For: ICDA Secretariat, Brussels
16 May, 2002
What has happened?
The January PrepCom
The initial ICFfD process culminated in Monterrey in March this year with general commitments from the participating stakeholders to continue to process in order to fight poverty and work for sustainable development. The last PrepCom in January ended with agreeing on a weak "Monterrey Consensus" document with a limited number of commitments from stakeholder.
See JGF's article in the report from the UNCTAD-Civil Society Dialogue that took place on 10 December 2001 in Geneva but was published in 2002. That made it possible to include comments on some positive and negative elements of the FfD outcome document from a gender and women-in-development perspective. See the annex to the article for an overview of commitments and gender references in the outcome document.
The outcome document does define development as "people-centered, gender sensitive sustainable development" and sets up the rudiments of a follow-up process. In January there was much official emphasis on the importance and value of the approaching Monterrey Conference and general stakeholder commitments to a long-term process which served to veil the weakness of the document.
Monterrey: Global Forum 'Financing the Right to Sustainable Development with Equity' and Conference
With the document agreed ahead of time, the conference was able to and had to focus on other elements than outcome document negotiations. The Global Forum took place over three days prior to the Conference and produced a NGO statement that was presented at the Conference.
At the Conference, Roundtables with participation of all stakeholders, including civil society organizations/NGOs, were the main focus in addition to side-events. This meant a different kind of focus for NGO lobby with more emphasis on issue area advocacy towards governmental and IGO officials and other NGOs. During the PrepComs NGOs had appointed an International Steering Committee (of which JGF was a member) to assist the Mexican NGO Organizing Committee and help facilitate and coordinate NGO participation in the ICFfD Roundtables. The ISC worked throughout the Forum and the Conference. NGO experiences from the Roundtables were varied, very much dependent upon the quality of co-chairing which was performed by a mix of government and IGO representatives. In some roundtables NGOs managed to get their suggestions in the co-chairs' summaries; in others they had a hard time getting the floor.
As usual a lot of NGO networking, coordination, exchang of views, and information dissemination was taking place. The FfD Women's Caucus continued to meet daily and coordinated inputs to the Roundtables and Women Caucus statements and actions. Many NGO activities took place, also gender focused events. Please see ICDA Update No.40-41, January- April 2002, section 7 for information on the "High-Level Panel of Ministers and Economists on Gender Issues" that was organized by WEDO, UNDP with cooperation of UNIFEM and DAW/Interagency TaskForce on Gender and FfD. It was well attended and an opportunity to launch the WEDO -UNDP Gender Policy Briefing Kit which is also described in the ICDA Update and available for downloading on the WEDO and UNDP websites.
One of the proposals from the FfD Women's Caucus which came out of Monterrey is the establishment of a BWI/WTO/UN External Monitoring Group to follow the follow-up and implementation process. The proposal was presented in a couple of the FfD Roundtables and also at the first FfD follow-up event, the ECOSOC/BWI meeting in April (see below). The concept and tool will be discussed and developed in the FfD-Women's Consultation e-list that WEDO facilitates.
The occasion of the conference did manage to coax a little bit more development assistance pledges from the EU and the US and a few others, but there were no promises to correct the international financial architecture or transform the international trade system to fair and equitable systems for all.
At the close of the Conference most NGOs agreed on the final statement presented to the official plenary that "we NGOs are not a part of the consensus" but that we are engaged in the process and would monitor it closely to measure whether the few commitments made and the many good intentions would be implemented. Many of the NGOs also agreed to maintain NGO-FfD networks in order to feed Monterrey results into Johannesburg as well as to work on FfD follow-up and implementation.
Initial Follow-up at UN ECOSOC/BWI Annual Meeting
On 22 April, following the WB/IMF Development Committee Meeting in Washington, D.C., the annual ECOSOC/BWI meeting took place and was as such the first official follow up of the Monterrey Conference. The first day of this meeting was dedicated to ICFfD follow-up to discuss how all the parties could cooperate in implementing the promises made in Monterrey. It was a first in that all stakeholders were represented in this forum as opposed to the usual group of government officials. Four NGO representatives participated in the two parallel Roundtables, two NGOs in each Roundtable, which was the morning session of the meeting. A small token participation which needs to be evaluated and developed.
At the UN ECOSOC/BWI meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated the mission of the follow up and the forum: "Our challenge now is to maintain the positive spirit that led to the Monterrey Consensus, and translate it into real and meaningful implementation. The consensus has enormous potential to bring about significant, overdue change."
The Croatian Ambassador Ivan Simonovic, who was one of the vice-chairs of the UN FfD Bureau and is the president of the Economic and Social Council, described "the Monterrey conference (as) an important first step in creating a coherent and more participatory multilateral system that is more beneficial to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals." The "goal is obviously to make financial, trade and economic activities and systems more supportive of our development goals as well as to make the most out of existing institutions by strengthening cooperation between them." Simonovic said, "If we are going to take 'staying engaged' from the Monterrey Consensus seriously, we have to establish a close link between individual millennium development goals and principles set for their financing in Monterrey." He added that, "Monterrey has set up the right principles and that now it is time for action."
Good will exists officially, but action is still missing. So NGOs/CSOs continue to have a long road in front of us.
The FfD International Steering Committee has continued to function in this interim period and facilitated the selection of the four NGO representatives with an even balance between North and South and male and female, as the ISC also had done for the ICFfD Roundtable NGO/CSO selection.
The ISC, which was established by NGOs at the PrepComs to focus on Global Forum and Monterrey Conference coordination for NGOs, will continue to function on an interim basis until a permanent NGO representation and coordination can be established one way or another. It has also taken on the previous functions of the Small New York Working Group that facilitated NGO participation in the FfD PrepComs and process in cooperation with the UN NGLS and the FfD Secretariat up to Monterrey.
Links and Gaps from Doha, Monterrey to Johannesburg
Government and IGO officials have through out the FfD process pronounced the link between Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg as three steps in a joint process. Indeed the final document from Doha is often referred to in the Monterrey Consensus outcome document "because the formulations were already agreed in Doha". So officially these major events are linked.
At the recent ECOSOC/BWI meeting South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who was one of two envoys Annan appointed to the Monterrey Conference, noted to journalists that after establishing the millennium goals and dealing with the financing mechanisms at Monterrey, "there are still a number of gaps. Now we need a determined plan of action that essentially is what Johannesburg (World Summit on Sustainable Development) must deliver" in August. Manuel specifically identified effective aid and market access as some of the 'gaps'.
Linking results and gains from one conference and integrating them into the next is in principle a good practice. But by linking the conferences, officials enable the responsibility for the weaknesses and failures from one conference and event to be shoved on to the next. This gives them a longer time to deal with the problems of insufficient official commitments, lack of implementation and actions.
How to use these events to advocate our concerns and further our demands?
It is often discussed whether big international summits and UN conference are still valid means of furthering issues and causes. In spite of the problems and drawbacks, they have solid and constructive functions, as long as they are based on regional and national processes and participation. As NGOs we need to maintain any gains from one event and ensure that they are brought forward to the next. Due to the gaps (and craters) in the first two processes concerned here, a huge task has been placed on Johannesburg to achieve results that contribute in a major way to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed sustainable development goals and rights, i.e. huge tasks are placed on NGO shoulders, if we are willing and able to take them on.
The networks set up for the different UN, BWI, and WTO processes should cooperate and keep each other informed. The FfD process and now follow-up process is so inclusive in regards to issues that many issue and member networks can contribute to the follow-up process. Nordic and European NGOs need to decide how to continue to use (or not) the electronic networks that were active in the Monterrey process and then how to link and share information with for example the ETN. The ETN should also consider how to contribute to FfD follow-up.
As mentioned above, WEDO is presently continuing the FfD-WC list. A WEDO report on the FfD process is being prepared and will be published in a few months. K.U.L.U-Women and Development, Denmark, is evaluating its function as FfD Gender Focal Point for Europe and Nordic Countries and considering how to continue in the follow-up process. ICDA will continue to gather and disseminate FfD follow-up information on one of its weekly ICDA WTO Impact Lists. Clarification of European NGO interest and activities in the FfD follow-up, the links to other UN processes, and possible coordination and cooperation with ETN NGOs is welcome. In addition to the notes from this ETN meeting, ideas and inputs can be mailed to Janice G. FOERDE at
© Janice G. FOERDE