Summary of the 3rd Workshop on Networking and Outreach with Civil Society Organizations

05 October 2017

Participants of the 3rd Workshop on “Networking and Outreach with CSOs” posed with AIPA Secretary General, Hon. Isra Sunthornvut, Mr. Timo Goosmann of the German Embassy for ASEAN Affairs, Dr. Birgit Laubach, Facilitator, Ms. Nicole Heppner, GIZ Principal Advisor and Mr. Bernard Agawin Jr., GIZ Technical Assistant

 

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Introduction

The third Workshop on Networking and Outreach with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) was convened in Jakarta, Indonesia from 16 to 19 October 2016. This workshop is part of the joint project on Capacity Development for AIPA agreed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

This workshop is aimed to enable participants to (1) review what has been discussed and agreed in the second workshop, (2) agree on the revised draft AIPA Resolution on “Networking and Outreach with Civil Society and Organizations” which will be presented to the 38th General Assembly, (3) gain insights from the lessons learned of a case study of an ASEAN civil society organization who partnered with AIPA member parliament in the course of fulfilling its law-making and oversight functions, (4) identify possible challenges and obstacles in engaging CSOs to a partnership in member parliaments; (5) submit  additional names and contact details of CSOs operating in the country of member parliaments to complement the “Register of Accredited Civil Society Organisation of ASEAN”; (6) develop an application form for CSO Accreditation; (7) generate ideas on the rights, duties and responsibilities of CSOS which will form part of the Implementing Guidelines of AIPA Resolution on “Networking and Outreach with Civil Society and Organizations”; and (8) identify practical steps to support the passage of draft AIPA Resolution on “Networking and Outreach with Civil Society and Organizations” when presented to the 38th General Assembly.

This final workshop of its series was attended by 18 participants from 7 AIPA Member Parliaments (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) and AIPA Secretariat. Dr. Birgit Laubach continued her role as the resource person and co-facilitator of the workshop. Mr. Bernardo Agawin, Jr. the Technical Assistance Coordinator of the Capacity Development for AIPA projected also played its role as co-facilitator of the workshop. Two resource persons from  the ASIA Foundation in the Philippines, namely Ms. Jerryll U Reyes and Ms. Marie Christine N. Bantug presented the Philippine case entitled “Engaging CSOs in the Parliamentary Processes Towards the Passage of Policy Reforms.”

Opening Remarks

The Opening of the Workshop took place on 17th October 2016. The venue was Hotel Le Meridien, Jakarta.

AIPA Secretary General Hon. Isra Sunthornvut gave his remarks at the workshop which was his first encounter with an AIPA-GIZ Workshop participants upon resuming his office term on 1st October 2016. He welcomed everyone and conveyed his insights on how AIPA would embark on getting into awareness raising and more engagement with people to fulfill the objectives and goals of AIPA along with ASEAN for the benefit of the peoples of ASEAN.

First Secretary for ASEAN Affairs of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Timo Goosmann, greeted the participants and wished for a successful workshop with positive outcomes to enhance the engagement of CSOs in parliamentary process.

Ms. Nicole Heppner, GIZ Principal Advisor thanked Hon. Mr. Isra Sunthornvut, new Secretary General of AIPA, and his team for the good cooperation and their continuous commitment. She also expressed gratitude to Mr. Timo Goosmann, who represented the German Embassy in Jakarta, for joining the workshop.

She said Parliaments are one of the key state institutions and have a critical role to play in promoting good governance. In the performance of their key functions of legislation, parliamentarians would need to conduct a lot of fact finding missions to assess the situation on the ground and the impact a specific law has on its people, and to oversee the implementation of laws, policies and practices that promote good governance. CSOs collect information and many of them are in constant contact and exchange with citizens. They know what is going on in society and in an ideal case are able to provide independent, well-grounded and sector specific information. In a nutshell: They are important partners for any parliament

Highlights of the Workshop

The workshop was generally successful in achieving its objectives. There were interesting and lively discussion and exchange of views, experiences and insights among workshop participants and resource persons.

In the course of this discussion, participants shared differences and similarities derived from their own experiences in their national parliament’s practices with CSOs which are all reflective on the different approaches in consonance with the peculiar political systems within which these parliaments operate.

Among the highlights of the workshops are as follows:

Discussion on the Explanatory Note and Body of Draft AIPA Resolution

The participants agreed to simplify the words and phrases of the explanatory note on the draft resolution on networking with civil society organizations for members of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly by stating very clearly at the onset the fundamental objective of the resolution is “to establish broad policies which AIPA Member Parliaments may adopt when they engage civil society organisations (CSOs) to fulfill its role in facilitating the ASEAN integration process, and for a more effective and participative public engagement in parliamentary legislation and policy formulation.”

The agreed explanatory note also includes statements on the general content and outline of the draft resolution, which are the (1) aims; (2) principles; (3) terms of engagement; and (4) areas of partnership.

The explanatory note also cited the nature of CSOs and its importance for AIPA member parliaments to engage them. At the end of it, it recommended that AIPA Member Parliaments to engage the CSOs for partnership through networking to achieve the goals of ASEAN, and for the General Assembly authorize the AIPA Secretariat and National Secretariats to draft Guidelines for implementing and monitoring this resolution.

In the resolution itself, participants agreed that the draft resolution will be submitted as part of the agenda of the 38th AIPA General Assembly which will be convened in the Philippines in 2017. The text of the draft resolution was thoroughly studied and elaborated by workshop participants.

In its preamble, the draft resolution recognizes that people’s participation brings societal stability and order and provides opportunity to everyone to express his / her own interests, draws upon the talents and skills of the largest possible number of people. It also aims to improve its over-all law-making and oversight functions, to enable constituents to be involved in the parliamentary process, to hear the voice of the people as inputs in public policy formulation and oversight, to promote good governance, and to promote better cooperation and understanding among member of parliaments, CSOs, and other stakeholders.

Its preamble also acknowledges that networking with CSOs helps establishing a balanced partnership between parliaments and CSOs, the public and other stakeholders in ASEAN, and the involvement of CSOs in the parliamentary processes can contribute to the enactment of meaningful laws and policies.

In its operative part, the draft resolution resolves to encourage AIPA Member Parliaments to engage CSOs to a partnership on public policy formulation and parliamentary legislations and fulfil its role in facilitating the ASEAN integration process through partnership in various ways such as consultation, workshops, public hearings, capacity-building projects, and information and knowledge sharing specially on innovative and good practices on governance.

The draft resolution also entrusts AIPA Secretariat and National Secretariats to draft the implementing guidelines and establish monitoring and evaluation system so that the resolution can be effectively implemented and monitored.

Fish Bowl Exercises

As part of an innovative methodology designed to generate active participation of workshop participants, two fish bowl exercises were implemented during the workshop. During the first round, participants from the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Lao PDR discussed to answer the question, “What are the good practices of CSO Participation in your Country? If none, what do you propose to improve the cooperation between CSOs and your parliament?”

In the second round, participants from Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam also discussed to answer the question, “What kind of capacity building program of CSOs do you have in your country to enhance the cooperation between government/parliament and CSOs? If none, what are your proposals?”

The discussion during these two fishbowl exercises elicited enthusiasm and energy among participants and their audience. Examples of best practices include the Philippine’s implementation of Local Government Code and its provisions of her Constitution which institutionalized people’s participation in all aspects of public governance.

Case Presentation: “Engaging CSOs in the Parliamentary Processes in the Philippines Towards the Passage of Policy Reforms”

Ms. Marie Christine N. Bantug and Ms. Jerryll U. Reyes, Program Leader and Senior Program Officer respectively of the Coalitions for Change Program The Asia Foundation, Philippines presented the case on “Engaging CSOs in the Parliamentary Processes in the Philippines Towards the Passage of Policy Reforms.”

In their presentation, they discussed the (1) history and role of Civil Society Organizations in the Philippines, (2) concept and objectives of their program called “Coalitions for Change,” (3) examples of on specific components and activities of the Coalition for Change Program, and (4) lessons from their experience and challenges that parliaments of ASEAN may engage the CSOs for possible partnership in the region.

Ms. Bantug and Ms. Reyes cited the lessons learned by The Asia Foundation based on their experience in implementing the Coalition for Change Program within the arena of their parliament in pushing and advocating for social and economic reforms:

  • We rely on other people’s expertise
  • Government partners play a critical role
  • Government and CSOs can find the solutions together
    • CSOs provide technical expertise and objective assessment, think out of the box and know the pulse what’s happening on the ground
    • government can advise on what’s feasible or not, or provide the objective reality why things don’t or can’t work
  • Transaction costs involved

They cited important challenges when they implemented the Coalition for Change Program, as follows:

  • Reform work is unpredictable – it can be time-consuming and requires dedication and commitment from reform workers or advocates
  • Need to recognize risks involved
  • Varying capacity of local partners (some reforms are highly technical) and their readiness to work with government
    • Changing realities may call for compromises
  • Readiness to implement policies

As final words to the participants, Ms. Bantug and Ms. Reyes cited possible opportunities which governments and parliaments of the ASEAN region can optimize and seize to partner with CSOs, as follows:

  • Regional issues
    • migration
    • Trafficking (people and drugs)
    • climate change and disaster
    • Impact of economic integration
  • Issues that resonate across the region may be good springboard to work together
  • Creative and young population – room for innovation, creativity and provides a different perspective
  • Technology – bridging people

During the discussion, the resource persons from The Asia Foundation also cited the case of an NGO, Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (www.plcpd.com) as a very concrete example of an organization which was created by a parliament to engage wide and diverse range of individuals, groups and civil society organizations, in empowering and building institution, harnessing the people’s active participation in policymaking. This NGO aims to equip civil society on policy advocacy and serve as a conduit for them to actively engage the legislature—consolidating their differing viewpoints into legislative expressions that favor population and sustainable human development. PLCPD also takes an active role in shaping public opinion. The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) was established in September 1989 by a group of forward-looking legislators as a non-stock, nonprofit, membership-type organization of legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives.

Action Steps

The workshop was concluded with the agreement among participants that the following action steps shall be undertaken:

  1. Clean-up the copy of AIPA Resolution on ‘Networking and Outreach with CSOs’ and send it to all participants
  2. AIPA Secretariat and National Secretariats are tasked to draft the Guidelines for the AIPA Resolution
  3. Host Philippines to consider sponsoring the AIPA Resolution
  4. Other Member Parliaments may co-sponsor the AIPA resolution through the workshop participants’ representation with their principal
  5. Workshop participant will send feedback to the AIPA Secretariat on the status of their discussion with their principal

Jakarta, 18 October 2016

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