The civil society at the global alliance for development
Fanny Gomez


On 25 October Fanny Gomez represented ICAE and REPEM at the “Global Alliance for Development: Getting to the end of the way to meeting the Millennium Development Goals” event in Barcelona, invited by the ANUE, United Nations Association in Spain.

The event made part of the aims of spreading and sensitizing civil society on the objective 8 of the Millennium Goals and of keeping the impulse and looking for the implementation of concrete actions with a view to achieving the goals before the feeling of despair that came up at the midpoint (2007) that We won’t make it! in 2015. Another aim was to stimulate a stronger citizenship responsibility from developed countries in order that developing countries could meet their goals. What is particularly sought is a more effective aid, a sustainable debt reduction and more fair trade rules before 2015.

Representing ANUE was Mrs Marina Bru, director; Mr. Xavier Guerrero, assistant director; Angels Matero, Codirector, and Ariadna Quintero. Other participants: Andreu Felip, director of the Catalonian Agency of Cooperation for Development; Dr. José Antonio Alonso, director of the Complutense Institute of International Studies; Mrs Barathi Sadasivam, Political consultant of the UNDP’s Civil Society Division; Mrs Isabel Ortiz, Interregional consultant of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Mr. Eduard Soler, President of the Catalonian Federation of NGOs for development.

In order to fulfil its mission, ANUE is interested in establishing contact with networks of women from the SOUTH of the world.

What follows is the presentation by Fanny Gomez.


We can only get a better world as we are ready to invest our moral energies in its achievement, and as we are ready to struggle with those who, under whatever guise and for whatever excuse, prefer an inegalitarian, undemocratic world. (Wallerstein) (1)


On behalf of the International Council for Adult Education – ICAE – and the Women’s Popular Education Network – REPEM – I would like to thank ANUE for inviting me to participate in this World Development Day celebration event, presenting our reflections on development and the role of civil society in the World Association for Development, eighth of the Millennium Development Goals.

In order to place the role of civil society within the GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT it is necessary to briefly explore the concepts of ‘development’ and ‘civil society’. To talk about development in this case implies a critical look to the development model in force and a mention to new development paradigms characteristics, i.e., to ask oneself about the efficiency and effects of the development model that predominates and the kind of development we want to encourage and build. To talk about civil society implies a look over the evolution of its notion and practice, but mainly over its present moment, as an essential actor in many parts of the world.

1st part: What development are we talking about?

The feature of the development model in force is the predominance of a growing accumulation of capital which social effect is a deep gap between those who have and those who don’t and that paradoxically coexists with a legal system based on citizenship equality.

a) Questionings to the effects of this model:
Economic growth that is not expressed in better life quality because it excludes the majority of the population from its profits, it doesn’t care for social welfare and it limits political and cultural development.
It is focused on things and not on the people. It increases the production of the same goods and services which flood the market today, and “it combines great material and technological progress with an extraordinary polarization of the populations all over the world”. (2)

b) It is a model in crisis because:
It increases inequality: while economy grows, technologies improve and processes of wealth concentration accelerate, poverty and extreme poverty increase in the world. Besides, it is not aimed to satisfy the basic needs of the population as a whole, but to produce export commodities for middle and high-income sectors’ consumption. It damages the environment because it exploits natural resources without caring for renewing them, it diminishes the crop area, the forest land and sea resources, and ecological imbalances grow with air and stream pollution, and pesticide and waste spill.

It reduces life quality, at least by three ways: 1 – Economic inequalities cause social resentment and violence, people’s distrust and isolation increase, citizenship discontent grows, there is a loss of credibility in democracy and crime rises. 2 – The growing interest for the accumulation of capital favours production strategies that contaminate soils, water and food affecting not only human life but all living creatures of the planet. 3 – The expansion of the commercialization process, typical of the system, to all life spheres, even the most private ones, damages social relations and bonds seriously affecting individual and collective mental health and basic social cohesion.

It has not led humanity to a safer world, with more hope and more comfortable to live in; on the contrary, this first half of century world tends to be more violent than the world of cold war where we come from.
It has non desirable social, economic and political effects on human development:

SOCIAL because it weakens the social capital based on interpersonal confidence, interaction networks, cultural tolerance, sense of reciprocity; it retracts people towards the private field and hence insecurity, distrust and individualism gain ground; it produces a localized increase of violence that fosters the proliferation of weapons and war (a significant number of countries have nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and we would not forget that war industry generates the biggest profits) and it increases South-North, East to West Europe migration, facilitated by economic globalization and pushed away by the absence of free movement globalization. Frontiers have to be open for goods but not for people.

ECONOMIC because it consumes world’s natural resources in a kind of waste festival that, by consuming its own possibilities every day, it expands its dynamics of destruction all over the world, and

POLITICAL because it builds different population groups’ interests as a mechanism of representation, it generates discriminations that segment society and its capacity to identify the origin of segregations and of becoming strong as civil society, exert pressure and legitimate its collective interests in the public debate; and it generates the contradiction between the need of migrating labour force to support the economies of countries having the greatest accumulation while it repudiates them and makes them live in the core of their democracies without human rights and political rights.

1. The deruralization of the world. (Two hundred years ago, between 80 and 90 per cent of the population of the world was rural. Today we are beneath 50 per cent, and some regions of the world are beneath 20 per cent. What about this? Let’s remember how capitalism works: Capital gain is divided between those who own the capital and those who work, and there is a basic contradiction there: if work remuneration is low all over the world, the market is limited (purchasing power of workers is reduced), and if it is very high, benefits are limited. As time goes by, wherever workers are concentrated, trade unions’ power and haggling increase. Hence, benefits are reduced. The solution has been to keep a group of workers well paid to supply the market, and to increase the world labour force in politically weak sectors, ready to accept low salaries, which makes it possible to reduce production costs. These people have been gained from rural areas. The deruralization of the world threatens the essential process of capitalism, which is to maintain the level of profits).

2. The ecological crisis: A crucial element that maintains the level of profits is that capitalists do not pay the whole of the production costs but they outsource an important part of infrastructure costs and toxic waste cleaning costs. Hence, rivers pollution and their surroundings, air pollution, etc. are then paid not by the companies but by the population. The new speech of companies’ social responsibility is not enough to give an account of the dimension of these costs. Ecologists announce that the world faces a choice between an ecological disaster and the imposition of internalization of these costs that threaten the accumulation of capital and globalizes the ecological crisis.

3. The democratization of the world: the programme of concessions to the population with the “welfare state” that includes salaries for old people, health and education facilities initially… was given to European workers on the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays workers all over the world make demands that can only be met decreasing the accumulation of capital. And this is not happening; that is why we are living, especially in the South, a process of democracy without development, as democratization will never be of interest for capitalists.

4. The loss of state power: for four hundred years, the states have increased their power because they ensured the order and the monopolies, the only way to accumulate capital for sure. Currently, the states have plenty of demands due to ecological crisis and democratization, and they are entering a fiscal crisis that makes them reduce their expenses and play their role less well, so they get into a vicious circle as if the state is less efficient, the rebellion against taxes increases. The capitalist world system cannot work properly without strong states.

However, the democratization of the world demands equal rights, reasonable incomes (a job and then an allowance) and access to education and medical care. People will insist not only on having these three things but on periodically increasing the minimum acceptable of each one.

Another development is possible.

The dissatisfaction produced by the neoliberal model or “capitalist world system” encourages the search for a new paradigm of development that interrelates the macroeconomic management with the quality of life of the population, which promotes an environmental sustainability, which questions the exclusions and articulates gender equity with social equity. Equity in general, gender equity in particular and redistribution are the axes of the new paradigms.

Some of them are:

a) The UNDP human development approach that

  • Comprises and exceeds conventional approaches like wealth increase or per capita income and comprises other values ESSENTIAL TO A BETTER LIFE like equity, democracy, ecological balance and gender justice.

  • It proposes to ensure that wealth produced by economy should be an OPPORTUNITY for concrete people, and for all of them without exception.

  • It measures development through education, health, consumption possibilities, but also through the reduction of inequalities and its social effects.

  • It states that development is FREEDOM, and that's why public policies must create options for people to live their lives increasingly better. (Amartya Sen’s capability approach) (3)

  • b) The development model on a human scale (Max Neef and others)
  • Development refers to people and not to objects and it is measured by the improvement of life quality and not by the amount of goods they have or by the growth of economic indicators.

  • Life quality depends on the reinforcement of basic human needs (4). Human needs affect the social context as they relate not only with goods and services that fulfil them but with social practices, forms of social organization, political models and values that have an effect on the way those needs are expressed. Any need that is not fulfilled produces a social pathology.

  • Which civil society are we talking about today?

    We no longer talk of Lechner’s notion (5), that it was always supported by a certain "drawing power, by a moving notion that resumes the effort of laying the foundations of power on secular and earthly matters, facing and eroding the so called divine right”, that was incorporated by Gramschi in western Marxism and that reappeared in intellectual and popular opposition to Eastern Europe countries’ regimes and on the opposition to authoritarian military dictatorships in South American countries.

    We recently said that civil society organizations are shown as an alternative form of working in politics that are shaped as complaints from groups (ethnic, religious, sexual, linguistic, of migrants, afrodescendant or indigenous) that see themselves as an alternative to citizenship and that respond to a post-modern account that praises diversity, cultural individualism, multiplicity of languages, forms of expression and life projects, and axiological relativism, where pluralism does not find the favourable conditions for its development. Thus, the demands of recognition of their identities and particularities coexist with demands of different nature from groups formed by exclusions and segregations of the system, a homogenizing globalization and democracies incapable of granting legitimacy to their positions. In a gender perspective, women’s organizations claim for a redistribution of the access to resources, opportunities and economic and political justice, given that for gender reasons, economic, cultural and political subordination and recognition (6) of our identity and our contribution to the economy from our role in the world of reproduction, the working force and society in general has been paradigmatic. In these claims, women’s organizations have strengthen as social groups that articulate our demands between the global and the local level, working in networks and articulated to wide social movements.

    With reference to this new reality, the World Bank uses the term “civil society” to refer to a “wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) therefore refer to a wide of array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labour unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations.”

    2nd part: Civil society’s role in the Global Development Alliance

    The questionings to the “capitalist world system” are reasserted by Kofi Annan when, at the call for the International conference on Financing for Development, he states: “The world has seen faster human and economic development during the past half century than during any previous comparable period in history. Almost everywhere, literacy rates are up, infant mortality is down, and people are living longer lives. But some very real challenges remain. Over a fifth of the world’s population still lives in abject poverty (under one dollar a day), and about half lives below the barely more generous standard of two dollars a day, One quarter of the population of developing countries are still illiterate. The 2.5 billion people who live in the world’s low-income countries still have an infant mortality rate of over 100 for every 1,000 live births, compared with just 6 per 1,000 among the 900 million people in the high-income countries. Illiteracy still averages 40 per cent in low-income countries. Population growth, although slowing, remains high. Sadly, increasing polarization between the haves and have-nots has become a feature of our world. Reversing this shameful trend is the pre-eminent moral and humanitarian challenge of our age. For people in the rich world, elementary self-interest is also at stake. In the global village, someone else’s poverty very soon becomes one’s own problem: of lack of markets for one’s products, illegal immigration, pollution, contagious disease, insecurity, fanaticism, terrorism.” (7)

    Acknowledging this reality, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declaration that commits governments to free the world from extreme poverty, fixing international development goals for 2015 (8), that are specified in 18 global goals combined with national goals, with 48 quantifiable indicators with terms to supervise the progresses attained which consolidate many of the most important commitments undertaken separately at the summits and conferences of the United Nations in the 90s. However, it is said that they are a reasonable agenda for Africa, but not for the rest of the regions, minimalist as it reduced the conquest of civil society in previous international summits, which is a draw-back on development for some regions of the world (Latin America and South-West of Asia). For this it has been criticized by ONGs and similar organizations, but encouraged by the UN as attainable indicators.

    But at the midpoint of the achievement of the MDGs, (2007) the discussion has been developed mainly on the direction money and cooperation have taken, more than on the strategies and vision that guided them: the reduction of poverty and its relation with growth and macroeconomics, because the burden of the external debt in highly indebted countries is still disappointing, because countries do not make enough social expenditure and fiscal reforms in favour of poor people; because trade liberalization and privatizations have mainly affected the poorest people, including women, because financial liberalization has reduced jobs, salaries and even growth, and finally, the promises of help have failed. Specifically, in the goals of the Global Development Alliance (9), the progress chart by 2007, based on analyses of tendencies between 1990s and 2005, only shows results on the goals related to decent jobs for young people (the goal for 2015 is not expected to be attained in Africa, South Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States of Europe and Asia) and impulse and democratization of ICTs.


    In this scene of dissatisfaction before the development model and the leadership the United Nations are exerting for the achievement of MDGs, the pending task of civil societies is to keep the impulse and to express those goals in concrete actions in order to provide resources that produce tangible results for the poor of the world. In developed countries it will be necessary to persuade the citizenship on the whole that development and reduction of poverty must be concerns inherent to national policies and that the solution of these problems will demand resources and structural changes. In developing countries the civil society has been a key actor

  • Contributing with resources in the provision of social services and performing programmes for development, especially in regions where governmental presence is weak, in post-conflict situations or where the experience of the civil society complements the actions of the government.

  • Having an incidence in the formulation of public policies at global, regional and local level. In the United Nations setting it is worth stressing the participation at the World Conference on Financing for Development FDF which aim expressed at the Final Statement was to work together to try that the global systems of finance and trade fully support economic growth and social justice for all the people in the world, in order to achieve a fair globalization that includes everyone, recognizing that the main moral and humanitarian problem of our time is to invert polarization between privileged and underprivileged people.

  • Mobilizing the public opinion with supporting campaigns to matters such as reduction of poverty, banning of the use of landmines, debt release, education for all and environmental protection, subjects that have mobilized thousands of people all over the world.

  • Participating in the World Social Forum, a recent demonstration of the vitality of the international civil society that debates and suggests more equitable and sustainable alternatives to present models of economic globalization.

  • But within the framework of the reform of the United Nations, the action of civil society is determined by these four pillars: A Programme in common, a budgetary framework, a leadership and a National Coordination

    1: A programme in common that responds to national priorities. MNUAD identifies “Four National Priorities” that have to be developed in order to attain the Millennium Goals:
  • To achieve a sustainable economic growth.

  • To reduce poverty and eradicate extreme poverty.

  • To reduce inequality (economic, social, territorial, intergenerational, of gender, ethnic and others) from its roots and in terms of an access to social services with better quality.

  • To promote the strengthening of human rights and to increase democracy quality through civil, political and social citizenship. (10)

  • The challenge to the civil society is to prevent that the possible direction of the achievement of goals on the programmatic areas would be the economic growth seen as a response to the problems of poverty, discrimination, eradication of HIV/AIDS, inequality and exclusion more than the search for a necessary structural transformation with a view to economic and social equity. In this sense, it is necessary to identify strategies and to find mechanisms of organization and coordination that make them viable. While we cannot ignore that national states of countries from the south suffer from the pressures of the stronger interests of monopoly capitals (after all, the essential task of national states is to create the conditions for the development of the capital), the civil society has the task of finding the strategies and mechanisms to make that the achievement of the goals mean structural transformations in that figure of political administration that we call nation-state and that in the countries of the south never attained internal coherence. Maybe this is the cause of all its limitations and problems, but maybe it is also the condition of possibility of its faster transformation.

    2. A budgetary framework In this second pillar, the challenge for the civil society is that the tendency of concentration and canalization of resources via UN and national governments requires a good agreement and the search for connections and intersections between programmatic areas and civil society's initiatives not specified in the millennium goals, for instance, to attack the feminisation of poverty, illiteracy among Adults, deruralization of the countryside, the increase of infectious diseases, etc.

    One way of making interconnections and complementarities visible between MDGs and development priorities not expressed in them can come from education (a task that we perform from ICAE and REPEM)

  • Recognition of the right to lifelong education as an important element to reduce poverty and social exclusion between marginalized groups and to create a dynamic of permanent education that increases the possibilities of collective efficiency by building an intergenerational bridge that enables intergenerational agreements for transformational projects that exceed the limits of individual lives of some generations.

  • Recognition of the studies and knowledge of migrants for a better integration and to recover the human capital formed, while creating conditions for this human capital to innovate in its region of origin.

  • Removal of barriers for political participation accelerating validation and recognition processes in the field of informal and popular education, but also opening towards an open and flexible education that enables that validation and recognition for all citizens at any institution and anywhere in the world.

  • Recognition of the crucial role of adults’ education in the agenda of international development, because it can generate a better standard of living for people and for its significant contribution to the development of economy, to entrepreneurial spirit, to the development of science and technology, to leadership and to active citizenship.

  • Multidimensionality of education from the perspective of intersectionality of discriminations (gender, ethnics, age, religion, socioeconomic position), but also recognition of the limitations of demographic and sectorial policies that segment both the most structural social groups and the nature of social problems to which expressions they pretend to respond.

  • Recognition of the relation between growth of the communicative and technological gap and new kinds of functional illiteracy, but also as a mechanism of homogenization.

  • At the very Centre of all these contradictions the civil society must be capable of working knowing that in moments of stability the possibility to predict what can happen and where can we reach increases, but in moments of instability, like the time we live, predictability diminishes and the range of possibilities increases and then, the responsibility of civil society for the possible future is greater, as it depends on its ability of political choice of possibilities and on its ability and decision to work on the chosen direction.

    In Latin America, the civil society should be capable in next years to make a double work: while trying to meet the goals of GDA, spot the structural factors that generate the basic inequality and find any minimum mechanism to start the transformation.

    Finally, the civil society has a significant role in the Global Development Alliance and it can strengthen its role through action strategies such as:

    1. Sensibilization of the global, regional and local public opinion on key subjects like the campaign “0.7%, together against poverty” and generalize the debate in this topic and in other topics of the goals of MDGs 8 given that although the countries renew their commitments, aid decreases.
    2. Pressure on the practice of social responsibility of businessmen and denunciation in case they affect labour rights and the environment.
    3. Impact and negotiation with governments so that they design and implement public policies of redistribution and recognition.
    4. Dialogue and lobby before interstate organisms (UN, WB, IMF) to face the problems of the debt or the trade and financing liberalization (WTO)


    (1) WALLERSTEIN, Immanuel. Conference given in the course of the Forum 2000: Concerns and Hopes on the Threshold of the New Millennium, Prague, Sept. 3-6, 1997.

    (2) Idem

    (3) SEN, Amartya. Development as Freedom. Oxford University Press
    His development approach is focused on the creation and strengthening of people’s capabilities to meet their needs and he affirms that money income increase does not necessarily imply a welfare increase. What matters it is not to satisfy the consumption but to create capabilities in the people so that they can fully develop themselves. Freedom is a goal and the best means to reach development. People are not only the beneficiaries or receivers of the options but the main protagonists of development. Development depends on the creative effort of men and women and not of nature or luck. Development is FOR PEOPLE, because the aim is not to add zeros to national accounts but to improve people’s life.

    (4) Subsistence, participation, understanding, protection, affection, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. These needs are a priority and they are the same for everyone.

    (5) LECHNER Norbert, "La problemática invocación de la sociedad civil", op. cit., p. 5.

    (6) FRAER Nancy. 1996. Redistribution and recognition: Towards and integrated vision of gender justice.

    (7) Kofi Annan. Call for the International Conference on FDF

    (8) Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
    Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
    Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
    Goal 5: Improve maternal health
    Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
    Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
    These seven goals were formulated for developing countries.
    Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

    (9) 1.An open commercial and financial system, non-discriminatory,
    2. To attend to the necessities of the least developed countries, with exportation quotas, debt relief, a more generous ODA and face developing countries’ debt with national and international measures to make it sustainable on the long term.
    3. To specially attend to the countries without access to the sea and small insular states.
    4. Strategies which provide young people with a dignified and productive work
    5. To elaborate and apply strategies which provide young people with a dignified and productive work
    6. To have access to essential medicines
    7. Impulse and democratization of ICTs.

    (10) With the following programmatic areas: Promotion of production, including micro and medium-sized companies. Promotion of territorial planning and sustainable local development. Reduction of poverty and eradication of extreme poverty (addressed to women, children and young people), support to social policies’ reforms (education, employment, health, social security and housing), as well as to the fight against inequality (economic, social, of territory, intergenerational, of gender, ethnical and others) and discrimination. Modernization of Institutions of the State and promotion of citizenship in the participation for the design, management, monitoring and evaluation of public policies at national and local levels. Promotion of policies for the eradication of HIV/AIDS. Demography and migration.

    Versión en español

    Imprimir print   Enviar send   correct 

    In-depth reports
    Detailed reports on key issues
    Financing for Development
    The Financing for Development process, led by the United Nations, reached a global 'consensus' in the Monterrey Conference (2002). But without political will that opportunity remains in jeopardy.
    Millennium Development Goals - MDGs
    A comprehensive list of resources from the United Nations and civil society organizations.

    Choike is a project of the Third World Institute | Contact | Avda. 18 de julio 2095/301, Montevideo 11200, Uruguay | Phone: +598 2403 1424