Governance structure of Social Watch adopted by the Accra Assembly in 2009

Governance Structure of Social Watch

Social Watch is an international network of citizens’ organizations struggling to eradicate poverty and the causes of poverty, to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights. Social Watch is committed to social, economic and gender justice, and emphasizes the right of all people not to be poor.

Social Watch holds governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the fulfillment of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty. Social Watch promotes people-centered sustainable development.

Social Watch aims to achieve its objectives through a comprehensive strategy of advocacy, awareness–building, monitoring, organizational development and networking. Social Watch aims at strengthening the capacity of national coalitions to effectively monitor and influence policies with an impact over women, people living in poverty and other vulnerable groups.

The Social Watch network is committed to a democratic and non-hierarchical form of organization; its operation and decision-making processes are based on egalitarian principles and a high degree of respect for the autonomy of its members. To better serve the changing needs of the national coalitions, flexibility is considered key to its structure.

The network is promoted and developed by several hundred groups and organizations in more than 60 countries. In principle, they are organized in national coalitions. They build the fundament of all activities of Social Watch. In addition to the national coalitions, the network is structured around three bodies: The Social Watch Assembly, the Coordinating Committee and the International Secretariat.

1.     National Social Watch Coalitions

 National coalitions organize the way they want – or can – according to the conditions in each country. The membership of Social Watch coalitions can be very diverse, including research institutes or centres, NGOs, grassroots organizations, trade unions, women’s groups, rural organizations and others. Each of the organizations and coalitions that constitute the Social Watch network is shaped and informed by its national context, each determining its own structure, direction and development.

In order to become a member of the network, a coalition has to sign the following Memorandum of Understanding with the Social Watch network (represented by the Coordinating Committee and the International Secretariat). It frames the relationship between the coalition and the network and defines responsibilities in order to protect the integrity and functioning of the network as a whole:

Memorandum of Understanding
(Updated September 2009)

  1. Coalitions must be based in the country and be active in social development issues in that country (not exclusively as academics or consultants).
  2. The basic commitment of each coalition to the international network is to monitor and report on the internationally agreed commitments and obligations around social justice and gender equality, according to its own priorities and drawing its own conclusions. The international network, in turn, commits to increase the visibility and outreach of these reports, by including them in the annual Social Watch report, its website and through other available tools.
  3. The national coalitions are expected to use their national reports and the global reports in advocacy and lobbying activities and other forms of public action at a national level. They are also expected to inform about their Social Watch related activities to the rest of the network, as an essential part of experience-sharing and learning from each other’s success, challenges and even failures or difficulties.
  4. They must be inclusive towards other organizations, work actively to broaden awareness of Social Watch and encourage the participation of other organizations in the Social Watch activities and their incorporation to the coalition.
  5. They are responsible for raising funds for their activities. National coalitions are not dependent on funds provided by, or financially accountable to, the Secretariat or any other international Social Watch entity.
  6. Each coalition determines its own organizational structure. It appoints one member/participating organization as focal point in order to facilitate the communication with the International Secretariat and the other organs of the network.
  7. The participation in a Social Watch coalition and the exercise of governmental functions are absolutely incompatible. Only Non-profit organizations can be part of the Social Watch network.
  8. Cooperation with other national platforms will be encouraged at sub-regional, regional and global levels.
  9. In cases of conflicts between members/participating organizations of a coalition on issues related to Social Watch (e.g. nomination of the focal point, contribution to the Social Watch Report, nomination of delegates to the Social Watch Assembly) all parties involved have to demonstrate their willingness to solve the problems at national level. If, in exceptional cases, an agreement cannot be reached, the Coordinating Committee can take the necessary decisions.
  10. In order to demonstrate their affiliation to the network all coalitions are encouraged to use the Social Watch logo for national activities directly related to goals and objectives of Social Watch. They are requested to inform the International Secretariat about these activities. In other cases they have to seek permission from the International Secretariat or the Coordinating Committee in advance for other uses of the Social Watch name and logo.

2.     Social Watch General Assembly

The General Assembly is the Social Watch network’s highest governing body. Policy discussion and medium- to long-term strategic planning happens in its realm, which serves as a decision-making forum. In addition, it is also a space for reinforcing the sense of belonging and strengthening the network’s identity and unity.

The Assembly takes place every two to three years. Up to now General Assemblies took place in Rome 2000, Beirut 2003, Sofia 2006 and Accra 2009. The 5th General Assembly will be held in Philippines in 2011.

Each national coalition can nominate two delegates to participate in the Assembly. The participation of coalitions in the Assembly is guided by the following principles:

  1. The national coalition should have sent in at least one national report for one of the last four Social Watch Reports
  2. New coalitions who are already participating actively in Social Watch (writing national reports, responding to other initiatives) should be invited, in order to deepen their knowledge of the network and encourage further participation.
  3. Potential new coalitions who have not yet written national reports may not be invited to the Assembly but could be invited instead to the regional capacity-building workshops.
  4. Situations in which there are doubts about the legitimacy of the national focal point or the ability of that organization to minimally meet the commitments agreed to in the MoU, must be treated on a case-by-case basis by the Coordinating Committee.

In addition to setting medium- and long-term priorities and strategies and identifying potential alliances in advocacy, the Assembly elects members of the Coordinating Committee to whom coordination and political leadership between the assemblies are delegated.

3.     Coordinating Committee

The Coordinating Committee (CC) is the key political body for the ‘daily’ work of the network, with an organizational structure, which requires fluid communications, facilitated principally through an email list, plus biannual face-to-face meetings and regular telephone conferences to discuss specific issues.

The CC is composed of up to 16 members, two from each of six regions (Africa, Asia, the Arab region, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe), plus a maximum of three members co-opted by the CC, and the Social Watch Coordinator as ex-officio member from the International Secretariat.

The 12 regional members of the CC are nominated by the regional groups at the General Assembly and elected by all attendees of the Social Watch Assembly. They are therefore accountable to the network as a whole and they are not formal representatives of their regions, as there is no existing mechanism that would legitimate such representation. The membership of the CC shall be composed with sensitivity to gender balance, i.e., as a principle, from each region one woman and one man shall be elected; cooptation of members by the CC shall also be gender sensitive.

To insure renewal of the membership of the CC and to provide participation opportunities to different members, it is strongly suggested that each of the regional members of the CC should not be re-elected more then once, thus serving two following terms of up to six years. The term of the co-opted members ends with the General Assembly. Co-opted members can be selected by the new CC again.

The members of the CC appoint at the first meeting after the election two co-chairs (one man and one woman from different regions).

The effectiveness of the CC depends on the active participation of all members of the CC. Therefore, in order to guarantee the functioning of the CC, members have to fulfill several basic requirements:

  1. Capacity to participate in two CC meetings per year, several conference calls and the regular communication through the email list;
  2. Willingness and ability to represent Social Watch in international fora;
  3. Ability to communicate in English.

In between Assemblies the CC should provide political leadership and guidance and oversee the implementation of the decisions of the General Assembly.

The CC ensures the political visibility and participation of the network in relevant fora and processes.

Based on proposals from the members, the CC decides the principal theme for the annual Social Watch Report.

The CC oversees and supports the work of the Secretariat in between General Assemblies. These include:

  1. Review and approve projects, activity plans and budget/financial proposals and reports prepared by the Secretariat.
  2. Oversee the preparations for and the conduct of the General Assembly, including the Report to the Assembly.
  3. Work with Secretariat to stimulate the emergence of new national Social Watch coalitions and strengthen existing ones.

The CC reports about its activities to the General Assembly.

The CC decides the time and place of the General Assembly.

4.     International Secretariat

The Secretariat is the main executive body of Social Watch. The first external evaluation of the network (1995-2000) noted that, “Of the various roles in the Social Watch network, that of the Secretariat has changed the most”. Originally the Secretariat’s function was limited to the responsibility for the production of the Report, but due to the network’s growth it has subsequently incorporated a series of new functions, including research, capacity building, campaigning, promotion of the network, advocacy and its representation in international fora.

The Secretariat is directed by the Social Watch Coordinator, who both oversees the management of the Secretariat and represents the network to the outside world. The Secretariat reports to the Assembly and to the Coordinating Committee.