Summary Workshop on Networking and Outreach with Civil Society

05 October 2017

Summary

Workshop on Networking and Outreach with Civil Society

Ambassador Hotel, Sukhumvit, Bangkok, Thailand 16-17 November 2015

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Introduction 

Workshop hosted by the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand on ‘Networking and Outreach with Civil Society” was convened in Bangkok Thailand from 16 to 17 November 2015. The workshop is a project under the AIPA Capacity Development Project supported by German Federal Government through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), it is a means to enhance relationship between parliament and Civil Society Organizations (CSO).

The workshop was officially opened by Acting Secretary General/Deputy Secretary General of the House of Representatives of Thailand, Mrs. Saithip Chaowalittawil, with seven parliaments participating in it. In her remarks, she encouraged to discus, share their experiences and set out guidelines on how to engage with CSOs. She was delighted to learn that the participants are involved in supporting parliamentary policy formulation for CSOs’ engagement and have had a great deal of experience in CSOs networking and outreach. She was confident that the participants will apply and share their knowledge and come up with the best practices and models, for the source in formulating the draft policy framework on AIPA-CSOs engagement and outreach.

In her remarks Ms. Sonja Gebauer, Political Counsellor of the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany to Thailand stated that the German government has amongst other priorities is to provide the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) support to enhance its capacity development projects. It has set its sight over several years to continuing support AIPA with financial assistance and technical support. At the eve of the ASEAN Economic Community starting at the end of this year will emerge regional integration of ASEAN member states not only in respect for its economic pillar, but also in its desire for the political and socio-cultural approach. AIPA has to make sure that it has a voice in the discussion about the future of ASEAN and the vision for 2025, and in order to represent people’s interests and in the decision making process at government level, it is increasingly important to work together with Civil Society Organizations as they can function as mediation channels between the people and the government.

Opening remarks delivered by Secretary General of AIPA, Mr. P.O. Ram conveyed his gratitude to the Parliament of Thailand for hosting the workshop. He set AIPA’s perspective, its depth and intent for the workshop. He emphasized AIPA’s role as the legislative arm and partner of ASEAN. He hoped that the workshop will enable participants to learn the best international practices on how public sector engages and networks with CSOs to achieve common goals and thereafter to outline ideas on how to engage CSOs and AIPA member parliaments. He further mentioned about the invitation of AIPA for the forum of ASEAN Corporate Social Responsibility’s Network Business. The forum centered on business practices touching on respecting human rights, and how good corporate citizenship and social responsibility can be effectively achieved through partnership with CSOs.

Mr. Bernardo Agawin Jr, GIZ technical assistance coordinator stressed in his remarks that GIZ operates in many fields, and one of this is towards the promotion of good governance and democracy. It is in this context that AIPA, Thailand Parliament, GIZ and the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany agreed to undertake this series of workshops which aims to develop a draft policy framework on AIPA’s engagement with civil society organizations.

As it is known, civil society organizations in partnership with governments around the world have played and continuing to play very significant role in achieving better quality of life of their people and better democratic governance.

The Workshop

CSOs are perceived as major players mediating between individuals and the government. A great deal of CSOs have made valuable contributions in better representing the voice of people in policy decision processes and played a vital role in creating peoples’ awareness about government induced policies and development projects. They have also played an increasing influential role in setting and implementing development agendas of the government and have had measurable results in governing policy development. Henceforth their engagement with parliaments is viewed significant to the process of policy formulation and legislation.

CSOs are group of motivated individuals, networks, unions, coalitions and non-profit organizations in all shapes and sizes, vary in their capacities, expertise, scopes and focus on a wide range of issues, with a common vision and goal to address the needs and concerns of the society. Their roles have become significantly more prominent and their activities have spread considerably. However, many of them are unstable, fragmented and not professionally managed due to the lack of strong networks and outreach. These drawbacks prevent many CSOs from efficiently undertake their missions and fully serving their societies.

CSO can be an effective development tool in establishing a strong connection and maintaining relationships to exchange information and advice among stakeholders. Similarly, outreach has been seen as means to actively provide services to populations who might not otherwise have access to the service. Networking and outreach promote significant means to create linkages between government and CSOs can help strengthening state-society relation by bonding citizen to one another and linking them to the government

 

The Workshop was attended by participants from 7 (seven) AIPA Member Parliaments namely; Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, VietNam and AIPA Secretariat. There were total number of 21 (twenty one) participants from various directorates of their national parliament whom are conversant in outreach, community relation, ethnic affairs, foreign relation and legislative process. AIPA participants to the workshop have some involvement with CSOs supporting parliamentary policy formulation in general, and for CSO engagement in particular.

The discussion, break out group discussions and serious exchanges of views and practices had left an impression of the topic. The Facilitator, Dr. Birgit Laubach of Elbarlament started by asking participants on why, where and how to involve CSOs in parliamentary process. The driving questions for discussion include how to identify CSOs, their interest, what are the elements of a good legislative process and what is the best practices of CSOs participation in the process.

This is the first of series of workshop on this topic. Other two workshops will be organized in 2016. This first workshop was a start to set out the foundation, streamline, and to adopt common agreement on CSOs participation in policy formulation at parliament level. In this light AIPA recognized its role and that partnering with CSOs enhanced parliamentary support in the establishment of people-centered ASEAN Community.

Being the representatives of the sovereign people’s will, member parliaments of AIPA are close to their constituents and hold strategic position in determining the pulses of their people, while communicating the vision, goals and benefits of ASEAN integration. Thus CSOs who are part of parliamentarians’ constituent contribute to the better functioning of parliament legislative processes

AIPA-CSOs Networking and Outreach can be challenging in its format and proceedings, however all agreed that this is a path towards achieving good governance that will secure the well-being of the people.

The outcomes

The workshop’s outcomes is reflected hereunder;

Vision and Objectives

  • Increase the effectiveness of AIPA’s works
  • Enhance AIPA’s commitment and responsibilities
  • Increase cooperation and coordination among AIPA member parliaments, as well as its national parliaments with CSOs
  • Create a Guideline for Parliament-CSOs engagement
  • Facilitate the institutionalization of CSOs participation in policy formulation
  • Strengthen CSOs participation in AIPA member parliaments
  • Harmonization of Laws
  • Promote cooperation channels between AIPA member parliaments, AIPA and CSOs (tri-partite cooperation)

Principles

  • AIPA Statutes which advocates and stipulates; transparency, accountability, reliability and good governance
  • Best Practices
  • Higher participation of the people (obtaining grass-roots inputs)
  • Mutual respect as base for AIPA-CSOs engagement and partnership
  • Promoting peace, national, regional stability and security

Terms of Engagement

  • Enactment of Law
  • Parliament Standing Order
  • AIPA Resolutions
  • Accreditation (for CSOs)

Form of Engagement

  • Consultation
  • Workshop
  • Hearing
  • Joint capacity building project
  • Awareness building and sharing about CSOs

Challenges

  • Limited resources
  • Differences in socio-cultural background, political system and economic situation
  • The need to harmonize laws particularly towards the ASEAN integration

Consensus Development

  • Dialogue and Compromise
  • Setting up a Common Platform

Areas of Partnership

  • All areas that relate to the well-being of the people (e.g. education, health, taxation, food security, energy security, environment, land mining/unexploded ordinances, agent orange, drugs, human trafficking)
  • Regional cooperation on different issues; socio-cultural and non-traditional issue
  • Tourism and cultural exchanges
  • People’s resettlement caused by land conversion, government projects, infrastructures

The participants of the workshop noted out several inputs from the outcomes which are;

  • from the vision; the possibility to create an ASEAN Parliament with a limited purpose of handling transnational matters
  • from the principles; bottom-up budgeting process or grass roots participatory budgeting, consolidate anti-terrorism, anti-drugs and environmental protection (climate change) into peace, national and regional stability and security
  • from the areas of partnership; inviting CSOs to all AIPA meetings/assemblies

Closing

The workshop was closed in the evening of 17 November 2015 by Deputy Secretary General of the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand Mrs. Supasinee Khamasundra, who expressed her appreciation to Secretary General of AIPA, the facilitator, GIZ, all participants and staff of the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand, who have contributed to the success of the workshop. She also confirmed the support of Parliament of Thailand towards the upcoming AIPA workshops, and her willingness and her staff readiness in this line of spirit

Bangkok, Thailand, November 2015

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