It is with gladness that I share with you some news and thoughts about some exciting things I have learned during the flurry of activities, conversations, advocacies and sharing in this gathering of CSOs for the WB annual meeting.
As you note ANSA EAP has not been investing much time and effort establishing presence in the many consultations and gathering of CSOs on the global level. This is due to our decision to focus our efforts especially during the start up phase of ANSA EAP - to the much needed work of consolidating the CSO networks towards a social accountability framing and perspective.
As I compose this letter, I look back to the time before ANSA EAP when the work of social accountability was seeded in the 2007 consultations held in Tagaytay, Philippines. In this event, Mary McNeil of the World Bank Institute in Washington DC and Andrew Parker of the WB Country Office in Manila, joined Phil CSO leaders in dialogue as they shared their analyses, programs, and initiatives in pushing a demand for good governance agenda and linking it to the concept of social accountability.
Much has happened between 2007 and today September 2011 – a good four years, ANSA EAP has been put up as a regional networking of networks and exerted a focused although initial effort to link the rich experiences and fruits of country and community level work of CSOs and citizen groups in an across the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Indonesia.
On the global front, other ANSAs (Africa, South Asia, and now just formally launched – ANSA MENA for the Middle East and North Africa) are putting flesh in the agenda of social accountability. Suffice it to say that the conversations and statements that permeate the Annual Meeting serve as demonstration of the process that the Bank is more strongly and formally supporting social accountability. More importantly, CSOs are openly embracing the perspective, cause and work of social accountability as they validate the imperative for increasing demand for good governance in the many sectoral and technical of their programs.
The idea of SAc has started to take flesh and is gaining ownership in the Bank. Expectations about what could be achieved on the front of poverty reduction, sustainable development and economic growth have been raised. Engagement with CSOs and citizen groups are becoming better articulated, structured and coordinated under various platforms.
Once again, the CSOs are making their voices heard! Some key issues that were passionately discussed and put on the table were:
- Climate change financing
- Program for Results
- Sustaining focus on gender and inequality
- Protecting safeguards
- Food security and nutrition financing
- Open data and right to information platforms
The ANSA has gained a spotlight as ANSA MENA was formally launched with high-level stakeholder signatories – no less than the Tunisian Minister of Finance, Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance, WB President Zoellick, WB VP for the Arab World, CARE Egypt (caretaker organization of ANSA MENA), and leading CSO representatives from the region.
ANSA MENA is welcomed with much expectation from the many CSOs from the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. It is after all the first structured space for CSO collaboration and thus a test for building the muscle of citizen and CSO coalition building in this part of the world.
The ANSA in MENA is poised to serve as a gateway to many other platforms for meaningful CSO and citizen participation towards shaping and directing development programing and implementation in the countries in the region.
Our counterpart CSOs in MENA are now gaining the experience of balancing the technical demands of engaging government and the Bank as well as the process of relationship building - of collaboration and coalition building; evidence based policy advocacy. Soon I believe they will move more rapidly and with confidence into other sector or thematic- focused coalition-building platforms addressing climate change, renewable energy, gender and development, and more.
I am enthused with the possibilities open to ANSA MENA at the same time cautious. The task before them and their partner CSOs is daunting. This is made more so by the very public and high profile launching that is accompanied by much dynamics and awakened interests.
I look back at the relatively safer space and below the radar way by which we in ANSA EAP were able to craft our agenda and focus. We had the chance to quietly immerse ourselves and listen to each other, we had the space to gain firmer foothold through our strategic and thematic initiatives. We had some time to nourish the fruit of our labor and even package them well.
Now we face the task of the calling attention of other stakeholders to what we have achieved so far and what we still could achieve given adequate support. Mobilising resources is indeed an uphill battle – not it seems for the country level work you our partners undertake – but for the regional – cross country efforts of coordination, linkage and knowledge management.
I am heartened though by my belief that we as ANSA EAP and the other ANSAs have contributed to the celebration of ANSA MENA. After all we were able to demonstrate how ANSA can serve as a working regional platform towards fostering CSO and citizen engagement in good governance.
One ANSA’s gain serves our common agenda, our shared ideals. The achievements of the ANSAs combined help feed the fire of our commitment to the work of social accountability.
During this annual meeting I realize more clearly that SAc is indeed a strategic framework for CSOs and citizen groups to engage the Bank as a key development stakeholder. There is much synergy and even synchronicity in our plans and frameworks. For example I most happy to share two important news:
- The designation of Ms. Lenora Aquino-Gonzalez as the Regional Coordinator for Civil Society Engagement in the East Asia Pacific Region (concurrent as the Senior External Relations Officer of the WB in Manila); and
- The plan to set up a CSO Facility to provide support - funding the CSOs and citizen groups focused on promoting good governance in development undertakings.
Nor’s appointment is the first ever Bank initiative to provide for a regional perspective and approach to engaging CSOs and citizens groups. This effectively provides ANSA EAP, as regional facility for CSO networking and capacity building, to have a direct partner and counterpart in the Bank.
Meanwhile the CSO facility gives us hope that resource mobilization for social accountability work becomes better and systematically addressed.
Indeed these are great beginnings that build on our past and existing efforts as mediating agents for citizen groups. Let us gain strength and encouragement that our work is gaining ground and we the advocates and front line workers who cultivate social accountability through various development platforms are able to attract more co-workers – advocates, resource mobilisers, technical support and intellectual stimulation in mainstreaming social accountability.