An extensive network of civil-society organizations was formed at the national level that includes committees functioning in 27 of the major villages and districts throughout Mali. Local committees include affiliates or representatives of many of the national-level organizations that participate in local network activities, thereby helping to ensure consistent communication.
Civil society's main representative body is the National Organizing Committee (NOC), the general assembly of organizations that came together to form SAPRIN in Mali in 1997. The NOC consists of representatives from the country's principal districts and communities, as well as the following organizations:
The NOC was responsible for selecting representatives to form civil-society's National Steering Committee (NSC), and it continues to supervise and advise the NSC. The NSC is made up of representatives of the following organizations and geographical areas:
The National Steering Committee appointed four civil-society experts to form the Technical Committee, two of whom are also members of the NSC.
Initial outreach got off the ground in early 1998. During the first half of the year, workshops were organized in 27 villages and districts throughout Mali with a wide range of community organizations, NGOs and other interested groups. Audio-cassettes were prepared in the local languages explaining the background, objectives and organizational process of SAPRI and were used to place radio announcements in order to publicize the workshops and create awareness about SAPRI. In addition, an information brochure, giving the background of SAPRI at both the local and global levels, was prepared in French for local and national distribution.
These organizing workshops were designed to provide a platform for local people to share their views and experiences regarding the impact of adjustment policies on their lives and their communities. The provided a framework for people at the local level to express their concerns about issues that had previously not been open to input or criticism.
A national meeting, organized by the National Organizing Committee, was held in September 1998 and attended by 80 representatives from a broad range of national NGOs, as well as community organizations. Participants included several groups that had become involved through the local workshops. The civil-society steering committee was elected at this meeting, and plans were made to organize the Opening National Forum.
Organizing for the Forum was delayed due to lack of full participation on the part of the government in the tripartite process. With the help of the World Bank, the government came fully on board to the process by mid-1999.
On 6-7 July 1999, approximately 200 people attended the Opening National Forum held in Bamako. Participants included representatives of a wide range of civil-society organizations from all regions of the country, including trade unions, women's organizations, local community groups, rural organizations and artisan associations.
Government and World Bank representatives also attended the two-day Forum. The event was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Mali, Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative and pledged the full support of the government to the SAPRI exercise.
Discussions at the Forum were informed by a background paper prepared by a tripartite information team that had been formed in April to gather documentation on adjustment in Mali. The paper traced the history and broad outlines of the country's structural adjustment program from 1988 to 1995 using previously confidential Bank documents made available thanks to the Information Disclosure Agreement reached by SAPRIN with the Bank at the global level.
Following the opening plenary session, participants broke into groups to continue discussions in smaller workshops. Four policy areas or sectors, selected based on the interests expressed by civil-society organizations during the outreach process, were designated as the themes for the workshops: privatization and reform of public enterprises; education; agriculture sector reform; and the general macroeconomic policy framework. These thematic group discussions enabled civil-society participants to testify from personal experience as to the impacts of adjustment policies on their lives and communities.
Following the Opening National Forum, the tripartite Steering and Technical Committees began working on refining the issues for research based on the discussions and input provided during the Forum. There were several policy areas that were addressed in the Forum's workshops and many that were cross-referenced. The discussions helped to narrow down and make more specific the structural adjustment policies and areas of impact that most concerned civil society, as expressed at the Forum. They were:
Although initial terms of reference were drafted in late 1999, additional work was required by the Technical Committee to refine them before the field work could begin.
Meanwhile, researchers were selected through a tripartite process in February 2000 to carry out the field research. Of the team of six researchers, three were selected from civil-society recommendations, two from government recommendations and one from the Bank's suggestions. Yet all have been accepted by the three parties based on their professional experience and practice, as well as their expertise in the fields most relevant to the research. The team includes economists, a forester, sociologists, and a psychologist/educator.
A national methodology workshop was held in Bamako on 28-29 February and 1 March 2000 with the tripartite Technical Committee and the selected researchers in order to deepen their understanding of the SAPRI research methodology. Discussions continued between researchers and the Technical Committee as to how to narrow the focus of the research and ensure a gender-sensitive, political-economy approach that utilizes participatory methods. Following the methodology workshop, efforts were continued to refine the terms of reference in order to begin the field work. Those efforts, which included assistance from the SAPRIN Africa Regional Center in Accra, continued into the last quarter of 2000.
An economic-literacy program is being planned to accompany the research phase. The primary objective of the program is to enhance civil-society participation in the SAPRI process, particularly at the local level, thereby contributing to the participatory nature of the field research. The first phase of the program will include a training for trainers at the national level. This training will involve approximately 30 members of the national civil-society network who already have a basic understanding of economic concepts. Those trained in the national workshop will form the nucleus of teams that will be responsible for leading literacy workshops at the local level. In order to ensure the effectiveness of local workshops, materials and presentations will be adapted from those used at the national level so as to ensure that local workshops are effective in reaching the local population.
The economic-literacy program is planned to address both theoretical and practical aspects of the economy in Mali. The workshops will explain fundamental economic terms and concepts, teach how to do a stakeholder analysis, and show how to bridge the gap between theory and practice by illustrating how policies can have varied impacts on communities at the local level. The program seeks to have a multiplier effect by using a decentralized process of replication. Its objective is to build capacity in the civil-society network to actively engage with and lobby the Bank and government in the area of economic policy. It is also intended to strengthen the network by building capacity at the local level.
The date and nature of the Second National Forum will be determined by the degree of success in implementing a focussed research agenda consistent with the global SAPRI research methodology and the priorities of the Malian people as expressed in the Opening Forum.