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Asian NGOs' Campaign of People's Consultations
Asian NGOs' Contribution at WCARRD
Birth of the Asian NGO Coalition (ANGOC)
Mandates for Government/NGO Cooperation
Asian NGOs Respond to WCARRD Follow-up
FAO Support to ANGOC
Strengthening NGO Networking in Asia: the Joint CIRDAP/ANGOC Programme on Rural Community Participation
Asian NGOs Promote World Food Day

FAO's ties with NGOs date back as far as the 1950s, when the Organization's Freedom Hunger Campaign/Action for Development (FFHC/AD) was launched with the aim of linking donor NGOs in the North with action-oriented development NGOs in the South. In the late 1970s, FAO began to further strengthen its collaboration with NGOs.

In 1977, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA) convened a meeting of regional NGOs based in Bangkok. The meeting's objective was to inform the NGOs about the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) to be hosted by FAO in Rome in July 1979. The NGOs were encouraged to participate and contribute to the preparations for the Conference.

Asian NGOs' Campaign of People's Consultations

The Bangkok-based NGOs subsequently formed a regional steering group that drew up a programme for an "Asian Campaign of People's Consultations". The campaign was launched in 1978 with financial assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Seven countries in South and Southeast Asia were involved - Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. A wide range of activities was undertaken, such as village surveys, people's consultations, public hearings and workshops, in order to elicit people's views on agrarian reform and rural development.

The results of these local consultations were then consolidated into national reports that became the major inputs into an Asian Pre-WCARRD Regional NGO Workshop in February 1979. The national reports and the conclusions of the regional NGO workshop were then integrated into an Asian regional report.

Asian NGOs' Contribution at WCARRD

The Asian NGOs then prepared a documentation kit that was distributed to the approximately 1,000 delegates to WCARRD. Entitled "The Case for Alternative Development of the People, for the People and by the People", the kit contained the Asian regional NGO report as well as the national reports and key theme papers on issues related to WCARRD, including agrarian reform, the small fisherfolk of Asia, and landless rural workers.

Several Asian NGO representatives attended the Conference. NGO participants drafted a collective statement which was read at the final plenary session.

Birth of the Asian NGO Coalition (ANGOC)

The pre-WCARRD Campaign of People's Consultations and the Asian Regional Workshop not only produced the documents that constituted the Asian NGO contribution to WCARRD. More importantly, these activities provided the necessary stimulus and opportunity for the participating NGOs to interact and come to a consensus about the need to establish a regional coalition or network to link their efforts in promoting agrarian reform and rural development in Asia. This led to the formation of the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC), on 14 February 1979, at the end of the Regional NGO Workshop.

Mandates for Government/NGO Cooperation

As early as three months after the WCARRD, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific convened the first regional WCARRD Follow-up Consultation, in Bangkok. In drawing up proposals for the first phase of national WCARRD action plans, the Consultation underlined the role of NGOs in WCARRD follow-up. The consensus of the Consultation was that "NGOs do have a role and place in WCARRD follow-up activity and that the relationship between GOs and NGOs must be one of constructive collaboration developed through a meaningful process of dialogue." Government delegates at the Consultation acknowledged that "NGOs can be effective in organization of the people at the grassroots level and in ensuring their participation".

At the Second Regional Consultation on Follow-up to WCARRD, held in May 1981 in Dacca and co-organized by the Center on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP), the action programme included the following statement on the role of NGOs: "It was recognized that there was need to strengthen the relationship between GOs/NGOs so that the NGOs play their role more effectively in developmental activities in line with the national development policies. In order to improve this relationship among other things, an appropriate system of public accountability of NGOs should be developed".

The report of the Third Asian Regional Consultation on Follow-up to WCARRD, in May 1983, emphasized people's participation as a basic human right. One of the major recommendations of the Consultation was that "Governments should take initiatives towards institutionalizing their relationship with NGOs for better coordination of programmes related to WCARRD".

The subject of people's participation in rural development and the WCARRD Principles and Programme of Action were also major topics of discussion at the most recent Asian Regional Consultation on WCARRD Follow-up, held in October 1991. The Consultation agreed that governments, in promoting people's participation, had the following tasks: to encourage the formation of people's organizations which are self-reliant in legal, financial and other senses, without compromising their independence; to promote cooperation between development agencies and beneficiaries' organizations in the implementation of development programmes and to decentralize government decision-making to include people's participation in various stages of the development process.

The Consultation also observed that the achievement of development through people's participation depended on the following:

- a common government/NGO agenda or framework for relations, specifically the WCARRD Programme;

- promotion of continued critical dialogue and collaboration between government, NGOs and donors;

- willingness on the part of government to involve NGOs in development planning activities; and

- allowing NGOs to monitor their own sector.

Asian NGOs Respond to WCARRD Follow-up

In the immediate post-WCARRD period, FAO recognized ANGOC's role as the Asian regional NGO network and focal point responsive to WCARRD's concerns. For NGOs in the region, this was a time of exploring and initiating activities compatible with the WCARRD Programme of Action.

The Regional NGO Steering Group set up in 1978 remained in place during this period. It served as a task force to provide ANGOC member organizations with initial direction as to the various national-level initiatives that could be taken as a follow-up to WCARRD and to the potential roles that NGOs could play as in that process. Other activities included the preparation of informational notes and newsletters and the inclusion into existing newsletters of informative material on WCARRD. Also during this period the Peasant's Charter was translated into various Asian languages and dialects and disseminated to farmers and other rural poor. The NGO community made a concerted effort to see that the conclusions of WCARRD became widely known at the grassroots level, and kept a steady focus on the public accountability of governments.

In 1981, ANGOC collaborated with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and FAO/RAPA on a project entitled "Innovative Rural Organizations for the Formulation and Implementation of Agrarian Reform Measures". The project's main objectives were to review the methods used by NGOs in the rural areas in dealing with agrarian reforms, and to document the findings. One of the project activities was the holding of a regional workshop to discuss the relationship between governments and NGOs and to make concrete policy recommendations to governments for involving NGOs in agrarian reform activities.

FAO Support to ANGOC

During the 1980-1981 period, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), based in Bangkok, and the FAO Human Resources, Institutions and Agrarian Reform Division located at FAO Headquarters in Rome, provided the initial technical and financial assistance to get ANGOC's activities going. This catalytic support in the initial phase of post-WCARRD follow-up helped to build ANGOC's institutional capabilities so that the Coalition was soon able to mobilize further support and resources from other multilateral, bilateral and NGO sources.

Strengthening NGO Networking in Asia: the Joint CIRDAP/ANGOC Programme on Rural Community Participation

In 1983, ANGOC and the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) based in Dhaka, Bangladesh with FAO's guidance and assistance, launched a Joint Programme on Rural Community Participation. Aimed at promoting WCARRD-related concerns, particularly people's participation, this initiative for the Asian region was funded from extra-budgetary voluntary contributions for WCARRD follow-up. CIRDAP, a regional inter-governmental organization, had been established in 1979 in part to follow up on WCARRD in the Asia region. ANGOC, on the other hand, had been established initially as a network of Asian NGOs in order to prepare for WCARRD, and subsequently became involved in the follow-up.

The primary objective of the Joint Programme on Rural Community Participation was to obtain village-level data on the conditions and situation of the rural poor in seven Asian countries - Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Field surveys were undertaken by NGO and village data-gatherers using a standard questionnaire adapted to the varying conditions in the areas covered by the programme. The questionnaire used the core list of socio-economic indicators developed by FAO for the monitoring and evaluation of rural development.

The criteria used in selecting villages for the field survey included:

- representativeness - there was an attempt to choose villages that were typical of others in the country, and to achieve a geographic spread and a sampling from each of the different agro-ecological zones;

- target group focus - villages were sought which had a predominant rural poor grouping such as small-scale lowland farmers, upland farmers, subsistence fisherfolk, tribal communities;

- access to a minimum level of government services and infrastructure;

- not classified as politically sensitive areas;

- greater probability of follow-up and linkage with government and the NGO performing the survey.

After village-level data gathering, village meetings and consultations were held to verify and validate the survey findings, the patterns that emerged from the results, and the needs and priorities identified by villagers. In many cases, the village meetings and consultations enabled villagers to use the survey findings for local-level village planning. Inasmuch as some government officials and personnel, particularly at the local level, also participated in the village consultations, these get-togethers served as opportunities for calling government attention to the concerns of the villagers.

Village reports incorporated the results of both the village surveys and the village consultations. These served as inputs to national workshops that consolidated the results and lessons from these exercises into national reports. Each national workshop provided a starting for dialogue between NGOs/POs and government agencies such as the CIRDAP link institutions on the issues arising from the village reports and subsequent discussions.

For the NGOs, these national workshops provided ideal opportunities to discuss possibilities for furthering coordination that had been prompted by the programme. The NGOs at the workshops saw a clear need for coordination with government. The workshop also served to highlight the concerns of WCARRD vis-a-vis NGOs and government/NGO interaction and dialogue.

Institutional guidance and backstopping of the programme at national level was done by a National Organizing Committee with advisory support from the FAO Country Representative. At each step of the programme at the national level, there was active cooperation and partnership among the participants, i.e. the NGO and government representatives. The ANGOC focal point in each country acted as secretariat for the programme. The ANGOC regional secretariat in Manila served as regional project coordinator on behalf of CIRDAP and ANGOC, with CIRDAP providing the administrative backstopping and liaison vis-a-vis FAO.

Following from the village meetings and national workshops, a regional workshop was organized in Bangkok to consolidate the various country reports. After the seven national reports were presented, key issues were identified and classified with regard to the WCARRD Programme of Action. In the area of people's participation, five main issues emerged.

The first issue concerned the village consultations. In Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the consultations were seen as an innovation in stimulating participation of villagers and in beginning an awareness-building process for both the villagers and local government officials. In a district in the central part of the Philippines, the local mayor was much impressed with the village consultation process. He asked the NGO conducting the consultation in his village to organize similar ones in the other villages in his area. In Nepal, the villagers expressed that the survey and consultation processes had made them feel that they were doing the research themselves.

A second issue revolved around local-level planning. In the Philippines, the consultations actually served as starting points for the process of formulating barangays or village development plans.

NGO coordination was a third issue. In addition to the village surveys, the Joint CIRDAP/ANGOC Programme led to the preparation of country status papers on NGO involvement in rural development in the seven countries. These NGO status papers, presented at the regional workshop, showed the widespread involvement and great diversity of NGOs in terms of size, origin, resources, affiliation, nature of work, and ideology. This served to increase awareness of the need to strengthen NGO coordination at national levels. Together with these NGO status papers, directories of NGOs were also compiled in each country.

Government/NGO collaboration, a fourth issue, is related to that of NGO coordination. The regional workshop participants recognized the importance of having a national network to relate to government on a formal, continuing basis. National networks already existed in Sri Lanka as in other countries but systematic mechanism for dialogue had to be developed.

The fifth issue regarded the roles and relationships of intermediate and primary-level NGOs (people's organizations). Intermediate NGOs have the task of organizing and mobilizing primary groups, and acting at times as intermediaries between government and people's organizations.

At its conclusion, the programme resulted in the identification of new projects and activities inspired by the village surveys and consultations. Limited support was obtained to fund demonstration activities on farm techniques for small farmers, and for income-generating activities which the villagers themselves had planned during the course of the programme. In the Philippines, the programme led to the participation of several NGOs involved in the village surveys in another CIRDAP programme on Community Information Planning Systems (CIPS). The CIPS has been instrumental in building the capacities of a number of NGOs in participatory research in their work with the rural poor.

Asian NGOs Promote World Food Day

Another forum that ANGOC used for promoting increased NGO interaction with governments as well as with FAO is World Food Day. Since 1981, ANGOC has actively promoted World Food Day activities among member and non-member NGOs, and with governments in the region. World Food Day promotion has taken a number of forms: organization of local meetings, seminars, and symposia of NGOs, POs, and the general public to discuss food and food-related issues; publication and dissemination of World Food Day posters, brochures, leaflets and special reports; public awareness campaigns on food and hunger issues; catalyzing NGOs to use World Food Day to intensify their activities on food production and other activities at local and country level; and organization of field demonstrations on food production technologies.

Over the last 12 years ANGOC's promotion of World Food Day has led to the institutionalization of this event as a regular activity for many NGOs in the region. In many countries, NGOs have been able to focus on World Food Day as the Farmers' Day. Thus, many farmers, peasants and rural workers in the region have become aware of its celebration. In September 1991 ANGOC, in collaboration with FAO and with assistance from German Agro Action, organized an Asian Regional Workshop on Food Security issues.

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