The civil-society network in Ecuador involves more than 750 organizations, including groups representing peasants and farmers, indigenous people, workers, women, youth, the urban poor and small businesspeople, as well as churches, human-rights, education and health-care organizations.
The civil-society steering committee brings together organizations from a wide range of population groups and geographical areas. Peasants and rural workers, small-scale enterprise groups, women, organized workers and unions, low-income community groups, indigenous peoples and afro-ecuadoran communities are represented, as are organizing committees that are active in six major regions of the country. The steering committee designated a group of civil-society experts to form a technical committee that is working with the government's and Bank's technical experts to design and oversee the research process. The SAPRI/Ecuador exercise is coordinated by the National Steering Committee, formed by the civil-society steering committee and its counterparts in the government and the World Bank.
Civil-Society Steering Committee Members:
Civil-Society Technical Committee Members:
After overcoming initial problems with civil-society organizing and outreach, an extensive process began in the fall of 1997 under the leadership of IEDECA to reach out to and involve those sectors and broadly representative organizations normally excluded from national and international processes.
Seven regional workshops were organized between October 1997 and March 1998 as part of the process of mobilizing participation from a broad range of civil-society organizations. Over 450 organizations participated in these activities, which took place in different geographical regions and involved people from 20 of the country's 22 provinces. These one-day workshops explained the objectives of SAPRI and included round-table discussions with local representatives of different sectors on specific structural adjustment policies in Ecuador and their impacts. Afternoon sessions broke into small groups to explore more in depth people's experiences with the impacts of adjustment policies and suggestions for alternatives, as well as to generate ideas for areas in which to focus SAPRI research. Each regional workshop selected delegates to attend a national citizens' workshop that was held in Quito in March 1998, where the priority issues raised in the regional workshops were further discussed and the national civil-society steering committee was elected. A summary of the results from these workshops was used to prepare the discussions in the Opening National Forum.
Due to several changes in government and the adoption of a new constitution, the Forum was delayed until early 1999. On 14-15 January 1999, approximately 250 civil-society participants representing indigenous and peasant organizations, farmers, trade unions, small-business associations, NGOs, women's groups, urban neighborhood organizations and others from 21 of the country's 22 provinces attended the Opening National Forum in Quito. They were joined by government and World Bank officials over the course of the two-day Forum for a full agenda that included three plenary sessions and three simultaneous thematic-group discussions.
Forum discussions were informed by civil-society preparation and the synthesized outcome from the outreach phase, as well as by a document prepared by the civil-society technical team, "El Ajuste Estructural, el Banco Mundial y los Desafios del SAPRI en el Ecuador" . This document is a summary explanation of the Bank's adjustment program in Ecuador in the mid-1990s. It was written using some of the 80 previously confidential documents released by the World Bank under the Information Disclosure Agreement reached with the Bank at the global level. These documents were also drawn upon for the background study prepared during the research phase.
The Forum was considered a success by all parties involved, and brief conclusions were jointly drawn up. A summary report was prepared by civil society.
Following the Opening National Forum, and as the economic situation in the country was worsening and soon erupted into a major crisis in March 1999, government participation in the National Steering Committee and Technical Committee was inconsistent. The civil-society network mobilized to address the crisis. The Steering Committee addressed a letter to Bank president, Jim Wolfensohn, in March insisting that the Bank take seriously its commitment to work with civil-society as a partner and expressing its desire for the bank to involve civil society in designing an Ecuadoran solution to the economic crisis. In April, the Bank urged the government to ask the SAPRIN network to organize a consultation with civil society on proposed anti-corruption legislation, and the in-coming Bank vice-president for Latin America met for several hours with the SAPRIN Steering Committee during his trip to Ecuador in July 1999.
In spite of the economic crisis and inconsistency of government participation, the National Steering and Technical Committees worked to synthesize the input from the Opening Forum and refine research questions. The Tripartite Steering Committee decided that the best way to proceed would be to hire an independent consultant to do a background, desk study on the structural adjustment policies implemented in Ecuador from 1982 through 1998 and on trends in economic and social indicators during the same period. A consultant was contracted for that purpose and to draft terms of reference for the field research. Work on the background study began in April 1999 and a draft was presented to the National Steering Committee in June of that year. Several revisions were made to the draft in July and August, although the process was once again delayed due to a further deepening of the economic crisis and a series of strikes in July 1999.
The background study "Marco Introductorio del Estudio Aproximacion a Impactos de las Politicas de Estabilizacion y Ajuste Estructural Aplicadas en el Ecuador: 1982-1998" and terms of reference for the field studies were finalized in September 1999.
The SAPRI process proceeded despite the deepening economic and political crises, and government participation has remained consistent since the fall of 1999. Upon approving the terms of reference for the field research, the National Steering Committee decided to carry out a public bidding process in order to select research teams. Ads were placed in several newspapers in October 1999 and the bidding process was closed in late November. Proposals were reviewed in December and a final selection of researchers was made by the national Technical Committee in January 2000. Contracts were signed with researchers to begin the field work on 21 February 2000. The three studies being undertaken address:
The Center for Latin American Studies (CELA) at the Catholic University (PUCE) in Quito was contracted to carry out research on the first two themes, while the Department of Economics at the University of Cuenca was contracted for the third study. These two universities are joining efforts to carry out the participatory field research in two forms: case studies that focus on impacts at the household level in rural and urban-marginal communities; and workshops with representatives of grassroots organizations in cities in a range of geographical regions across the country. The communities chosen for the case studies are: Bastión Popular (in the city of Guayaquil), Atucucho (in the city of Quito), San Lorenzo (in Esmeraldas province), Tabacundo (in Pichincha province), Jipijapa (in Manabí province), Saraguro (in Loja province) and Saquisilí (in Cotopaxi province). Workshops to elicit information on a range of policy impacts are being held in various cities in the Sierra, coastal and Amazon regions of the country: Quito, Cuenca, Esmeraldas, Portoviejo, Puyo and Lago Agrio.
The civil-society steering committee and technical team have been working closely with the research teams in order to actively involve the local SAPRIN network in the participatory fieldwork. Network members have helped researchers identify important regions and sectors for information-gathering purposes and have facilitated contacts with civil-society organizations and communities to encourage their participation in the workshops and focus-group discussions that form part of the research process. The technical team has met periodically with the research teams to oversee the process.
Researchers presented progress reports on 19 May and then delivered partial drafts on 15 July. The tripartite technical committee met with researchers on 21 July to review the work to date and expressed satisfaction at the progress made and the direction of the research. The research teams presented their final drafts on 15 September. A tripartite technical and steering committee meeting on 30 October reviewed the draft reports and made recommendations for revisions. The executive summary of the final draft of the research report was circulated for discussion in November, when workshops were held with civil society organizations to validate the research findings.
The final versions of the executive summary and full research papers were completed in January, 2001, although a slightly revised version of the CELA report was published as a book in December 2002.
The civil-society network initiated a participatory program for the construction of alternatives in mid-1999 to address the current economic crisis, and these mobilizing activities have involved several hundred more organizations in the network's endeavors following the Opening National Forum.
Following the March 1999 crisis that resulted from the government's announcement of new economic adjustment measures, which triggered widespread social protest, SAPRIN developed an initial plan for what the network is calling a Project for an Alternative National Economy. From May through November 1999, five seminars were held in different cities to focus on specific issues and involve various sectors of civil society.
In May, agricultural workers and subsistence farmers from around the country came together in Quito to propose changes to the social security system for campesinos. In July, a broad range of sectors involved in agricultural development, including associations of small and medium-scale producers, came together in Riobamba to discuss alternatives for agricultural development on a national level. In August, two seminars were held in Guayaquil; one focused on alternatives to labor-market reform and drew union members from the coastal region, while the other focused on solutions to the problem of child labor and child poverty. In November, a national seminar was organized in Cuenca to discuss the basis for putting forward an alternative economic program.
Following the national seminar, a subcommittee began work to draft the outline of an alternative program to be circulated for public discussion and debate. An outline of the paper was presented to the SAPRIN network in April 2000 and a draft was completed in September and was reviewed by the civil-society steering committee in late October. It was then widely circulated and taken up for discussion in seminars and interactions with a broad range of civil-society organizations. To contribute to these discussions, a text was written and published by SAPRIN in book form in April 2000 (Dolarización de Cristal) in order to explain the current economic crisis in very basic terms, as well as the new adjustment measures adopted by the government, particularly dollarization. The input and feedback gathered during the process of consultation was incorporated into a framework proposal for constructing alternative policies, to be used as a basis for ongoing civil-society work on alternatives.
The Second National Forum of SAPRI/Ecuador took place on 18-19 December 2000 in Quito. A larger-than-expected crowd filled the auditorium of the Catholic University with 250 representatives of an impressively broad range of civil-society organizations and population sectors from all of the country's provinces. The presentation of research findings was strong and there was lively debate throughout the two days. The weak point was the low level of government participation. When the Finance Minister resigned just prior to the Forum, the Bank was left without a formal counterpart to engage, while government members of SAPRI's technical committee were left with no one to authorize them to represent the government's position in a public forum. Nevertheless, World Bank officials from the country office and from Washington were present through the entire Forum and spoke on all panels.
The Forum concluded with: 1) a validation of the research reports; 2) agreement to broadly disseminate the results of the research and the forum; 3) several ideas for specific mechanisms for following up on these results; 4) agreement to continue with the effort initiated by SAPRI to seek alternative policies; and 5) a commitment by all parties to deepen their participation in this process.
Following the Forum, minor changes were made to the two research papers and summaries were prepared in English.
The study carried out by the Center for Latin American Studies (CELA) of the Catholic University "The Social and Economic Impacts of Structural Adjustment Policies in Ecuador 1982-1999" covers the impact of trade liberalization and labor reform on production and employment, as well as the impact of financial-sector flexibilization on production and consumption in low and middle-income households. A Spanish summary is also available "Evaluación de los Impactos Económicos y Sociales de las Políticas de Ajuste Estructural en el Ecuador 1982-1999", as is the full report.
The study carried out by the University of Cuenca "The Social Impact of Basic Social Subsidies in Ecuador 1982-1999" looks at the impact of the policy of basic social subsidies on social conditions. The extensive research document "Impacto Social de la Política de Subsidios Sociales Básicos (1982-1999)"is available in Spanish, as is a brief Executive Summary