Action Against Poverty

Reflections on civil society mobilisation in the Arab World around the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, by Henri Valot, CIVICUS Millennium Development Goal Campaign Manager

Dear Friends,

I have just returned from Cairo, Egypt where I attended the Arab Regional Meeting of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and would like to share with you some of the outcomes of the meeting.

Organised by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and the Association for Health and Environmental Development (AHED), the meeting gathered more than 50 CSO representatives from 14 Arab countries including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunis and Yemen. This was the last of a series of regional strategic planning meetings facilitated by the founding organisations of GCAP.

One of the main issues that emerged from the meeting was that while all the participating organisations felt that joining the GCAP would strengthen their work in the region, they felt it was vital to take the regional priorities into consideration. As we know, the region faces a number of external priorities and challenges, such as ending foreign occupations in Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights and Iraq and removing military bases in the region. The region also faces its internal challenges such as building democracy, developing greater respect for human rights, building good governance and increasing participation. Given these conditions, they stressed, popular participation would need a rich and intense period to prepare its mobilisation.

The three main GCAP issues aimed at developed countries, debt, aid and trade, were widely discussed and added to the rich discussion on the specific regional issues, which also focused on the fourth set of policy demands aimed at developing country governments. One of the main issues raised was corruption and its relation to debt, with regards to which participants requested effective anti-corruption laws and the return of Arab capitals through the removal of legal barriers, promotion of good governance and non-use of political influence. They also called for a monitoring of the state’s budget, aid and loans and economic crimes and called for more shared experiences between Arab countries and fairer South-South economic and political relations. It is worth mentioning, that at the very time of this meeting, President Lula was hosting 250 Arab States private sector representatives in Brasilia to strengthen Arab region/Latin America economic relations.

It is encouraging to see that this period offers unprecedented opportunities in the Arab region. With the increased participation of Arab civil society in international forums, the role of civil society is clearly growing and opportunities for reform and change that require the participation of popular sectors, democratic forces and civil society organisations, are now widely accepted. In joining the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, and to fulfill their role in the mobilisation during this year, CSOs expressed a need to strengthen their advocacy capacity, to develop alternatives and to propose exemplary models. They also highlighted the need to expand the role of the free media in raising awareness around issues of human rights.

One of the important and practical outcomes of the meeting was the development of a set of additional proposed regional mobilisation meetings.

These are: the Regional Ministerial Meeting for Arab ministers in preparation for the 6th Ministerial Meeting for World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong; the Ministerial Meeting for the African Trade Ministers in Cairo( June); the African Union Summit Meeting in Libya (July); the World Summit on Information Society in Tunisia (November); the G8 Meeting in Bahrain ( December ); the Ministerial Meeting for Euro-Mediterranean Partnership; the World Economic Forum and Arabic Business Council meetings (May); Meetings of the League of Arab States- (Socio-Economic Council); the meetings of the Gulf Cooperation Council; the Summit of the Maghreb countries (May); the Global Health Programme on the International Day Against Hunger (12 June).

The participants also nominated focal points for each country, which I would like to share with you here. If you wish to join GCAP, please contact the relevant person in your country:

Algeria: El-Irchad Organization;

Bahrain: Awal Women’s Organisation;

Egypt: Egypt Association for Health and Environment;

Iraq: Al Amal Organization;

Jordan: Jordanian’s Women Movement;

Kuwait: Kuwaitian Economic Organization;

Lebanon: Collective NGO in Lebanon;

Morocco: Espace Assoicative;

Palestine: Palestinian NGO Network PNGO; or Bisanrd,

Saudi Arabia: Yousef Makki;

Sudan: Gender Centre for Research and Training;

Syria: Committees for Mobilization of Civil Society, Fayez Sarah;

Tunisia: Association of Democratic Women;

Yemen: Chaqa’eq Forum.

I would also like to invite you to join an open discussion group on the Arab NGO Network for Development ANND website.

The discussion group aims to facilitate discussions between all groups interested in the GCAP.

ANND, which is currently serving as the regional focal point for the GCAP, can be contacted.

Before I conclude, I would like to express my sincere thanks to ANND, AHED and all the groups involved in this successful regional meeting. All national focal points are now establishing their own national coalitions and developing their further plans in greater detail.

These will soon be posted on the ANND, and the GCAP sites. With warm regards, Henri Valot

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