

Advocacy strategies

In August 2009, Social Watch established a permanent office in New York to enable a continuous presence at the United Nations and to coordinate advocacy efforts with country missions at the UN, international agencies and other NGO networks. It will assist the participation of members in global decision making processes and inform regularly about them to the national coalitions.

Advocacy, communications and campaigning strategies will complement each other to achieve our goals. The key advocacy events for the coming years are listed in the attached calendar.

5. Strengthening and expanding the network

5.1 Improving our tools

The major tools of Social Watch are:

  • The yearly report in several languages, plus country reports and regional reports.
  • The Website.
  • The Gender Equity and Basic Capabilities Indexes.

Additional advocacy tools will be “benchmark documents”, collections of papers (SW series or “occasional papers”) and position papers, frequently authored and published in association with other organizations and networks.

Social Watch will make efforts to publish the report in additional languages and formats that allow reaching wider audiences. In addition, we will diversify our use of innovative communication tools.

5.2 Capacity building and sustaining national level action

 Social Watch has started a three year programme to improve the capacity of its members in developing countries through a series of workshops in Africa, Asia and Latin America. There is an ongoing program to build the capacity of some members in Europe.

The content and methodology will be defined by the host organizations and the participants with support from the secretariat. Improving the media outreach of the national coalitions is one of the areas to be addressed.

Social Watch will actively support the efforts of other regions and subregions to design and implement capacity building programmes for watchers.

In its advocacy, Social Watch will build alliances with trade unions, social movements and other civil society organizations and networks, in particular those advocating for climate justice, and it will participate in the World Social Forum.

5.3 Strengthening the network at regional and subregional level

 Recognizing the growing importance of regional and sub-regional decision-making venues, Social Watch encourages regional and sub-regional cooperation among members and other actors to engage in advocacy and campaigning at that level. An organizational strategy will be developed, with the involvement of the CC and Secretariat, in order to support and enhance regional work.

5.4 New members

In the coming years, Social Watch will increase the number of its members in developing countries, especially Africa, and will initiate efforts to publish a Russian language version of the report as a tool to increase membership in “transition countries” of the former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union in Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.

5.5 Evaluation and mutual accountability

  • Social Watch defined in its Assembly in Sofia the need to “Promote activities to ensure within Social Watch the credibility, transparency and democratic practice of national Social Watch coalitions and discuss the development of accountability criteria”. The CC has defined that as a last resort it can and should intervene in some situations where problems in a national SW coalition risk affecting the whole network, but largely the methodology to apply for mutual accountability when there are no serious problems, which is the enormous majority of the situations, have not been elaborated and we are missing opportunities to learn from each other. 
  • The Assembly endorsed the concept of “mutual accountability” among members and among the different bodies of the network (secretariat, CC, members). One of the purposes for establishing mutual accountability mechanisms is to increase the quality of national reports.
  • The evaluation process that will be put in place to inform the 5th Assembly should be a mutual accountability process.
  • Without generating a bureaucratic process, mechanisms will be put in place for members to assess and inform each other about the outcomes of their Social Watch activities.

5.6 Participation mechanisms

 In order to achieve these goals that we are setting and to strengthen the following working groups were created:

  • Gender
  • Mutual accountability
  • Climate justice
  • Research methodology for civil society
  • Economic models, financial crisis and financing for development
  • 2010 MDG summit
  • Communications advisory committee
  • Human rights and budget analysis

The secretariat will create the necessary communication mechanisms and facilitate the activities of the working groups and of the regional groups. 

5.7 The 2011 Assembly

The 2011 Assembly will be held in the Philippines.