CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: How to achieve economic justice for all?

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 21, 2010

How to achieve economic justice for all? That was the question that dominated Day Two of the CIVICUS World Assembly today in Montreal. In an opening plenary session, a range of panellists including the World Bank’s Vice President, Otaviano Canuto, discussed the challenge of seeking out solutions to the economic injustices facing the poor and marginalised.

While the weight and balance of discussion undoubtedly sided with the bank-bashing, tomato-throwing elements of civil society, perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion came when Canuto batted off with ease some of the angrier criticisms of the World Bank, calling for civil society to avoid “demonising” international institutions and those working within them. The implication, articulated clearly by Sanjeev Khagram, one of the other panellists, was that civil society had to target where the real power lay: the elite of bankers and financial ministers who in the wake of the financial crisis had unilaterally, and without accountability, shaped the key decisions.

But for me, the natural extrapolation of this argument was an interesting one: if civil society wants change, then perhaps the only real change it can bring about is in itself and in its own attitudes towards working with others. On day one, we heard from the Youth Assembly Chair that we were here to “change the nature of change itself”. Well, that is all very well. But until civil society organisations are prepared to change their stance and move away from the all-too-easy criticism of scapegoats – and relatively powerless scapegoats at that – then perhaps the change they seem so determined to bring about will remain as illusive as ever.

In any event, the plenary made for stimulating discussions and laid the groundwork well for the first workshop sessions which then followed, on a range of eleven different topics.

For the Civil Society Index team, it has been another intensive day of discussion and work. With CSI workshops to look forward to tomorrow (Sunday) and Monday, the World Assembly is beginning to be a great opportunity to meet with some of our CSI partners. Tomorrow, the discussion focuses on development effectiveness. The extent to which civil society sees itself as part of the solution, rather than simply the world’s conscience looking through the window from the outside, may just determine how much we can collectively get out of this year’s Assembly.

The CSI World Assembly team (from left to right: Mark Nowottny, Megan MacGarry and Tracy Anderson)

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