Coalition-building to Promote Social Development in Italy, Czech Republic and Poland

Federica Corsi and Jana Silverman

The first year of the European Commission funded project “Promoting Social Development: Building Capacities of Social Watch Coalitions” came to a close in February, with positive results for the Czech, Italian, and Polish Social Watch coalitions that are participating in this three-year initiative. In additon, the project contemplates several regional-level activities, the most important being the production of the first European Social Watch Report.

The project “Promoting Social Development: Building Capacities of Social Watch Coalitions” involves four civil society organizations from Italy including UCODEP as the lead agency, Karat from Poland, and Ekumenica Akademie of Prague, as well as Eurostep and Oxfam Novib, incorporates training and capacity-building activities, researching and reporting activities, and lobbying activities, with the aim of strengthening the work of the national Social Watch (SW) coalitions in the three countries and building stronger interactions between other European Social Watch coalitions.

In Italy, the SW coalition has taken advantage of this project to solidify the internal functioning of the group and heighten the profile of its work among academics, decision-makers and the media. In February, the coalition launched the Italian-language version of the 2008 SW Report in a series of events in Rome, Milan and Naples. The first launch in Rome which took place at the Parliament counted on the participation of over 70 people, including six MPs, civil society activists and journalists, and featured a debate between representatives of the national SW Coalition and the parliamentarians present on how to promote human rights in the current political and economic context. In Milan and Naples, members of the Italian SW Coalition together with Jana Silverman of the SW International Secretariat, presented the findings of the Report to packed audiences of students and academics. The Coalition has also officially presented the latest SW Report to the Committee on the Millennium Development Goals of the Italian House of Representatives and the Human Rights Commission of the Senate. Beyond organizing these successful launch events, the Italian SW Coalition has also been busy designing its new website:, which features a downloadable version of the national Report as well as additional information about the group´s activities.

During this inaugural year of the project, the Czech and Polish SW coalitions have focused their attention on preparing their first national Reports and enlarging their membership. In Poland, the coalition launched the first-ever SW Report in Polish in December at a special event in the national Parliament. In addition to including Polish language versions of the thematic articles in the global Report, the national Report features the contributions of 12 local civil society organizations in a special section of the publication that documents human rights violations in the country, specifically related to problems of litigation of rights, substandard conditions in detention centers, and ongoing discrimination against women, sexual minorities and refugees. Meanwhile, the Czech SW Coalition is in the final stages of producing its first Report, scheduled to be launched at the end of this month, and has also been active promoting the SW initiative in seminars and debates that have taken place at the national Parliament and local universities.

On top of the national level events that the three coalitions are involved in, this project also contemplates several regional-level activities, with the most important being the production of the first European Social Watch Report, which is intended not to duplicate the global or national-level Reports, but instead enhance the capacity of European coalitions to engage in joint dialogues on the construction and implementation of development and social policies. The Report aims to look at social issues from both a national and international (development cooperation) perspectives, and for that reason the first edition of this publication will focus on the topic of migration, which has internal as well as external implications for the European region. Brussels-based SW member group Eurostep, with support from the Italian organization Lunaria, is leading the preparation of this Report, which is scheduled to be published during the second semester of this year. Another international-level initiative of this project is an investigation of successful experiences among SW national coalitions, using Benin, Brazil, Germany and Philippines as case studies. The results of this research, designed to stimulate a mutual learning process among the global network, is expected to be made available on-line in April of this year on the SW website. It is hoped that a combined result of these activities is not just a heightened presence of SW in the three countries directly involved in the project but also the strengthening of processes of information-sharing, know-how transfer, and capacity building among members of the SW network in the region as well as on a global level.