Structural Adjustment
Participatory Review
International Network


Prepared by the SAPRIN Secretariat

March 1999


The Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN) is a 1200-organization global civil-society network established to expand and legitimize the role of civil society in economic policymaking and to strengthen the organized challenge to structural adjustment programs by citizens around the globe. The Network took its name from the Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Initiative (SAPRI), which it launched with the World Bank and its president, Jim Wolfensohn, two years ago.

By March 1998, SAPRIN and the Bank had completed the first stage of SAPRI. Eight of the ten countries selected to participate in this participatory, forward-looking assessment of adjustment policies were engaged in the process. Standard Operating Procedures and field-research guidelines had been established. And the Bank’s Board had approved a new information-disclosure policy related to structural adjustment programs after a year-long negotiation between Bank staff and SAPRIN. Most importantly, cross-sectoral civil-society mobilization and organizing around the local SAPRI exercises and the adjustment issue had reached unprecedented levels in most of the eight SAPRI countries. The ability of civil society to engage intelligently, constructively and cohesively on the future of economic-reform programs became even more important when acute financial and economic crises erupted in East Asia, Russia and Latin America, making all the more evident the failings of these programs and the vulnerability of the countries that implemented them.

Additional background on the origins, objectives, organization and early stages of the Initiative, as well as the origins, broader purposes and structure of SAPRIN, can be found in the enclosed SAPRIN booklet, Citizens’ Challenge to Structural Adjustment, published in March 1998. In the year since then, SAPRIN has made significant progress in its efforts to mount a worldwide grassroots challenge to the adjustment programs that have been imposed on the people of the South and of Central Europe for, in the case of many countries, nearly two decades.

Country Participation

Although the Bank and SAPRIN agreed that two large emerging-market economies must be included in SAPRI, the Bank was unable to secure the participation of the Mexican and Philippines governments and moved hesitantly and ultimately unsuccessfully to get either Argentina or Brazil on board. Furthermore, Hungary’s involvement was secured only as the result of discussions between civil-society organizations and the government. Citizens’ groups in the Philippines attempted the same feat with the new government in that country last year, but, having failed, they have initiated an independent review process with the support of SAPRIN. They thus have joined their counterparts in Mexico and Canada, who successfully launched CASA (Citizens’ Assessment of Structural Adjustment) exercises in 1998. That leaves eight nations in SAPRI: Bangladesh, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, Mali, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Local SAPRIN Organizing and Forum Preparation

This part of SAPRIN’s program has exceeded expectations. Extensive outreach and broad-based civil-society mobilization across the principal economic and social sectors have been effected in seven of the eight SAPRI countries and is underway in Mali, Mexico, the Philippines and Canada. Much of this is described in the SAPRIN booklet. The past year has seen the solidification of SAPRIN civil-society steering and technical committees, the selection of priority issues for public debate, and the review by local SAPRIN teams of official Bank and government adjustment-related documents in preparation for the Opening National SAPRI Forum in each country.

Opening National Fora

Since last June, six SAPRI fora and one CASA forum have been held. At each, civil-society’s first-hand experience with, and analysis of, a number of key adjustment policies were constructively and professionally placed before the Bank and governments, as well as the media. Starting with fora in Hungary and Uganda in June and continuing with fora in El Salvador and Mexico in August, in Ghana and Bangladesh in November and Ecuador in January, these public meetings have focused on similar issues. Most common among the three or four issues chosen in each country were privatization, the liberalization of trade and prices, labor- and financial-market reform, and public-expenditure policy -- and their impact on workers, employment, small producers, agriculture, services, consumers, family economic security, low-income and vulnerable groups, and the distribution of income and wealth (see enclosed country-fora profiles and article).

The SAPRI fora were well attended by active participants -- between 100 and 350 people per session -- and generally received good local media coverage. (The Mexico CASA forum was convened in the Mexican Congress and attracted more than 100 participants, including Congressional leaders, and considerable press coverage.) The level of government participation has varied and has tended to come from the economic ministries despite SAPRIN requests to the Bank to encourage governments to include representatives of other ministries in their delegations. Civil-society representatives have spanned the social and economic sectors and have included people from the various regions in each country; they participated actively in the plenary sessions and smaller working groups at the national fora. Some cross-fertilization among SAPRIN countries was also achieved at the fora. The level of debate among the three parties -- civil society, government and the Bank -- also differed from country to country. In all the fora, however, SAPRIN groups presented a rich and wide array of information on the nature and local impact of specific adjustment policies for Bank and government consideration and as the basis for further exploration in the research phase of the SAPRI exercises.

The lack of sustained government involvement has delayed the convening of the opening SAPRI forum in Zimbabwe, where SAPRIN civil-society mobilization and forum preparation has been excellent, as well as in Mali. With the Zimbabwean government recently recommitting itself to the SAPRI process, we expect a forum there by mid-May. The same timetable applies to a citizens’ initiative in the Philippines and hopefully to Mali and to the CASA exercise in Canada.

Research Phase

The only exercise that has progressed deeply, so far, into the participatory-research stage is the one in El Salvador. The other exercises have suffered from the lengthy translation of the SAPRI Global Methodological Framework into national operational guidelines and research designs that adequately incorporate the agreed-upon SAPRI emphasis on the use of participatory techniques, on a “political economy” approach, on a strong gender analysis, and on the integration of both qualitative and quantitative information. Civil-society and Bank teams have met in Uganda, Hungary, Ghana, Bangladesh and Ecuador, and they have produced in each case some combination of general research design, specific terms of reference and/or contract tenders for researchers. SAPRIN convened a local civil-society research workshop in Hungary last year and a larger and highly successful Western Hemisphere regional workshop in El Salvador in February. It will be supporting an African regional session and a local Bangladeshi meeting soon. If all the Opening Fora are held by the end of May, the six-to-eight-month research processes should be completed in each country by the end of this year.

Completion of SAPRI and CASA

It is now anticipated that Second National Fora in the SAPRI and CASA countries will be held in early 2000. These fora will be key, as findings from both the first fora and the research phase will be considered by the respective governments and the Bank, as well as by the public and the local and international media, for their policy and policymaking implications. These findings will include recommendations for change in economic policy, with SAPRIN encouraging the development by civil society of economic alternatives as part of, and parallel to, the research work. Given the Bank’s recent public commitment to the development of a broad national consensus around new comprehensive development frameworks in various countries, it would be expected that the institution will be supportive of more democratic and inclusive economic-decisionmaking processes, as well as publicly backed changes in economic policy, in these countries. Country reports will be shared, following the Second National Fora, with Bank managers in Washington, where, at a Second Global SAPRI Forum next year, changes in Bank economic-policy advice and decisionmaking processes will also be considered.

SAPRIN Finances

The SAPRIN budget for SAPRI is currently estimated at a minimum of US$4.7 million. Of this amount, approximately US$3.5million will be drawn from a central SAPRIN fund financed principally by official donors. Close to US$500,000 is being raised locally to complete the financing of the civil-society components of the country exercises, now projected to cost US$290,000 each. This latter figure does not take into account the huge in-kind subsidies being provided by the numerous groups participating in (but not managing) the local processes. The SAPRIN global Secretariat is covering more than a half of its costs with non-SAPRIN resources, and it is projected that the other northern organizations involved in SAPRIN will have contributed a total subsidy of similar proportions (US$350,000 ) in uncharged time and related expenses.

The Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch and Belgian governments have made contributions amounting to US$2,275,000 to SAPRIN through World Bank trust funds. Although SAPRIN grant agreements with the Bank were designed to ensure SAPRIN’s maximum programmatic autonomy, the need for de facto independence and for the expansion of the original, conservatively projected SAPRIN budget led to negotiations with both the European Union and the UNDP, which together have committed approximately US$1.23 million to SAPRIN. These funds, along with US$330,000 from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the U.S. government’s African Development Foundation and country-level contributions from Novib (Holland), Oxfam UKI, Save the Children, Unicef, CIDA, and other donors, have given SAPRIN greater latitude within SAPRI and the resources to launch CASA exercises and related endeavors in other countries without the direct involvement of the Bank.

New SAPRIN Initiatives

In 1997, the SAPRIN global Steering Committee committed itself to support civil-society initiatives in non-SAPRI countries that promote a citizens’ challenge to structural adjustment programs and that are democratically and inclusively organized. Given the failure of the World Bank to involve large, emerging-market countries in SAPRI, the Network sought in the first instance to include such nations in SAPRIN’s program, parallel to SAPRI, a decision of now heightened relevance in light of the recent global financial crisis. Hence, SAPRIN began its expansion into new countries by supporting local initiatives that launched CASA exercises in Mexico, the Philippines and a northern nation, Canada. Currently, SAPRIN is exploring the launching of regional initiatives in Central America, Central Europe and the Southern Cone of South America, particularly Brazil and Argentina. At the national level, these initiatives would not translate into full-blown SAPRI-like exercises, but most likely would take the form of democratically and inclusively determined civil-society platforms for the design and promotion of alternative policies.

At the same time, SAPRIN has been developing new relationships with official institutions, including the UNDP and the European Union, with whose support it has organized a European forum in April on the future of economic reform. It has also been exploring relationships with other civil-society, grassroots-oriented movements and initiatives dealing with the adjustment issue, such as Social Watch. Other initiatives that might be taken by SAPRIN to increase its relevance and effectiveness in enhancing civil-society’s role in determining the future of economic policy at the national, regional and global levels will be considered at SAPRIN’s April Steering Committee meeting in Bonn.

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