Social Watch Strategy Document and Framework of Activities 2011-2014

The following strategy paper is based on the input from the various discussions in the 5th Global Assembly of Social Watch, held in Manila, Philippines in July 12 to 15, 2011.

The Assembly thanked the Vice-President (Jejomar C. Bimay), Professor Leonor Briones from Philippines and Juan Somavia, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for their inputs in the assembly’s work and considered their remarks in the new framework in which this strategy was defined. (The video of the speech is at

This strategy document elaborates and updates the strategy adopted in Sofia (2006) and Accra (2009) 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 2010 MDG + 10 Conference and the Universal Social Protection Floor,
  • Durban Conference,
  • The 8 MDGs while acknowledging that they do not substitute the other commitments named in this section,
  • The 2010 Beijing + 15 Conference,
  • the Human Rights framework, which includes Economic, Social and Cultural rights, labor rights, women rights, environmental rights, rights of indigenous peoples and of migrants, right to self-determination, Convention on domestic workers and the right to development, and the right to information,
  • regional commitment and regional frameworks that advance the above principles,
  • national commitments, as formulated in national constitutions, government plans, budgets and laws, including in particular social, economic and cultural rights,
  • the principle of intergenerational justice and social inclusion.

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 social justice, respect for human rights and dignity, as well as freedom and lack of access to information are at the root of uprisings.

The governance structure of Social Watch is explained in a separate document that was adopted by the 2009 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.”

By demanding accountability for social, economic and gender justice we are claiming democracy.

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

3.      Social Watch in a changing environment

The current growth-led economic model is economically inefficient, socially unjust, environmentally damaging and politically unsustainable. Social Watch recognises the inter-linkages between the financial crisis, climate crisis, food crisis, fuel crisis, economic crisis, social, political and gender crisis. These crises do not appear in isolation but are manifestations of a growth model that has led to overconsumption, extreme inequality and the perpetuation of poverty, a phenomenon that is unacceptable in any manifestation and a human rights violation.

We identify the following key elements of the fast changing environment:

  1. The global economic and financial crisis that erupted in September 2008, the mobilisation of trillions of dollars to bail out the banking, automobile and other industries on the back of the people living in poverty with its consequences of impoverishment and unemployment and lack of decent work, the dismantling of social protection and public services, the increasing gender inequalities across the world and the discrediting of the until then prevailing mainstream economics;
  2. The recent steps forward in demanding social and economic justice, self-determination and dignity for all in the Arab countries and elsewhere that were achieved by popular movements, especially those involving young individuals, aided by new technologies;
  3. The ongoing struggles by popular movements, including farmers, workers, youth, etc., to face the continuation of regressive undemocratic practices and lack of rule of law in many other countries;
  4. The stagnation of the World Trade Organization trade negotiations and the subsequent proliferation of regional and bilateral free trade agreements among countries in asymmetric positions, which affect people in situation of poverty;
  5. The recognition of climate change as a threat to the very survival of our planet Earth and to food sovereignty, together with the reluctance of developed countries to recognize their responsibility in creating it and to accept the notions of global warming and climate justice, maintain the Kyoto Protocol and act accordingly;
  6. The emergence of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as a new power bloc, which has the potential to challenge or replicate the dominant economic power structure, and of the G-20. Global governance is increasingly based on informal power and this challenges multilateralism, excluding the voice of many countries and people worldwide;
  7. The debt crisis in Europe, the attempts to solve it with the same structural adjustment receipts that we know have failed elsewhere, resulting in a social crisis and emerging social movements;
  8. Many countries are suffering from situations of conflict. The issue of extractive industries and land grabs is becoming a common concern and the criminalisation of social protests is a common response in many places;
  9. Irresponsive channels for civil society organisations to demand social services, and in a number of countries civil society are severely constrained in their ability to function as watchdogs of national government policy-making and budget monitoring;
  10. The crisis in governance, lack of constitutional culture promoting impunity and unaccountable leadership as well as nepotism and corruption in a number of countries and politics that are rooted in exclusionary politics lacking governance that serves the promotion of gender and income inequality;
  11. The problem of youth lacking meaningful employment, education and opportunities, creating lost generations;
  12. The rise in trafficking of women, boys and girls and its evolving forms;
  13. The magnitude of the emerging forms of migration driven by social, disaster and climate factors;
  14. The rise in industrial and corporate interests driving militarization with destructive effects in community relations and the environment further crowding out funds for social services;
  15. The growing popular protest against the dominant global economic and financial model and its institutions, and the renewed role for the Bretton Woods Institutions.

4.      Influencing global and regional decision-making

  1. In spite of the UN being the legitimate multilateral body the powerful countries insist on putting the decision-making powers outside the UN, particularly over the economy, finance, environment and use of military force.
  2. 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 bodies related to gender, economy, and Human Rights and other related bodies, and the follow-up processes on Financing for Development, the UN Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis and the Rio process on Sustainable Development.
  3. Social Watch supports the creation and strengthening of regional alternatives that reflect the aspirations of the poor and marginalized populations.
  4. Overall, Social Watch favours, where global governance is necessary, more inclusive forms of it.
  5. Contribute and support the struggle for dignity and democracy in the Arab region and elsewhere.
  6. In the follow up of the Istanbul conference on the LDC’s Social Watch will contribute to the strengthening of civil society in LDC countries and advocate a widening of their space in global fora.
  7. In its advocacy, Social Watch will build alliances with trade unions, farmers’ organizations, independent media, social movements and other civil society organizations and networks, in particular those advocating for climate justice, and participate in the World Social Forum and other alliances such as AWID, DAWN, the International Working Group on Trade – Finance Linkages and the Tax Justice Network.
  8. Challenge the prevailing economic paradigm based on GDP growth worldwide.
  9. Contribute to the development of alternative indicators.
  10. 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.
  11. Social Watch advocates and networks around innovative sources of financing for poverty eradication, including financial transaction taxes, and an end to international tax evasion and money laundering.
  12. Based on the notion of investing in social justice, and acknowledging that it is good economic policy in the framework of preventing and combating the crises, contribute to universal and transformative social protection and to the macroeconomic and financial regulations needed to make it possible.
  13. Advocate for realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, through the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, including domestic violence, the ratification and full implementation of the ILO Convention of Domestic Workers and of CEDAW and equivalent regional instruments.
  14. Advocate against the social exclusion of migrant communities and for the ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of Migrants.
  15. Advocate for self-determination of people and their full control over their resources as a crucial way to protect their social and economic rights.

5  Capacity building and sustaining national level action

Social Watch will work with its members in creating social citizenship and democratic and actively support the efforts of other regions and sub-regions to design and implement capacity building programmes for watchers. Building on the strength of the network, Social Watch improves the capacity of its members. There should be increased mechanisms for South – South capacity building across regions.

Social Watch will make efforts to support the legitimization of the work of its members at the national level.

It will also promote, encourage and build capacity to come up with alternative development models and conceptualize them.

Social Watch will create spaces and mechanisms for young and emerging leaders to develop skills and capacities on social, economic and gender analyses and justice.

6. Communications

Social Watch will enhance its capacities to communicate within the network as well as externally, and with the media. With respect to the latter the capacities, realities and needs differ among the national coalitions and this will be taken into account in developing communication tools to develop a structured approach to enable national coalitions to document and project their messages.

7.   Improving the tools of the network

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, and will recognize Arabic and Russian as official languages of Social Watch. In addition, we will further diversify our use of innovative communication tools.

8. Strengthening and expanding the network

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.

New members

In the coming years, Social Watch will increase the number of its members, especially Africa and the Caribbean, and will use the 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.

9.   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, has not been elaborated and we are missing opportunities to learn from each other. For further information on the governance structure of Social Watch see Social Watch Governance Structure available at

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.

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.    Participation mechanisms

  • On the Gender Indexes and other operational tools for gender equality, continue the discourse and analysis of what constitutes transformative strategies for gender justice and put gender analysis in all the activities performed by the Social Watch network.
  • Support the work in relation to the conference on sustainable development, which is addressed in the coming Social Watch report, with a view to achieve climate justice. Local and solidarity economy should be promoted with a strengthening of the communities in their sustainable economic independence which is inevitable in poverty eradication and is a part of the climate change prevention. There should be more information exchange oriented to the technology and know-how transfer. It means to enable the people and communities to get information about existing and functioning alternatives from the fields of sustainable technology (e.g. energy, agriculture, water treatment etc) and know how (e.g. local cycle’s management, participatory economy, alternative financial institutions, local currencies, etc.).
  • Engage with the advocacy on global finance, economy and development related activities building on the findings and the reporting of Social Watch national groups on the impact of the crisis to engage in the global discussions, promoting the view that investing in people living in poverty is economically sound as well as an ethical imperative.
  • Promote South – South cooperation between civil society for capacity-building and develop strategies to deal with the constraining of space for civil society in a number of countries creating obstacles for civil society as watchdogs that keep national governments accountable.
  • Support that democratic practices contribute to building a just rule of law at the service of society and aiming at the protection and fulfilment of human rights for all.
  • Create a driving force in the discussion about future social development based on universal and transformative social protection and an alternative to the prevailing growth-oriented paradigm.
  • Implement a human rights-based approach to strategies and policies on poverty eradication, social inclusion and the economic model.
  • To make the right to information a priority and consider partnering with other organisations, especially in the light of its quality as an enabling factor for budget analysis, and recognizing that it is a critical tool for the fight against corruption, and the practice of active citizenship and democracy.
  • Strengthen the synergies among the previous approaches and further develop budget analysis as a tool for their practical implementation at the national and regional level.