As the debate about what comes next after 2015 moves forward, it’s important for civil society to look at our past work and learn some lessons.
Throughout my 10 years of leading CONCORD and being involved with civil society the most comprehensive piece of work done by CSOs across the world on ‘content’ and policy issues was the GCAP international declaration. We should use it as a starting point for any update on policy content, and keep this ‘policy’ process as short as possible.
No need (or time) to re-invent the wheel
Considering the limited time and resources we have in this process, it is important not to lose any time in rebuilding what we have done already. Ironically, as CSOs we are champions of re-writing documents that keep us talking amongst ourselves and discussing intellectually exciting issues… However the urgent need is elsewhere!
Developing a real political strategy of change
We all know that in order to influence the political agenda we need a coherent multilevel political campaign that focuses on political leaders and political parties as well as decision & opinion makers. The basis of this kind of campaign should be a strategy of change. Such a campaign must address all levels: from local and regional, to national and international. Such a wide work should be “shared” among our sectors and organizations depending on their focus, mandate, capacity and resources.
I also believe a clear division of labour should take place to avoid or at least limit a tendency to engage in unfortunate and useless competition and duplication. This kind of initiative requires adequate and predictable resources. A specific group of actors should look at this aspect well in advance in order to engage our organizations with confidence in this battle. I believe the ongoing National deliberations should focus more on ‘strategies of change/influence’, than on ‘content/policy’ discussions.
A narrative on “the World We Want!”
I believe that too often CSOs/NGOs present ‘policy’ positioning as narratives for campaigns or add a few slogans that are supposed to reflect our main messages. From my perspective, this confusion between policy content, slogans and narrative has weakened the impact of many previous campaigns. Therefore I believe such a new “political awareness campaign for change” must develop a simple, comprehensive narrative directed to politicians and decision/opinion makers. We don’t necessarily need to agree unanimously on each policy detail; nevertheless we should be able to build a common narrative that would be the basis of our communications. Such work to develop comprehensive narratives is ongoing within some of our organizations, therefore it shouldn’t be so difficult (if rightly facilitated) to bring those as an input into a collective work to elaborate such a join narrative.
Reaching out to broad families of “CSO actors” and other global players
I believe one of the limits of the former GCAP campaign regarding the MDGs has been the low impact we had in engaging with other CSO actors (beyond the traditional Development Cooperation framework). This new global agenda cannot be promoted as a credible alternative without Environmental NGOs & climate change campaigners, without the HR & Democracy actors (especially in the light of the recent so-called Arab springs), without the social-economy actors (starting by cooperatives & fair trade movements, etc.), without alternative political movements and academy networks, without Trade Unions, faith-based organizations, Indigenous people & feminists/women movements. The next WSF in Tunisia should be a moment where we all agree on the ‘principle’ and basic conditions of running a common campaign. Then, it would be too late!
While I share our positions vis-à-vis the role the UN should be playing at different levels, we all know that a new ambitious agenda cannot be implemented if the WB (and other Investment Banks), WTO, IMF and G20 are out of the game! In other words, targeting the support of the SG of the UN for this agenda is far from being enough!
We must also focus on the leadership (and Boards) of each of these institutions as there is no way to change the core of our economic model and shift to a truly sustainable & enforceable HR & environmental agenda without them. Within each of these organizations there are also groupings that may share our vision and values. We need to mobilize them while strongly challenging their current core business and mandate.
Governance & coordination
We observe that for the moment there are six main international players engaging explicitly in this ‘post-2015’ agenda: The Beyond 2015 international campaign, GCAP campaign, CIVICUS, the INGO grouping (linked to BCSC), the new joint BetterAid/Open Forum international Platform (CPDE) and the International Forum of National Platforms of Development NGOs (IFP/FIP).
I suggest that these six ‘initial’ groupings create a smooth coordination mechanism with the main mandate of:
- ensuring coherence and synergies across the different processes,
- making proposals to mobilize resources (also for the national level),
- providing timely and transparent information (to all regional, national and local actors) on the official talks and processes
- engaging in strategic talks with other international networks such as Cooperatives international, ITUC, Environment NGOs, Climate Change leaders, etc. while encouraging the other sub-geographic levels to undergo the same outreach work.
And when other international actors join the process, this group should offer a seat to them, enlarging the coordination mechanism.“Wisdom is to have dreams that are big enough not to lose sight when we pursue them!”
Let be brave and ambitious! As Oscar Wilde says: “Wisdom is to have dreams that are big enough not to lose sight when we pursue them!”. The three next-years and the post-2015 agenda should offer significant milestones and opportunities to move the world in the right direction! Business as usual is not an option anymore.