The prime objective of this E-circular is to inform international NGOs about the activities of the Nicaraguan Civil Society towards Structural Adjustment.
On December, 13, 1995 the "Initiative for Nicaragua" held its first meeting at the same time the main international donors discussed developmental issues with the Nicaraguan government. The Initiative constitutes members of a wide range of the Nicaraguan Civil Society, contras and ex-army members, research institutes, farmers organizations, universities and a wide variety of NGOs.
During this first meeting, some 70 people from 35 organizations signed a declaration in which the need is expressed to have a stronger influence on the political decisions of the Nicaraguan government. The declaration was distributed to the participants of the official donor conference in "Olof Palme".
The Initiative was initiated by the same organizations that have regular meetings with the Nicaraguan governments. These meetings were held during the preparatory process of Kopenhagen and Beijing, to exchange opinions and coordinate preparations related to these conferences. Because of the disappointing results of these meetings and to give the platform a new impetus, the involved organizations pronounced the Initiative for Nicaragua and a meeting was convened.
The declaration states the wish of the participating groups to have a meeting with the Government, to discuss the need of a more structural communication line between (members of) the government and the Civil Society. As stated before, the government showed no signs of interests in the opinions of the Civil Society, dedicating its main attention to the guidelines of the IFIs.
A closer analysis of the ample respond and the willingness of the organization to go on with the Initiative, reveals that the Nicaraguan Civil Society wants to strengthen their advocacy activities, mainly because of a lack of identification with one of the existing political parties in the verge of the elections of 1996. A liaison with a governing political parties is the traditional way of protecting the interests of the organizations and their "clientele". This year is an electoral year in Nicaragua.
A follow-up reunion will be held in february, after an ad-hoc group of a few organization will meet in january to prepare this meeting.
Another initiative, the Proposition Group for Advocacy in Nicaragua, constituting NGOs and other interest groups related principally to the rural sector of Nicaragua, started also a discussion on how to strengthen the Civil Society in promoting changes of the economic and social policy of the Nicaraguan government. Their main focus is food security, as a mean to show the effects of Structural Adjustment.
An extensive study will start this january on the impact of structural adjustment on food security. To limit the scope of the study, a selection of two policy issues will be evaluated: the credit policy and the liberalization of the markets. It is expected that the study, which constitutes both an analysis on macro as on micro level, will confirm the assumption that both the credit policy as well as the liberalization of the markets have a detrimental effect on food security. An initial paper on this theme showed that food security of the Nicaraguan population has decreased considerably during the last years, with a current daily per capita intake of 1716 Kcal, a number lower then the 2155 Kcal which is used as a minimum by the World Health Organization.
The terms of the study includes also an evaluation of alternative credit and commercialization programs, executed by NGOs, to present elements of an alternative policy to secure food for all.
Besides the usual advocacy channels that can be distinguished (World Bank, IMF, Government, Evaluation Missions, Country Assistance Strategy, WB Public Expenditure Review), two other issues related to food policy and food security need special attention:
Firstly, in november 1996, the World Food Summit will be held in Rome, organized by the FAO. The preparatory process has already started, including regional governmental meetings. The Nicaraguan government played a leading role in the Latin American preparation for the Food Summit.
Secondly, The European Council of Development Ministers published in 1994 a resolution on food security and the European Parliament is working on a regulation on food donations. Both stress the need for a coherent food policy based on food security. The resolution of the Ministery Council explicitly stresses the strong relationship between adjustment policy and food security. It says: "Measures to reduce poverty (...) as well as macro-economic policy should be made consistent with the objective to ensure food security for all". Nicaragua is one of the target countries of the European Union to implement the changes of the European Policy.
Although it is recognized that the main force of the evolving advocacy strategy has to come from the national organizations, it is considered to be important to search for help from international NGOs in influencing the policy of IFIs towards Nicaragua, being the IFIs who are the main determinants of the Nicaraguan economic policy. OXFAM UK&I and WEMOS, a lobby agent of the Dutch Development Organization (SNV) towards the European Union, have showed their interest in assisting the Nicaraguan organizations on an international level. More organizations will be contacted in the near future.
During the conferences in Cairo, Kopenhagen and Beijing, Structural Adjustment was a significant subject because of its relations with the main themes of the conferences. Especially the Social Summit was most explicit in describing the detrimental impact of SAPs on social justice. Quite a number of Summit watchers evaluates the agreements of the Social Summit as vague and not explicit enough, however, it was the first time that a UN conference underlined the negative impact of Structural adjustment: the impact of SAPs on social development should be reviewed to develop policies to reduce their negative effects and improve their positive impact.
A close monitoring of the results of the international conferences on a national governmental level can form a strong heave to search for changes of Governmental policy. Again, the results of the Social Summit in Kopenhagen are very clear in its formulation of international standards to combat poverty. National Social Strategies has to be formulated in 1996 to eradicate poverty in the year 2015.
The Women's Initiative for the Three Summits, a coalition of women groups participating in the preparations and the follow- up of Cairo, Kopenhagen and Beijing, try to elaborate such a monitoring system in Nicaragua. A few things has to be considered in this respect:
After one and a half year of dedicating most of their time to these conferences a certain kind of 'fatigue' can be distinguished among the women. Most of these women did the job beside their normal tasks as employee of Nicaraguan women groups, not to forget their tasks as mother and spouse. For that reason, there is a certain kind of disarticulation of the Women's Initiative.
Another point of concern is the small base of the intellectual women's elite that has a major experience with the international conferences. Although the women groups are very active in precipitating the major conclusions of the conferences to the local and intermediate levels, there are just a few women (organizations) able to lead a monitoring process described above.
Third point of concern is the limited participation of other sectors then the women organizations. It was the women's movement that leaded the non-governmental participation during the conferences.
For the reasons described above, it is necessary to broaden the base of a monitoring system to organizations of other sectors. The above mentioned Initiative for Nicaragua could be a suitable framework.
It is important to connect the need for a monitoring system in Nicaragua with the initiative taken by NOVIB/Eurosteps to construct a 'Social Watch'. The 'Social Watch' aims to monitor the results of Kopenhagen and Beijing to strengthen the lobby to national governments, International Financial Institutions and international donors. The national sections of the Social Watch, to be published yearly, has to be elaborated by national NGOs. Because of the explicit goals to be reached, as formulated in the Plan of Action of the Kopenhagen documents, the Social Watch may be a good instrument to evaluate the achievements of the different national governments.
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