June 28, 2017: The Hunger Project recommends that international governmental organizations (IGOs) adopt the following practices for effectively engaging with civil society as an essential element of good governance:
- Major Groups: IGOs should utilize a framework like the major groups defined by the UN, rather than dealing with civil society as a single category. IGO should ensure that youth, women, farmers, indigenous people, organized labor and others from the Global South express their own voices in addition to that of INGOs.
- Democratic Selection: Civil society should select their own representatives in consultative processes through an inclusive, democratic process rather than having representatives chosen by the IGO.
- Mainstream Participation: Civil society representatives should have a seat at the table, with equal voice alongside government representatives. Civil society representatives should be allowed to be present and participate in intergovernmental negotiations. Good examples: the GAFSP Steering Committee and the Committee on Food Security/Civil Society Mechanism.
- Existing Networks: Civil society is best equipped to prepare and provide coherent recommendations through its existing, regularized networks, not through ad-hoc work groups of individual organizations. IGOs should avoid establishing “their own” civil society groups and processes.
- Travel Funding: For IGOs to legitimately include perspectives of civil society from the Global South at meetings, they must allocate sufficient travel and accommodation funds for Global South representatives.
- Mandates to Offices: Civil society participation should be a mandated priority of regional and local offices, and not optional depending on local leadership. It should be regularized in a transparent manner, held at times and places that work for all stakeholders and announced well in advance.
- Early and Sustained Engagement: Civil society should be invited to engage as early as possible in the policy-making process, and be informed of a clear timeline to review and provide recommendations to draft statements including follow-up processes.
- Caucus Facilities: At major meetings, IGOs should provide civil society with its own meeting rooms with adequate time and space for caucusing before and during official deliberations, in close proximity to the policy makers and the media.
- Side Events: The prevailing competitive approach to side events is chaotic and counterproductive. Major groups should facilitate civil society in cooperatively organizing all side events, and conference organizers should provide an official, unified online schedule for both side and parallel events.
- Updates and Information Flow: Email and web-based announcements and updates should uniformly reach all participants, both from governments and civil society. IGO websites should include email list subscription forms.
Photo: Civil society representative Josephine Atangana addressing the plenary of the Second International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, 2014. John Coonrod/The Hunger Project.