Saturday, April 20, 2024

Regional NSAs to talk strategy

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AN historic regional meeting of non-state actors (NSA) is scheduled to be held here tomorrow and Friday at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church, starting at 9 a.m. each day.It will be the first time that civil society organisations from across the Caribbean will meet to frame a proposal to access the European Development Fund.Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Senator Darcy Boyce will address the meeting.The meeting is the initiative of the Non-State Actors Advisory Panel of Barbados and serves to combine efforts with the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), which was mandated to hold a regional meeting with NGOs, labour and private sector representatives to devise a non-state actors proposal for the Regional Indicative Programme between the European Commission and CARIFORUM.This initiative of the NSA panel of Barbados will serve to widen inputs from the Caribbean. The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce, the Caribbean Congress of Labour, the Caribbean Employers Confederation and the CPDC are the four regional organisations recognised by CARIFORUM and will be in attendance.It is through these organisations that the sectors can tap into CARIFORUM funds. However, CARIFORUM wants one proposal rather than four.It is therefore expected that the meeting will provide a basis on which a collective proposal on NSA capacity building can be generated and submitted to the CARIFORUM by identifying the key areas of concern for NSAs as well as possible responses to those concerns. Deadline for submission of the collective proposal is September 2010 and by the end of this two-day meeting the parties should emerge with a single proposal incorporating these various interests.Apart from NSA representatives, participating in the meeting will be representatives of the European Commission here, as well as key government agencies which have responsibility for CARICOM and the CSME, which will help guide the NSA stakeholders to meet the requirements in order to access the funding provided through development cooperation agreements.Pilot projectChairman of the Barbados NSA panel Rodney Grant, who represents the Barbados Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (BANGO), explained that there were NSA panels set up by cooperation agreements between the EU and the governments of Barbados and the OECS as a pilot project to ensure civil society participation. These panels serve to identify the NSAs in the respective countries and bring them together in permanent dialogue.As a result, it was easy to convene a meeting of these NSAs from Barbados and the OECS to engage the CARIFORUM process.In contrast, where there were no panels such as in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana, it has proved much harder to convene the sectors and identify national representatives.BANGO, however, was able to identify representatives from Jamaica and Trinidad to attend the meeting.Secretary General Roosevelt King of BANGO, said the panels might become the saviour for Caribbean civil society, since regional governments had not responded positively enough to initiatives by civil society to organise themselves. He noted that Barbados was the only CARICOM country to have an NGO as its docal point (BANGO) while the others used government departments.King said while Barbados might be ahead in this instance, this country had not gone far enough.“For example, we should have had a headquarters by now where NGOs can have their offices and where meetings of organisations can be convened for the purpose which the NSA panels are now serving,” he said.
Off target“When we look at the developments which pertain as a result of the existence of the panels, it is quite clear that the Civil Society Project, which is being executed by the CARICOM Secretariat, is way off target.“This meeting brings into sharp focus a perfect example of the requirements for engaging civil society at the national and regional levels, since the panels are made up of NSAs and have a budget with which to organise these kinds of events,” he added.King said for those reasons this would be a very historic meeting. “It was only in 2008,” he noted, “that we were able to see the Barbados National Indicative Programme (NIP) after about 30 years of having them. The NIP is a guiding document outlining the focal areas for which funding for NGO development is available. We have never before seen an NIP and therefore have never been able to tap into the funds.“Furthermore, apart from simply tapping into the fund, the NGOs should have participated in putting together the NIP, so that NGO challenges, issues and capacity could be addressed. We now have our foot in the door to be able to see the document. The next step is to be part of the document to make our inputs, but this will be in another four years time,” King added. (AB)

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