Guidelines for Civil Society participation in FAO Regional Conferences

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1 Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, Italy Fax: Tel: Guidelines for Civil Society participation in FAO Regional Conferences 1. Intro: Civil Society participation in FAO Governing Bodies One of the priorities of FAO nowadays is giving renewed emphasis to FAO s strategic partnerships with civil society, social movements and producers organizations that give organizational, economic, and social clout to smallholder farmers, pastoralists and those who rely on fishing and forestry for their livelihoods. FAO needs strong civil society and producer organizations as key partners in the effort to eliminate hunger for more than 900 million people and to respond to the different structural challenges that our world faces today. In past years, starting in 1996 with the World Food Summit, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been progressively more active in FAO conferences and technical committees in a number of areas, including policy dialogue at all levels (national, regional and global). Since then, regional civil society consultations have been regularly organized in conjunction with FAO Regional Conferences to ensure broader engagement and support for FAO policy discussions and decision-making at regional level by providing governments with an opportunity to hear and consider the views of the civil society stakeholders that constitute their citizenship as well as in playing a key role monitoring the implementation of decisions made. The present document is meant to provide practical guidance to FAO staff on how to engage with Civil Society actors to strengthen their participation and contribution to FAO Regional Conferences. 2. FAO Regional Conferences The FAO Regional Conferences are the highest governing bodies and fora of the Organization at the regional level, and are normally held once every biennium in non-conference years. The main functions of the Regional Conferences are to: a) Provide a forum for consultation on all matters pertaining to the mandate of the Organization within the region; b) Provide a forum for the formulation of regional positions on global policy and regulatory issues in relation to the mandate of the Organization;

2 c) Advise on and identify the specific problems of their respective regions and the priority areas of work which should be taken into account in planning the programme of work and budget of the Organization, thus promoting regional policy coherence; d) Review and advise on plans, programmes and/or projects carried out by the Organization which impact upon the region; e) Review the performance of the Organization in the region and advise on desirable changes. The Regional Conferences report to the FAO Council on programme and budget matters, in the areas of their respective mandates, and to the FAO Conference on policy and regulatory matters. The FAO Regional Conferences consist of a Technical Committee Meeting (Senior Officers level) followed by a Plenary Session (Ministerial level). 1 The Technical Committee Meeting after appropriate discussion prepares a draft Report for consequent review, discussion and endorsement by the Ministerial Session. Both meetings consider regional and global policy and regulatory issues, programme and budget matters and other matters. Each meeting lasts for two to three days (with a total of five days for the Regional Conference). A period of half-a-day is observed between the two meetings to enable the Secretariat to finalize the draft Report for the Ministerial Meeting. 3. Trends in the participation of Civil Society in Regional Conferences In the past, CSOs took part in Regional Conferences as observers, and it was, and still is, standard procedure for the Chair of FAO governing body sessions to call on observers to intervene on agenda items, time permitting, once Members have concluded their interventions. On an ad hoc basis, a CSO statement was allowed to be presented at the Plenary Meeting and/or appended to the official report of the regional conference. As advocated by FAO staff in HQ/DOs, these practices have evolved over the years towards increased space for CSO contributions to Regional Conferences. Efforts for closer involvement of CSOs have been exemplified on occasions in which Chairs have allowed CSO representatives to take the floor during the course of the discussions interacting with Member states. 1 The only exception is the European Regional Conference (ERC), which is preceded by the European Commission on Agriculture (ECA), a preparatory meeting for the ERC. While some of the topics at the ECA are discussed in preparation for the decision at the ERC (e.g. in 2012 the PWB) not all topics at the ECA are exactly the same as at the ERC. Also the ECA does not prepare a formal report at the end of the session, which is then approved and translated in all languages, but only summarizes the detailed discussions through the submission of LIMS for the specific agenda items taken up at the ERC. The ECA and ERC usually each last one day. 2

3 FAO has been increasingly moving towards newer approaches for more inclusive forms of policy dialogue, as a result of experience gained over the years and recent trends being followed by many Organizations. Regional Conferences 2012: lessons learned and new approaches In the 2012 round of Regional Conferences, a novel proposal was put forward to invite a minimum of three civil society spokespersons 2 to participate and interact in the discussions and debates during the senior officers (in the European case during the ECA meeting) and ministerial segments of the Regional Conferences. This step ahead in civil society participation allowing CSO representatives to partake in discussions and debates at any time during the Conference, as opposed to after the interventions of member states, was piloted with positive results in the 2012 round of Regional Conferences. From this experience, it became clear that the decision-making authority of FAO Members was not diminished in any way during the debates, but rather enhanced and broadened such authority by ensuring that their decisions were taken after due consideration of the views of civil society stakeholders in their regions. Similarly, the contributions made by the civil society spokespersons enriched the technical discussions during the senior officers meetings 3. Based on the 2012 experiences, the participation of Civil Society in the Regional Conferences can be of two types: 1. As Civil Society spokespersons, participating in the debates during the Regional Conference and reading the official declaration from the Civil Society Consultation. This applies to those CSOs selected by the regional CSOs during the civil society consultation prior to the Regional Conferences. 2. As observers, intervening after the member states, time permitting, and framing their intervention as outlined in the FAO basic texts. This applies to International NGOs (INGOs) holding formal status with FAO. 3. As part of a government delegation, in those cases where a member state agrees. FAO encourages this type of participation to promote enhanced dialogue and closer collaboration between governments and civil society organizations. 2 Civil society spokespersons are selected during the Civil Society Consultations that are organized in relation to the Regional Conferences. The suggested number is at least 3 spokespersons to participate in the Regional Conference. In 2012, most regions had 3 spokespersons, however, there is technically no maximum number, though it depends on the Chairperson s recommendations. 3 and, in the case of Europe, in the ECA 3

4 Regardless of the type of participation, all the Civil Society Organizations involved play then a key role in monitoring the implementation of the decisions made at the Regional Conferences. 4. Civil Society Consultations Civil Society Consultations are meetings organized autonomously by and for Civil Society actors in the region 4 prior, or in parallel, to the Regional Conferences, meant to gather key stakeholders, representing both constituencies as well as countries, in order to discuss key topics pertinent to the region, evaluate what FAO has done in the previous biennium (according to what was agreed upon at the previous Regional Conference), as well as specific agenda items of the Conference. The agenda of the Civil Society Consultation should therefore be aligned as much as possible with that of the Regional Conference. By discussing and consolidating their perspectives on the topics and themes of the Regional Conference, Civil Society articulate their voices and present a common view to member states and senior officers Timing The dates for the civil society consultation are determined by the organizers together with the Secretariat of the Regional Conference. Based on 2012 experience, Civil Society Consultations ideally should close the day before the Regional Conference begins. In this way, any clashing with Regional Conference preparations can be avoided and the CSOs attending the Regional Conference can fine-tune their positions and contributions Choosing the Venue Experience shows that the most successful interaction are those that take place in the same venue as or one in close vicinity to the Regional Conference. Necessary facilities (meeting rooms, office space and equipment, etc.) would be made available by the host Government on the same terms as for the Conference. In these cases, the host Government should be informed of the CSO consultation in advance, preferably when the memorandum of understanding on the hosting of the Regional Conference is being negotiated, in order to enable them adequately time to plan for the support of the CSO consultation. In cases where there is need for simultaneous interpretation in the languages of the region, this ideally should be made available, if possible, by the host country. Where this is regularly a challenge, such as in Europe, FAO may provide additional support. Should the host government not be able to provide for full interpretation, at least the use of interpretation booths and equipment should be provided free of charge. 4 The organizational part is still supported by the Regional Conference secretariat to ensure close coordination with the host government where appropriate. 4

5 4.3. Preparations for the Consultation The Civil Society Consultation is normally prepared by a leading CSO (or group of CSOs) in the region in coordination with a local NGO in the host country of the regional conference. Preparations for the Civil Society Consultation should be started well in advance to avoid lastminute difficulties. Traditionally, a given network would appoint in each region the CSO responsible to organize the regional conference. This has changed in recent years, with a variety of different platforms and committees now organizing the Civil Society Consultations in each region. Presently there are two common options: o A network appoints one of its members in the region to prepare the consultation; o An Ad Hoc committee is created with different organizations acting as facilitators for the consultation where the division of responsibilities should be agreed upon by these organizations. The CSO(s) responsible for the consultation will prepare a concept note indicating the background and justification of selected themes, the composition of the organizing committee, methodology, agenda and programme of the consultation as well as the list of participants based on agreed criteria (see the participants section ahead for more information). FAO may suggest topics for discussion that are of particular relevance to the Regional Conference. However, the final decision on the agenda and programme of the consultation will be made by the organizing CSO(s). While respecting the principles of self organization and autonomy claimed by Civil Society, FAO is often approached by CSOs to provide support financial and other through its regional offices as well as through the Advocacy and Partnerships Branch (OCPP). As per the local logistical preparations, the regional CSO responsible for the consultation will identify a suitable local CSO who can assist with the logistical arrangements. Together with the regional CSO, they will work closely with the host governmental committee dealing with preparations for the regional conference. In addition, the local CSO will act as the interface with the rest of the national CSOs in the host country willing to attend the Consultation and the Regional Conference. The organizing CSO may also wish to organize a preparatory meeting in the host country prior to the Consultation to discuss the arrangements with the host country. 5

6 4.4. Deciding on the agenda and programme The agenda, timetable and programme of the consultation need to be defined by the CSO organizing the consultation. The agenda is prepared around the points for discussion of the Regional Conference agenda. It is important to highlight that the FAO Regional Office and/or HQ should facilitate this process, particularly ensuring that CSOs have early access to the agenda of the Regional Conference in order to ensure that inputs from the Consultation are aligned with points on the Conference agenda. In the long run, this should lead to a closer dialogue between the CSOs and the Regional Conference also during the sessions, thus allowing the issues brought to the table by CSOs to be taken into consideration within the agenda of the Regional Conference. In addition, the organizing committee may wish to include in the agenda one or more topics relevant to the CSOs in the region. For topics which require interventions from FAO technical staff in the Region, this must be discussed in advance to enable the FAO Regional Office to make available such support. The opening and the closing of the Consultation is performed by the Minister responsible for the Regional Conference in the host country together with the ADG/RR of FAO in the Region Choosing Participants The list of invitees will be prepared by the organizing committee of the consultation. It can include national host CSOs as well as regional/international organizations. It should be geographically and gender balanced with representatives from different member states of the region and include different kinds of organizations and networks, considering the twelve (12) constituencies that OCPP recommends involving in order to ensure representativeness: farmers, indigenous peoples, landless, fishers, women, youth, consumers, pastoralists/herders, forest dwellers, consumers, agricultural workers, NGOs. INGOs invited by FAO to the Regional Conference may also be invited to attend the Civil Society consultation. (See section 5 regarding INGOs with Formal Status) The final list of both CSOs attending the consultation as well as FAO invitees should be sent to the Regional CSO Organizing Committee for invitation to the consultation. Selected individuals may be invited to serve as resource persons for specific topics. 6

7 4.6. Funding The CSO organizing committee may have some funds to support the travel and living costs of selected participants. The choice of which participants to support in this case is up to them, but the list should be communicated to the Regional Conference Secretary and OCPP staff, and it should follow the criteria of balanced representation as indicated above. It will be the responsibility of the CSO organizing committee to communicate with the selected invitees and to make all arrangements for their tickets and payment of per diems. However, there are times that funding may be provided by an external donor at which point their own internal procedures for organizing travel must be followed. With respect to funding, it is important to keep in mind the following: 1) Lately, the trend is for FAO to progressively move away from funding civil society participation, thus not only respecting the right for self organization and independence from the CSOs but also their right for self funding. 5 2) In those instances when FAO does provide funding, it should be noted that these funds are to be used as a supplement to locally available funding raised by the CSO community themselves. 3) FAO funds should only be used to support the attendance of one representative per organization. 4) If multiple representatives from the same organization are planning to participate, alternative funds must be identified to cover their expenses. 5) The funds, where applicable, are transmitted through a Letter of Agreement which is responsibility of the FAO Regional Office or Headquarters. 6) The specifications of budgetary allotment should be clearly expressed in the LoA signed with the organizer Outputs A minimum of three spokespersons identified during the Consultation should bring the voices and concerns of civil society both to the senior officers and the ministerial segments of the Regional Conference 6. 5 In the case of Europe the host government usually offers funding through a Trust Fund to finance the participation of government representatives from the LIFDC countries in the region to ensure that a high level of representation is reached at the Regional Conference. It would be useful to obtain interest from the host government to see if some CSO participants could be funded for their participation to ensure that also CSO representatives from e.g. LIFDCs are able to voice their views at the respective CSO meeting. 6 and, in the case of Europe, in the ECA 7

8 The consultation report should be treated as other documents, translated (when necessary) after finalization and duplicated, using conference facilities, so that it can be made available to conference delegates in time for them to take it into consideration during their deliberations. From the Civil Society Consultations three main outputs are expected: 1. The selection of a minimum of 3 organizations 7 that will act as spokespersons during the regional conference intervening during the debates. The 3 spokespersons will be allowed to participate in the senior officers and ministerial segments of the Regional Conferences 8 and interact with member states at any time, if agreed upon at the onset of the Regional Conference. The 3 spokespersons will be seated in a clearly designated area near the observers but separate enough for the Chair and Member States to visibly see them and identify them as spokespersons. 2. The drafting of a Civil Society statement or declaration that will be read by one of the spokespersons during the Ministerial Segment of the Regional Conference, preferably on the first day, and not at the end as was customary in the past. The presentation of the Civil Society Consultation final declaration/statement will be included in the agenda/timetable of the Regional Conference. The declaration needs to be presented early enough on in the conference for its content to be taken into consideration during the intergovernmental discussions. 3. The main report of the Consultation detailing the proceedings, participation as well as the action plan and recommendations to be implemented over the following biennium. All the positions expressed by Civil Society representatives during the Regional Conference, including both their interventions in the course of the debate and their statements addressed to the Conference, need to be captured in the proceedings and in the report of the Regional Conference, if there is no objection from members states of the region. It is in this way that the Civil Society Consultations are linked to the Regional Conferences. Where positions cannot be fully captured in the main body of the report, the CSO declaration/statement should be attached as an annex, with any other key CSO positions included. 7 Should the Chairperson of the regional conference agree, the organizations acting as spokespersons from Civil Society can change in the course of the Regional Conference. For example, and as per the technical discussions, Civil Society can appoint different spokespersons from a pre-selected group of 12 CSOs. Then for the different agenda items, the CSOs can select 3 spokespersons from these 12 pre-selected CSOs for each agenda item. In all cases, the chair of the conference needs to be informed of the spokespersons before the beginning of the discussion of the agenda items, should there be changes. 8 and, in the case of Europe, in the ECA 8

9 5. Participation of Organizations as Observers in the Regional Conference Eligible INGOs 9 and other organizations can participate as observers in the Regional Conferences as well as in other FAO governing bodies by obtaining formal status with FAO. While this procedure is currently under review, given its relevance vis-à-vis the emerging practices of debating with key actors who do not have formal status, this is still an option for those organizations which do not wish to take part actively in the regional Civil Society Consultations. Organizations holding formal status with FAO will be granted access to the Organization s governing bodies as observers (meaning that they will only be able to intervene, time permitting, once Members have concluded their interventions and upon agreement by the Chair) according to the rules outlined in the FAO basic texts for the three categories of Formal status granted by FAO (Specialized, Consultative and Liaison). OCPP is the responsible unit at FAO Headquarters to process formal status requests from organizations as well as, in collaboration with FAO regional offices, give clearance for lists of formal status organizations who can attend the Regional Conferences. Formal status organizations can also attend the Civil Society Consultation and participate in the discussions during the consultation with the rest of the CSOs. To do this, formal status organizations need to make a request to the CSO(s) organizing the consultation as well as arrange for their own travel and personal expenses. OCPP and FAO are not involved in this request. 6. Preparation of the list of CSOs attending the Regional Conference The FAO Regional Offices (i.e. the Secretary of the Regional Conference and CSO focal point) should receive from the CSOs organizing the civil society consultation the complete list of all participants at least one month before the event takes place. The list should include the name of the representative, name of the organization, the country where the organization is registered, contact details and if possible the constituency and/or area of work where the organization operates. 1) The FAO Regional Office will submit to OCPP the complete list of CSOs attending the civil society consultation, as well as the list of organizations that the FAO Regional Office 9 As per FAO Basic Texts, Section M (FAO Policy concerning relations with International Non-Governmental Organizations) 9

10 wishes to invite as observers 10 to the regional conference based on: past attendance to the regional conference; formal status of the organization; ongoing activities and collaborations with FAO; strategic interest in having the organization present at the discussion as per the agenda item, etc. 2) The complete list of organizations attending (as well as those attending as observers at the Regional Conference), will be submitted to the Advocacy and Partnerships Branch (OCPP) at FAO Headquarters. 3) OCPP will submit this list officially to the Office of Support to Decentralization (OSD) who will obtain clearance from the Office of the Director General (ODG) and then submit the cleared list to the FAO Regional Office. 10 INGOs holding formal status with FAO, which are allowed in the Conference as observers by virtue of this status, would retain their rights to participate as well, according to the terms established in FAO s basic texts and consistent with standard practice. 10

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