New European Commission Project Promises to Strengthen the Global Social Watch Network

Jana Silverman

In crucial times, “Making anti-poverty and gender policies accountable to citizens”, the new project involving the European Commission (EC), Oxfam Novib and Social Watch, aims at further invigorating the reach of the network.

On January 1, 2009, the implementation began of an inventive and comprehensive new project involving the European Commission (EC), Oxfam Novib and Social Watch. This project, titled “Making anti-poverty and gender policies accountable to citizens”, will be carried out by the Social Watch network with the financial support of the EC and Oxfam Novib for a period of three years. Its overall objective is to contribute to the reduction of poverty and the promotion of gender equity by advocating for the implementation of the commitments undertaken by governments and international institutions on gender equity and poverty reduction, while its specific objective is to support the democratic governance of the network and to reinforce the capacity of Social Watch (SW) member organizations in non-OECD countries to engage in the monitoring of social policies by their governmental authorities. It is hoped that this project will spur the growth of the SW network in both a qualitative and quantitative sense, by strengthening the advocacy and reporting skills of SW national coalitions and by helping to expand the network in countries where SW has previously not been able to make inroads..

The specific activities that will be funded by the new project include the bi-annual SW General Assembly, tentatively programmed to be held in 2009 in Ghana and in 2011 in the Philippines; two meetings a year of the SW Coordinating Committee; yearly capacity-building workshops for Watchers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America; the redesign of the SW website; and the publication and launching of the SW annual Report in English, Spanish, French and Arabic. In particular, the publication of the Report in these two new languages (French and Arabic) will provide current and future Social Watch national groups in regions such as West Africa and the Middle East a powerful tool for their work both in lobbying national governments and in mobilizing grassroots constituencies around gender and social rights issues. In addition to the publication of the global versions of the Gender Equity Index (GEI) and Basic Capabilities Index (BCI), the project will support the methodological design and development of pilot versions of the GEI and the BCI on a sub-national level in Brazil, India, and the Philippines, thus allowing for a greater understanding of how regional socioeconomic variations impact on the application of national-level gender and social policies in developing countries.

Oxfam Novib is supporting the project as the principal grantee, and is responsible for channelling the financial resources to the organizations which are responsible for implementing the activities mentioned above. Specifically, the project partner organizations are the Instituto del Tercer Mundo (ITeM), which houses the SW International Secretariat in Uruguay; INESC in Brazil; CIDEP in El Salvador; Espace Associatif in Morocco; SODNET in Kenya; Third World Network-Africa in Ghana; Silaka in Cambodia; AER, the organization which houses the Social Watch PhillippinesPhilippines Secretariat; and CYSD, the host organization of the National Social Watch Coalition in India. It should be noted that the funds that these SW member organizations will receive as a result of the project will not be used to carry out any specific national-level activities but for initiatives that benefit and involve the network as a whole, in accordance with the SW Memorandum of Understanding.

The political guidance for the implementation of the project will be provided by the Coordinating Committee which is elected by the SW membership at the periodic General Assemblies. However, in order to provide leadership regarding the administrative aspects of the project, such as contracting, budgeting and reporting, a Project Management Committee (PMC) was established, which is composed of the two Oxfam Novib officers overseeing the project, the Manager of ITeM, as well as the co-chairs of the SW Coordinating Committee. An expanded meeting of the PMC, which included representatives of almost all of the project partner organizations, took place on February 17 in Lima, Peru. At this successful “kick-off” gathering, the contracts between the partner groups were signed, and guidelines for the management and implementation of the project were discussed.

This project is a unique opportunity at a crucial moment for Social Watch to heighten its impact on policymaking regarding gender and social issues on a national and international level, and to consolidate itself as a democratic, transparent civil society network with a truly global reach. We at the Social Watch International Secretariat thank all of the organizations which assisted in the proposal process, and we look forward to the participation of all Watchers in the diverse project activities.