[Air-l] Call for Proposals to Promote Civic Engagement in Global Governance (re: World Summit on the Information Society)

RG Lentz rgmagnolia at earthlink.com
Wed Jan 15 05:08:01 PST 2003

Call for Proposals to Promote Civic Engagement in Global Governance

Summary: The 'Global Civil Society' Portfolio of the Ford Foundation has 
set aside $US1 million to promote civic engagement in global governance and 
to encourage global civil society actors to address the democracy deficits 
apparent within global governance. With this call for proposals the Ford 
Foundation is seeking civil society organizations that have a strategic 
plan to strengthen or promote accountability mechanisms between global 
governors and global citizens. We also seek effective mechanisms for a 
broad swath of citizen voices to be heard within global public policy 

For two decades or more civil society organizations have followed and 
attempted to influence global negotiations relating to public policy in the 
fields of human rights, environment, empowerment of women, labor rights, 
consumer safety, development, peace and poverty alleviation. Today, many of 
these issues are impacted by decisions taken to develop a global market, 
create uniform global standards and/or address fiscal imbalances in 
developing countries. Impacts on health, human rights, consumers, gender 
relations, democracy or the environment are often not the first 
consideration of negotiators and often fall outside of their expertise. For 
these reasons, civil society actors often follow negotiations within 
international financial institutions that will have an impact on social 
policy and issues, but are not necessarily oriented toward those particular 
issues. As another strategy civil society actors attempt to strengthen 
global institutions that are specifically oriented toward social problems 
or encourage interaction amongst institutions so as to counter balance the 
power and authority of some financial institutions. Lastly, civic actors 
have promoted the idea to create new institutional global homes for some 
issues, like the World Environmental Organization, or to create competition 
for existing global financial institutions through promotion of regional 

Have these efforts been successful? In many instances, civil society has 
been effective in expanding the competitive pool of policy ideas within 
specific existing institutions, widening the terms of debate to take into 
account impacts that may not have been reviewed by negotiators, and in rare 
instances actual new policies have been created to address the concerns 
raised by civil society. Rarer still, civil society periodically is 
successful in addressing governance questions and has succeeded in 
restructuring the decision making path for permanent inclusion of the 
issue, developed and forced accountability measures to be created within 
governance structures or succeeded in opening up the process of decision 
making to include intended beneficiaries or other broad stakeholders. 
However, the instances where civil society has managed to address 
imbalances in governance are so rare that one can count them on one hand. 
Within the multilateral development banks, governance issues that have been 
addressed include: information policies, opportunities for impacted 
communities to question the adherence of the institutions to their own 
policies (inspection mechanisms), and in the case of structural adjustment 
programs promoted by the World Bank, opportunities for the public in 
developing countries to discuss the social and economic expenditures of 
their governments through the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. At the 
United Nations (UN), civil society organizations have a process through 
which they can be accredited to monitor the UN activities which take place 
through UNESCO. In certain instances, civil society has permanent processes 
for consultation such as at the Convention on Biological Diversity 
negotiations. In other forums, there is token civil society representation 
as well. For example, Consumers International has a seat at the Codex 
Alimentarius. However, these positions are often granted through national 
governments and are not sanctioned by the multilateral governing body.

The lack of attention to the process of governing is frustrating in that it 
limits the outcomes that pertain to specific sectors and fails to address 
the larger questions of power and accountability. For example, after ten 
years of negotiations (1983 - 1993) with the World Bank, the environmental 
movement succeeded in their efforts to get the Bank to implement ten 
policies that protect minority communities and environmental resources from 
negative unintended consequences of development decisions. Today, those 
policies are under negotiation for the third time, with each round of 
negotiations resulting in a weaker set of policies with more responsibility 
shifting away from the well resourced World Bank and accruing to developing 
country governments. Each round of negotiations requires that the movement 
both demonstrate a sustained commitment to mainstreaming environmental 
concerns within Bank lending decisions and to hold the line on issues that 
it thought it had successfully addressed over a decade ago. There is no 
advancement. The same story can be told of the development community's 
efforts to mainstream participation within the field of development at the 
multilateral and bilateral agencies. Similarly, civil society organizations 
waste an enormous amount of time reinventing the participatory wheel every 
single time the UN holds a new global conference. Currently, the 
battleground is the World Summit on Information Society. The UN does not 
have a uniform way in which to invite and set the parameters for civic 
observation and participation in its deliberations. The worst offender 
within the UN system is the Security Council which locks out the bulk of 
members of the UN and civil society from its deliberations.

Global institutions not only have tenuous links between the governors and 
the governed but also weaken democracy in three ways: one, they fail to 
operate along democratic principles. Two, international negotiations are 
the privilege of the executive branches of government. The judicial powers 
of a national court do not extend to the international political arena. And 
parliamentarians have no formal role in international negotiations. Three, 
there are no elected officials that are directly accountable to citizens 
engaged in negotiating global public policy. There are also indirect ways 
in which global governance undermines citizen rights. For example, the 
failure to operate within democratic parameters globally continues to 
justify less accountable forms of governance at national levels.

By way of example, proposals could address the following: the need for a 
public record of security council agendas and deliberations; a 
reconstitution of voting shares at the IMF and World Bank; and end to green 
room deliberations at the WTO; an end to negotiating authority that 
truncates the role of representational branches of government; 
parliamentarians with voice and vote in international negotiations; elected 
national representatives operating within our global institutions; 
transparency campaigns; campaigns oriented toward strengthening global 
courts or holding global institutions accountable to national law; judicial 
enforcement of international law in national courts; advocacy for 
accountability mechanisms, etc. Projects that focus on deepening 
connections to the benefit of citizens between national and international 
governance mechanisms are encouraged. These issues are offered by way of 
example only. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively.

Proposals can come from any issue-based (health, security, human rights, 
etc.) process but must move beyond the impact on the issue to address the 
governance process that might be improved. Proposals are welcome oriented 
toward any global institution, but will be judged in relation to possible 
demonstration affects. In other words, if the institution one seeks to 
change does not have considerable political or economic authority, the onus 
would be on the campaigners to argue the importance of the particular 
institution relative to other global governance institutions.

Governance structures are difficult to change. It can take many years of 
sustained effort amongst a group of actors to create the conditions for 
social change. If the goals of a campaign are long term in nature, short 
term objectives should also be included. Multi-sectoral coalitions are 
encouraged; i.e. those that combine activists and actors from different 
issue-based fields. Multi-stakeholder projects, i.e. those that combine 
civil society actors with the private sector and governments are encouraged 
as well. This call is for active campaigns. Stand alone research projects 
will not be considered favorably.

How to Apply
The deadline for proposals is April 1, 2003. Proposals should be no more 
than ten double spaced pages and should include a 150 - 200 word summary. 
Longer proposals will not be reviewed. Proposals can be sent to the 
attention of Lisa Jordan, Ford Foundation, 320 East 43rd Street, New York, 
New York, 10017. Please include the code CFP at the top of the cover letter 
and cover page of the proposal.. Electronic versions can be sent to 
l.jordan at fordfound.org with the code CFP in the subject line. Decisions 
will be made by June 1, 2003 by a committee familiar with global governance 
issues. Applicants should expect to hear from the Foundation by June 15th.

RG Lentz, UT Austin

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