RIGHT OR FIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT: Role of CSOs in Trade Policy Processes MAVUTO BAMUSI National Coordinator Human Rights Consultative Committee-HRCC
The right to development entails societal participation in national development policies including trade policies
Lack of people participation in previous policies has resulted into policy failures
However, Malawi has for some time been characterized by the fight to development as citizens are marginalized and CSOs have to fight for or beg for participation
Policy dictatorship reigns supreme in Malawi where an alliance of a handful technocrats connive with some donors to determine national policies for the entire population and invite a few CSOs for mere document coloring
The right to development means overthrowing the policy dictators through deliberate empowerment of poor sections of the population for participation
Donors have to show clear commitment in funding civil society towards democratic policy processes
Min. of Trade, EP &D and a few others have shown interest to remove tendencies of policy dictatorship by creating avenues for people participation
CSO Experiences in Policy Making Processes – the PRSP
Initially, CSOs role was less recognized
PRSP was regarded too technical, very difficult for CSOs to understand
CSOs had to fight our way to participate
However, with challenges as information could be circulated selectively
Experience of CSOs in policy was another internal challenge
Citizens were consulted through “ helicopter ” .
Transition from PRSP to MGDS
In between was the MEGS
Only Govt and Private sector developed policy
Focused on enhancing pillar 1 of PRSP
No citizen participation
MEGS had nothing on the social aspects of society like health, education etc
But had linkages to trade, therefore no voice of CSOs on those trade issues
MGDS is an amalgamation of the MPRS and the MEGS
Based on Vision 2020 which emphasized on participation by all
MGDS launched in 2007 although document ready in 2006
Formulated through internal consultation within Govt, and interaction between TWG and MPRS Review Team
MGDS and Right To Development
Civil society participation was lower in the MGDS compared to the MPRS
Government unilaterally came up with the background document for MGDS formulation
Lesser number of thematic working groups structurally limited participation not only by the civil society
Time allocated for formulation was restricted
Political directives deciding on the 6 key priorities metal-jacketed stakeholders thinking more so for a civil service that is reluctant to question political orders
Role of CSOs in the PRGF
Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) influential on national policy
Right to development in Malawi was, arguably, under the automation of key institutions like the IMF
PRGF contained conditionality for Malawi ’ s debt relief among other objectives
Contained advise on expenditure ceilings, wage ceilings, recruitment, and pension revisions etc.
PRGF resonated the 23 trigger points that had to be satisfied for debt relief
PRGF and Right To Development
Citizen and civil society participation almost no existent in the PRGF
PRGF designed in Washington boardrooms and agreed with a handful technocrats in Government to be handed down to the people (Policy Dictatorship?)
Yet the PRGF was influential in deriving resource envelopes and expenditure allocations
Malawians were “ being shaved in their absence ”
This is similar to some trade agreements
CSOs in Trade Policy
Trade Policies linked to Malawi Foreign Policy which entails promotion of trade interests
Foreign Policy developed without integrating the voices of the people
Min. of Foreign Affairs has no clear guidelines for citizens participation in its processes
CSOs in Unilateral, Regional, and Trade Arrangements
Malawi ’ s policy thrust is trade liberalization
Malawi ’ s trade liberalized unilaterally through SAPs over the years
CSOs largely absent in policy decision making processes related to liberalization
Liberalization agenda has been externally driven
Poorest and small holders have been harmed (MEJN Study)
CSOs in Bilateral Trade Agreements
Malawi has had biggest number of bilateral agreements in SADC
However, these agreements lack the important voices of the citizens and majority CSOs
The executive arm of Govt. is supreme over other players, with private sector being a favorite
Role of CSOs in SADC and COMESA Debate
CSOs voices need to be integrated
CSOs can provide alternative angles from analytical perspectives
However, Malawi needs to make a choice between SADC and COMESA
The search for answers on the best options needs citizens and CSOs
Key CSO Challenges
-lack of analytical skills and competencies within CSOs
-trade policy regarded as too technical
-inadequate access to information on trade policy
-ideological variances between private sector and CSOs on trade regime options, e.g. liberalisation vs. state interventionist approaches
-citizens more interested in issues related to petty trading or mere vending (micro-level) than the bigger issues of policy
-external influences on trade policy aligns Malawi government away from CSOs and more to multilateral institutions
Key Demands (Recommendations) on the Right To Development
Improvements in societal participation in national development policies are prerequisite to the full attainment of people ’ s right to development. These improvements can be influenced by all groups of actors in Malawi including the Government, donors, and civil society.
Promoting participatory structures instead of torpedoing them: This involves providing lasting forms of civil society and citizen participation support beyond the formulation of national policies.
Integrating civil society in dialogue structures created for donors and the Malawi government
Malawi Parliament should be recognized as an integral player in the national development policy processes, and should therefore be strengthened as well as increase its interaction with civil society.
Societal participation should be strengthened in development policy reviews and production of periodic reports.
More attention should be given to the establishment of legal frameworks for civic participation in national policies. Effective participation requires more than just constitutionally guaranteed basic rights. Civil society in Malawi should be supported with establishment of Access to information Laws.
Strengthening the legitimacy of the participatory processes by emphasizing the importance of core principles like country ownership , involvement of elected institutions, and the strengthening of civil society networks.
Weak and marginalized sections of the poor Malawian population need to have a say in national development policy processes.
Strengthening the ability of the civil society to act: All donors are called upon to state how strongly they intend to support the capacities of civil society in the long run. This issue needs in-depth discussion and urgent attention as it is illusory to think that civil society in Malawi will be able to deal with complex macroeconomic and macro policy issues for national development without additional resourcing.
Trade Related Recommendations
-collecting and use of evidence for meaningful participation in trade policy dialogue and negotiations
-analysing trade policy towards pro-poor regimes
-advocating govt. and donors for people-centred trade policy
-need for more CSO space in actual formulation based on experiences in PRSP, and MGDS.
-access to information legislation for CSO access to trade information
-popularising, dissemination of trade policy information to citizens as a way of demystifying trade from being regarded as a “ technocrats only ” area
strengthening CSO networking on trade (learn from EPA collaborations where MEJN, MCC, CISANET, Oxfam, Action Aid, and others walked together)
-prioritise citizen participation and action on trade policies through the strengthening of trade weather stations and other community based networks.
-campaign for the need of strong capacity within Malawi Ministry of Trade towards enhanced negotiating capacity,
-Enhance the role of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in trade diplomacy through realistic steps towards career diplomacy with emphasis on trade and related development oriented international relations
As a matter of urgency!
Special and urgent recommendation: Any efforts for attaining the right to development for Malawians largely depend on the governance environment. Free and fair elections are a critical component of governance. Malawi civil society therefore urgently and desperately requires funding for conducting electoral related interventions for the fast approaching 2009 General Elections. Civil society work on elections needs to start now and not in 2009!