Caterina Marchioro

Social Watch Philippines (SWP) can certainly be considered a successful national Social Watch experience. It was established in 1997, as part of Social Watch International (SWI), in order to monitor and advocate the progress of the government commitments to the social development goals as provided for in the Copenhagen Summit in 1995. Guided by strong, highly professional and very dedicated personalities, SWP has been able to actuate its mandate in an efficient manner, becoming a recognised leader in the monitoring and advocacy on the MDGs at the local, national, regional and international levels.

SWP strength derives from being a large network of advocates in which different matters regarding poverty and social development are represented. The in-depth, unless still quite informal, relationship among coalition’s members shows an excellent opportunity for a constant capabilities development, not only through trainings, but also through comparison of different experiences and practices among clusters.

With its small and cohesive group of convenors, representing the decision making body of the coalition, SWP decides in an efficient way and creates effective strategies. Compatibly with its limited human and financial resources, SWP makes a great effort in organizing consultations and meetings among its members at national and local levels, involving them in the definition of the framework, process and strategies for their common activities.

SWP’s structure broadly follows the SW International structure, even if in a smaller scale. There is a Secretariat with a coordinator and two persons as contractual staff. There are local coordinators for the three main islands of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Because of the growing amount of activities carried out by SWP and the increasing number of members becoming part of the network, at the Secretariat level more resources and personnel would be desirable, for the Secretariat itself to be able to give a greater attention and support to the local clusters.

At present, SWP is in the process of exploring the possibility of institutionalizing the Philippine Social Watch network as an entity: the convenors have recognized the value of a legal statute mainly to apply directly for new fundings. In the formalization process, SWP may consider to accept other members of the coalition in the decision making body. The SWP Secretariat takes care of coordinating the network activity, as guided by the convenors.

There is at least one national consultation every year and regional consultations (Islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) take place once each second year.

The relationship among the members of the coalition has been harmonious so far: no conflict has been experienced. SWP consults its members on the framework, the process and the strategies for their common advocacy activities: this is the main reason why these good relations exist.

SWP receives its funds by International Organizations: Oxfam Novib funded SWP’s activity until June 2008; in June 2007 SWP was able to get funding from UNDP; also Christian Aid and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung offered a partnership with SWP. For the year 2008, SWP has approached other international organizations for possible support. SWP does not receive funds directly from the network’s members even though they financially support its initiatives.

SWP’s strong commitment in research has generated a series of high credible data and analysis regarding development, governance, fiscal policies, poverty, etc. SWP’s publications are very suitable for advocacy: using data based on empirical evidence and a language that is accessible and understandable by all, they provide a human face to the MDGs.

Since 1996, SWP annually contributes to the Global Social Watch Report with a Philippine Country Report. Once Social Watch International has provided the theme and the guidelines of the annual report, the SWP convenors meet and assign to a writer the task of preparing a draft for the Philippine report, which will be then submitted for initial comments to the convenors. After this revision, a second draft is distributed among the members. A third draft might be prepared as well, gathering further comments, and is submitted to SW International for the editing.

Moreover, SWP produced its own National Report: in 2001 (on the status of social development), in 2003 (on the monitoring of social development), in 2005 (on the status of the MDGs) and in 2007 (on midterm assessments of the MDGs). SWP uses the Global and the National Reports in its engagement with the national and local governments and with other international agencies, as well as in information campaigns.
In the Philippines, legislators and their staff, academics, researchers, NGOs and students are the most interested in the analysis found in SW reports.

The BCI - Basic Capabilities Index (which in the Philippines is still also referred to as the QLI -Quality of Life Index ) is used quite extensively by SWP.1 BCI/QLI serves as an alternative measure for the level of poverty and summarizes the overall gains in human development. This index can be a term of comparison for poverty situation which the Philippine government claims to be enhanced, on the basis of the official poverty measure. Actually, BCI/QLI index consistently points to a lack of improvement in poverty level. The measure is also very effective in comparing situation in regions and provinces across the country; it effectively speaks about disparity and problems related to the exclusion.
The Gender Equity Index (GEI) is used in monitoring achievements in gender parity, according to the MDG 3 (Promote gender equality and empower women). GEI is especially useful because of a lack of effective measure of MDG 3 in the country.
Capacity building of the coalitions’ members in monitoring, research, data gathering, analysis, lobby and advocacy is considered a key issue. Big efforts are made to organize at least once a year workshops, seminars and trainings addressed to NGOs, academics, legislative, national government agencies, local government officials and media.

SWP has created a good relationship with mass media which have been attracted by the relevant issues raised by the network and the brave statements from high credible personalities supported by eye opening analyses based on extensive research.

In its lobby and advocacy activities at the national level SWP has proved to be very effective as the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) – worldwide recognized as one of the best practices in budget advocacy – shows. The partnership between NGOs and local government and the involvement of academics can be considered key elements in its success: through the analysis of the budget proposed by the Executive and the formulation of an alternative budget for MDGs related expenditures, SWP and other civil society organizations partnering with legislators achieved increases in the national budget for education, health, agriculture and environment.
Through the ABI, civil society groups and their partner legislators were able to achieve P5.3 billion increases in 2007 national budget for basic and tertiary education as well as P6.3 billion increases in 2008 national budget for basic education, higher education, health, agriculture and environment.

It is noteworthy to highlight the lessons learned by SWP in the ABI:

  • the need to engage and partner with key players in the budget process (i.e.: legislators and executive);
  • the need for NGOs and CSOs with different advocacies to get together;
  • the need to be familiar with the budget process of the Country;
  • the need to utilize the alternative budget as an effective tool for advocacy;
  • the need to strengthen CSO’s research and data gathering capabilities and to enhance the packaging of their advocacies.

ABI represents a breakthrough in Philippine history, since the media have considered its campaign as an exceptional occasion for exposing to the public credible information on how the national budget is crafted and which are the implications on the population.

At the local level SWP with the MDG localization and monitoring programme succeeded in promoting with the local government units an evidence-based planning and budgeting using MDGs as frame.

At the regional level, SWP as former Secretariat of Social Watch Asia, promoted anti-poverty and social development advocacies, including on the MDGs’, through the organization of meetings and venues that represent opportunities to assess the status of regional social development and to share experiences and knowledge among different Countries.

SWP actively participates in the SWI general Assembly and is member of the Coordinating Committee. The national coalition largely promotes and utilizes the SWI reports, the BCI and the GEI in its lobby, advocacy and capacity building activities.

SWP is also very active in the international arena. It is often invited to participate to global decision making forums on social development where it brings recommendations coming from its local, national and regional initiatives and consultations.

Good practices learnt from the Philippine Social Watch Coalition:
  • Working as a network of NGOs, CSOs and individuals with advocacy on different subjects (education, health, environment, agriculture, human rights, gender, etc).
  • Frequent consultations/meetings among the members of the network. These venues offer the possibility to share experience, gather inputs in terms of strategies, strengthen good relationship and foster cooperation.
  • Involvement of personalities from the academic and political circuits. It helps giving to the network high impact and visibility.
  • Regular communications with the International Secretariat and the Coordinating Committee.
  • Active approach to and negotiation with new partners in order to find possible financial support for the network’s activities.
  • Strong commitment in research on poverty and social development matters that generates high credible data and analysis.
  • Use of an accessible and understandable language in publications.
  • Regular contribution to the Global SW Report with a Country Report and production of a proper National Report and other publications.
  • Extensive use of the Reports, the BCI and the GEI in the information campaigns, workshops, seminars, etc.
  • Frequent organization of specific seminars, trainings, workshops for improving the competencies of national coalition members in monitoring, analyzing and making researches, in the lobby and advocacy activities.
  • Engagement and partnership with key players in the political arena 
  • Good relationship with media.
  • Integration between local, national, regional and international activities. Linking the local with the global gives more effectiveness to the lobby and the advocacy carried out at the different levels.