CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

CIVICUS in the news during the CSI training workshop in Lebanon this week

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 6, 2009

BEIRUT: Representatives from an alliance of development organizations gathered at a Beirut Holiday Inn Wednesday to present what speakers described as a “manual” designed for civil society and media groups in the Middle East to achieve the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) with a focus on the Arab region.

The manual, which took a year and a half to complete, was a cooperative effort between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and the Centre of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR).

“This is not just a text prepared to be put on the shelf,” executive director of ANND Ziad Abdel-Samad said, calling its guidelines “viable and vivid.” He also hailed the document as a work by volunteers and the first of its kind produced entirely in Arabic.

The MDGs consist of eight goals outlined by the United Nations in 2000 and agreed upon by its 192 members that include reducing poverty, empowering gender equality, fighting disease epidemics, halting climate change and universalizing primary education, among others. The world body set 2015 as its target year to achieving those goals.

Samad warned that the global economic crisis would put development programs in a financial crunch and blamed the free market system, which he called “wrong,” for forcing the world to endure the consequences of the global market downturn. The crisis may have compounded the challenges in tackling the MDGs but, he said, the manual outlines strategies assistance groups should follow to fulfill the UN mission.

“UNDP and other Arab development NGOs should develop a series of training tools in order to enable civil society to be engaged to plan and execute projects in line with the MGDs,” he said. “Civil society should be able to come up with pressure strategies in order to influence economic and public policies.”

Poverty policy adviser for the UNDP Adib Nehmeh gave a brief address where he offered some background on the toolkit and described the role he wants the media to play to disseminate encouraging messages as a means of lobbying public opinion. This strategy, he said, would empower civil society organizations to take a leading role in achieving the MGDs.

Secretary General of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) Ingrid Srinath brought passion to the discussion underlining the tremendous importance of unity among civil society organizations. She urged those groups to work together to reorder the economic system and restructure global governance.

Srinath also criticized the concentrated power of large global institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and said that the global financial meltdown presents an opportunity for civil society to “change the rules” of global governance.

“We don’t just want a reduction in poverty. We don’t just want less violence against women. We don’t just want a reduction in maternal mortality rate,” she said. “We want a fundamental say in determining our fate as humans. We want an equal say at the table where these decisions are made because the sad reality is that if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.”

Taken from the Daily Star in Lebanon:


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