Social Watch is a worldwide network with members in over 60 Countries around the world, comprising about 400 citizens’ organizations struggling to eradicate poverty and the cause of poverty, to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights. The network was created in 1995, the same year two high-level United Nations conferences on Social Development (Copenhagen Summit)1 and on Women (Beijing Conference)2 took place. By participating in those conferences and their preparatory meetings, civil society organizations understood the importance of creating adequate mechanisms to monitor the Governments and to ensure a follow-up to those Summits. The creation of Social Watch stems from an “obvious” lacuna: there were hardly any mechanisms to commit Governments to implementing social development policies.3 Indeed, Social Watch was promoted in order to remind Governments and International Organizations of their commitments, to transform their promises in reality and to independently track their implementation, country by country and at the international level. Since the adoption of the UN Millennium Declaration,4 Social Watch has been sternly monitoring worldwide the Governments compliance with the agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): these time bounded targets were conceived as an initial, very concrete and measurable, attempt to render Governments accountable, to their own citizens and also to the international community, of their achievement of important development objectives. As an international NGO watchdog network, from the very beginning Social Watch undertook the task of monitoring the fulfilment of the MDGs and - in a more inclusive and comprehensive perspective - kept its role of measuring social development progresses year by year in each country.

Criteria for selecting the case studies
The four case studies summarized here are: Benin, Brazil, Germany and Philippines. For the selection, different criteria were taken into consideration:

a. equal representation of the four continents where Social Watch is present.

This criterion enables to report on the life of SW national coalitions in different contexts (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America): the activities carried out in the South are hardly comparable with those in the North, and this publication wanted to give a sample of SW coalition life in its different geographical areas.

b. long-term membership in Social Watch.

Being part of the network since its creation (or as in the case of Benin since 2005) is an essential condition for evaluating the national coalitions’ constitution processes, evolution and functioning. Apart from this, national coalitions which have been joining the SW network for a long time have a historical background and a valuable experience which contributes to the identification of the best practices developed and consolidated during the years.

c. active membership in the network at the local and at the international level.

This last criterion is strictly linked to the capacity of national coalitions to be active both at the local and the international level. The Social Watch network operates according to a very basic and short Memorandum of Understanding that establishes mutual expectations between the network and its national groups, respecting the autonomy of each national coalition and recognising democratic horizontal decision-making. Thus, most of the activities of the network, stimulated by the SW International Secretariat, rely on the autonomous initiative of SW national coalitions, on their capacities to stimulate debates at a local level and on the interaction with the International Secretariat at the international level.5

The survey was carried out by professional researchers, each of them responsible for investigating one of the four case studies. A common methodology was agreed upon and used as a guideline by each researcher in order to allow comparability among the different case studies.

Dimensions for analysis
The investigation of each case study was developed according to five dimension analyses that took into consideration key aspects for the assessment of the national coalition’s performance. These dimensions are relevance, efficiency and sustainability, effectiveness, strategy and impact, and coherence and complementarities. The emphasis was on processes and practices rather than in concrete achievements, since processes, within the logic of learning from each other’s experience, become much more interesting than a mere evaluation of the the results: the analysis of a process implies understanding why and how certain activities were successful or unsuccesful.

A final note: although the findings in this study cannot be scientifically proved, they are mostly the result of an objective, even if sometimes personal, interpretation of the authors based on the information directly provided by the national coalition’s members and collected through other specific sources (websites, publications, internal documents, training materials, etc..

It is also worth mentioning that this study was conceived within the implementation of the project funded by the European Commission “Monitoring Social Development: building capacities of Social Watch Coalitions”6 whose main objective is to enhance capacities of Social Watch national platforms in Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. This research and the best practices stressed in this summary would like to contribute to the inspiration of a debate within these three national coalitions in order to enable them to assess their performance and boost their functioning at all levels.


1 The 1995 World Summit on Social Development adopted three core objectives (poverty alleviation, expansion of productive employment and social integration) and 11 major social concerns (poverty alleviation, population, health, education, employment, shelter, environment, disaster, crime, social protection, family).

2 The 1995 Bejing conference took into consideration several areas of concern related to the situation of women around the world. Among them: the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women, unequal access to education, health care and related services, inequality between men and women in economic structures, in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels, in participating in all communication systems, persistent discrimination against and violations of the rights of women and girls.

3 Mirjam van Reisen, “The Lion’s Teeth. The prehistory of Social Watch”, Social Watch - Occasional Papers 01, 2001.

4 In September 2000 the Millennium Summit adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Summit identified 8 goals to be achieved by the year 2015:
1) Reduction by half of the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger.
2) Achievement of universal primary education.
3) Promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.
4) Reduction of child mortality rates by 2/3.
5) Improvement of maternal health and increase access to reproductive health services.
6) Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
7) Environmental sustainability.
8) Promotion of international partnership for development.

5 Four main structures can be identified within Social Watch: the General Assembly, the Coordinating Committee, the International Secretariat and the national coalitions. Alongside these structures, a spontaneous process of regional-level organisation is taking place in different regions. The International Secretariat, which implements the networks policies, is located at the Third World Institute in Montevideo, Uruguay.

6 The project, whose beneficiaries are the SW national coalitions in Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic is led by Ucodep (IT) in partnership with Karat (POL), EAP (CZ), Mani Tese (IT), Lunaria (IT), Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica (IT), (IT), Oxfam Novib (NE), Eurostep (BE).