updated 11 July 2001
updated 11 July 2001
updated 11 July 2001
Many of the nearly 50 organizations actively involved in the CASA (Citizen's Assessment of Structural Adjustment) exercise, in which the government and World Bank are not participating, are national organizations, although regional and local groups are engaged as well. The network includes organizations working in the Mexico City metropolitan area, as well as in the four regions of the country where CASA is focusing its efforts: the northern border region, the central region (Querétaro, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Sierra de Hidgalgo, Tlaxcala and Puebla), the southeast (Chiapas, Oaxaca and the southern part of Veracruz) and the western region (Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit and Guadalajara). They represent groups working in the maquila sector, small business and producers' associations, rural organizations, associations of farmers and indigenous peoples, credit unions and microfinance institutions, trade unions, development organizations, neighborhood groups, health-care organizations and youth groups.
A General Council was organized to contribute to the CASA exercise and make decisions regarding its overall organization and direction. It meets as necessary. General coordination, organization of activities and functioning is delegated to a six-member Coordinating Committee.
Organizations participating in the General Council:
Acción Popular de Integración Social (APIS)
Coordinating Committee members:
During the first half of 1998, a series of regional meetings and sectoral workshops were held in different parts of the country and designed to involve those whose voice is less often heard, particularly women, children and indigenous people, as well as those who live and work in rural areas. A regional workshop in Oaxaca brought together dozens of community groups and NGOs from the southern provinces of Chiapas and Oaxaca. Seminars were held with Mayan children on the outskirts of the city of Merida in Yucatan province, with youth in the poor neighborhoods of Mexico City, with mothers involved in community childcare centers in the capital and with a range of community groups in Guadalajara. In addition, a national workshop to specifically address conditions in rural areas was organized with the participation of nearly 100 representatives of a range of social organizations active in rural areas throughout the country.
The First National Forum was held in the legislative chambers of the House of Deputies in Mexico City on 24-25 August. More than 100 participants from some 50 civil-society organizations -- representing agricultural producers, peasants, labor, environmental groups, small and medium-sized businesses, women, children and others -- as well as from academic institutions and various Congressional commissions, met in plenary sessions and working groups to discuss the impact of structural adjustment policies in Mexico.
The Forum was inaugurated by Congressional leader Porfirio Muñoz Ledo. A plenary session followed the inauguration, with presentations on different aspects of adjustment. The session then broke into three working groups to discuss the impact of adjustment policies in the following areas: businesses, production and labor; social well-being (education, health, housing, food security, social security); and the agricultural sector. The policies that were determined to be generating the major impacts in these areas were: the reorientation of public spending and the role of the state; trade and financial liberalization; and labor-market reform. A summary report on the Forum provides an overview of these discussions.
Reporting to the Forum's final plenary, the working groups concluded that the adoption of adjustment measures related to the liberalization of trade and investment, to privatization and to the reduction of public spending in the social sectors has contributed to a process of privatizing profits and socializing losses. Participants concluded that these policies have resulted in the dismantling of the national productive apparatus, both in the countryside and in industry, leading to a deepening of Mexico's social polarization and to a progressive concentration of wealth. The discussions revealed that the most severe effects have been experienced by the more vulnerable sectors of the population, including children, women and indigenous people.
Participants in the Forum and the preceding workshops coincided in rejecting the continued implementation of these export-oriented structural adjustment policies and of related programs that they asserted were dedicated to rescuing, supporting and subsidizing bankers and big-business interests. They agreed on the need for new economic policies that emanate from the priorities and perspectives of the Mexican people and that focus, above all, on engendering self-sufficiency in the production of basic goods. As an essential part of this authentic process of national development, participants emphasized the need for greater transparency in policy design and implementation, and, in particular, for the creation of democratic mechanisms to allow for civil-society participation in this process.
In April 1999, the SAPRIN Steering Committee completed its process of synthesizing the results of the Opening National Forum and other consultations. It also completed a research design. In May, a workshop was held with about 30 representatives of the broader SAPRIN network to discuss and give feedback on the proposed research program. In June, the Steering Committee adopted the final research design and decided to incorporate economic-literacy work into the research phase using a methodology known as Participatory-Action Research or Investigación-Acción Participativa, IAP, in Spanish.
The research process was organized in two phases. The first phase involved a desk study on the theory, design and implementation of the structural adjustment program in Mexico. A paper discussing the theory and design of adjustment, as well as the research design for investigating its impact, was published in December 1999 entitled ?Qué es el Ajuste Estructural? Racionalidad e irracionalidad de las políticas de libre mercado. The desk study also produced a database in which information on all adjustment measures implemented in Mexico from 1980 to 1999 was classified by policies in the areas of: production (agriculture, industry, employment, wages, etc.); finance (monetary, credit and fiscal); foreign sector (trade and exchange); and social sectors (health, education, food and housing). It is available on CD-ROM (contact Equipo PUEBLO).
The second phase of the research program involved fieldwork and analysis of data from a variety of sources. Fieldwork took place in two forms: a participatory consultative process, accompanied by an economic-literacy program, carried out among the organized population across a broad range of sectors and an innovative survey carried out among the unorganized population. Four regions were defined in which to do field research:
The main aspect of the fieldwork was a series of economic-literacy and consultation sessions with civil-society organizations planned to take place in three modules, which were subsequently condensed into two. Each module began with a training for trainers in each region and was followed by a series of workshops carried out in that region by the participating trainers. The workshops utilized the Participatory-Action Research methodology with the objective of enhancing participation in research while giving citizens ownership over the process itself. The first module took place from December 1999 through February 2000 and the second in May and June of 2000.
Work on the surveys began with a pilot survey in the Western region in October 1999. The experience from this region showed that the survey was very complex, time consuming a labor intensive. Due to resource limitations, the survey was not carried out in the other regions and the analysis of the results from the western region served as a case study of that region.
Research teams began working in July 2000 to integrate results from the participatory fieldwork with data generated from analysis of particular variables (employment, income distribution, poverty and foreign debt) in the desk study. Two indepth studies were prepared on the impact of adjustment policies on living and working conditions -- one with a focus on rural areas and the other addressing the micro, small and medium-scale enterprise sector. Additional research was also carried out to assess the impact of these policies on children and on women. Initial drafts were completed in October and then taken for discussion and feedback to the community groups and NGOs involved in the civil-society network. An executive summary was then prepared for discussion at the Second National Forum in February 2001.
The CASA/Mexico exercise was designed so as to make economic literacy an integral part of the research process itself. This was accomplished using a methodology known as Participatory-Action Research or PAR (Investigación-Acción Participativa or IAP in Spanish). PAR comes from the tradition of Paolo Freire and emphasizes the use of popular education as a means of empowerment. Economic literacy in the context of PAR motivates and enhances participation in research while giving citizens ownership over the process itself. Workshops provide affected people and communities -- that are seen as central to a research process seeking to enable policy changes -- with the tools to better understand the economic policymaking process and to advocate for change.
Using the PAR methodology, economic literacy was integrally tied to both the research process as well as to the construction of policy alternatives. To this end, the civil-society network carried out two sets of workshops. Under each module, one workshop was held in each of the four geographical regions chosen to carry out the research process and attended by two or three representatives of the 42 community groups and NGOs involved in the civil-society network and active in the particular region. The same individuals attended the training workshop for each module. Following this training, each organization was then expected to replicate the workshop among its members or the communities it serves. Participants in the training workshop took responsibility for these local replications, with support provided by the civil-society team at the national level.
The first economic-literacy module focused on understanding basic economic concepts and on identifying the primary problems faced by people in their communities during the adjustment years and the perceived causes of these problems. Regional workshops were held in December 1999 and January 2000, and local workshops continued through February and into March. Input from these workshops was synthesized and provided to the research team and was also presented to participants during the second module, which began in May. The trainings in the second module focused on understanding structural adjustment policies and exploring the relation between these and the problems people had identified during the first module. In addition, ideas were elicited for recommendations on policy alternatives. The results from the second module were synthesized in August and provided to the research teams.
In early 2000, work began to collect and systematize existing documentation and proposals already developed by civil-society organizations, as well as by academics, regarding alternatives to adjustment policies. In addition, three public events were held in Mexico City -- on 30 March, 18 May and 10-11 November -- to present initial results from the research process and generate discussion of alternatives. This information, together with the ideas and input generated through the economic-literacy workshops, was used to develop a framework for further discussion and participatory development of policy alternatives that was presented at the Second National Forum.
The Second National Forum took place on 15-16 February 2001 in the Mexican Senate building located in the historic center of Mexico City. It was jointly organized by CASA Mexico and the Mexican Senate Committee on Social Development, with the sponsorship of the Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESO), UNICEF Mexico, the Metropolitan Autonomous University of Xochimilco, the Social Research institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (ISS-UNAM), Equipo Pueblo, the National Network of Rural Promoters, the Mexican Action network on Free Trade (RMALC), and the Mexican Institute for Community Development (IMDEC).
Following the Forum, the research documents were finalized and organizers worked to put together the documentation and results from the entire four-year process. A CD-ROM with all the final documents in Spanish was produced in July 2001 (click here to access these documents).