Prepared by the SAPRIN Secretariat

November 1999


The Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN) is a 1500-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, in 1997. It is managed by a global Steering Committee of 23 members, two-thirds of whom are from the South.

Although SAPRIN is a partner with the World Bank in the implementation of SAPRI, it is important to emphasize that SAPRIN is totally independent. The SAPRI exercise is funded by various governments, international institutions, foundations and NGOs and not by the World Bank. SAPRIN's agenda is also broader than its participation in SAPRI, as it has launched exercises in countries without Bank participation and has supported the mobilization of citizens' organizations around the adjustment issue at both the national and global levels.


SAPRI was designed as a combination of participatory field investigations and public fora to determine the impact of structural adjustment policies on a range of economic sectors and population groups in a diverse group of countries. Standard Operating Procedures and field-research guidelines were established, and the Bank's Board approved a new information-disclosure policy related to structural adjustment programs after a year-long negotiation between Bank staff and SAPRIN.

By early 1998, cross-sectoral civil-society mobilization and organizing around the national SAPRI exercises and adjustment issues 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 in light of the acute financial and economic crises that 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. Thus, over the past year, SAPRIN has begun to organize a global advocacy program that will facilitate a challenge on the part of a mobilized civil society around the world to the adjustment and related economic policies that have been imposed on the people of the South and of Central Europe.

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 either the participation of the Mexican and Philippines governments or, subsequently, those of Argentina and Brazil. 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 launched CASA (Citizens' Assessment of Structural Adjustment) exercises in 1998. The three CASA and eight SAPRI countries -- Bangladesh, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, Mali, Uganda and Zimbabwe -- constitute the participants in the present comprehensive assessment of the effects of adjustment policies.

Local SAPRIN Civil-Society Mobilization and Organization

Extraordinary outreach and broad-based civil-society mobilization across the principal economic and social sectors have been effected in the eleven SAPRI and CASA countries. In each country, the breadth and size of the civil-society mobilization under the SAPRIN banner on national economic policy have exceeded all expectations, bringing together various combinations of labor unions, small-business and small-farmer associations, church-related organizations, women's groups, public-health associations, environmental groups, indigenous peoples' associations, youth and student groups, poor-peoples' organizations, development and debt-relief organizations, members of parliament, academics and all types of non-governmental organizations.

Outreach efforts have been extensive. In Zimbabwe, for example, meetings were held in all 45 districts, and local radio stations were used to call people to organizing meetings and spread news of the growing network. SAPRIN structures continue to function in each district. In Bangladesh, dozens of local fora were held so that SAPRIN could provide information about the initiative and gather local input for the Opening National Forum. After holding geographically based fora, the SAPRIN Steering Committee organized a round of thematic meetings in which groups of business people, industrialists, farmers and homemakers each had an opportunity to present their perspectives on adjustment. World Bank representatives participated in all the fora. Meanwhile, in Ecuador, SAPRIN, which includes many of the groups that have protested against prevailing economic policies, has been asked by both the government and the World Bank to enter into discussions on that country's ongoing economic crisis as a broad-based representative of civil society. Outreach has been similarly impressive in many of the other countries, from El Salvador to Ghana, as all sectors of society impacted by adjustment programs have realized that by working together they gain power and a voice that can no longer be ignored.

In each country, SAPRIN activities are guided by a steering committee composed of representatives of member organizations. Information teams, chosen by the steering committees, are reading and summarizing for public distribution previously confidential World Bank and government economic-policy documents. Technical committees, drawing on the knowledge of member organizations and individuals with expertise in participatory and political-economy methodology, oversee the research phase. In the SAPRI countries, SAPRIN has also formed joint national Steering and Technical Committees with government and World Bank representatives.

Opening National Fora

Between June 1998 and September 1999, all eight SAPRI and two CASA fora were held. At each, civil-society's first-hand experience with, and analysis of, a number of key adjustment policies were constructively placed before the Bank and governments, as well as the media. These public meetings have focused on similar issues. Most common among the three or four issues chosen in each country have been privatization, the liberalization of trade and prices, labor- and financial-market reform, and public-expenditure policy and the impact of these measures on workers, employment, small producers, agriculture, services, consumers, family economic security, low-income and vulnerable groups, and the distribution of income and wealth. (Reports on each forum can be found on the SAPRIN Index page.)

The SAPRI fora were attended by between 100 and 300 active participants and generally received good local media coverage. The level of government participation -- in the fora and in the project generally -- has varied and has tended to come from the economic ministries, despite SAPRIN's preference that the Bank encourage a broader representation of ministries in the government 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.

Research Phase

The participatory-research phase is either underway or in the final planning stage in ten countries. El Salvador is the furthest along and is now reviewing a draft of the research report, while Hungary is close to completing its field research. The process in each country has commenced with the further refinement of the issues raised in the Opening National Fora and their referral to technical teams to define terms of reference for the specific studies. Research teams are then selected to undertake an on-the-ground, participatory assessment of the policies' effects and the reasons for that impact, employing a gender-aware, political-economy approach that relies on a mix of techniques designed to yield both qualitative and quantitative information. In order to strengthen the capacity at the country level to move this process forward, regional methodology workshops have been organized by SAPRIN in Latin America and Africa, and technical support was provided for methodology workshops held in Hungary and Bangladesh. A methodology workshop was also held in Ghana to help prepare researchers and to ensure a participatory process, and similar workshops are planned in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Mali before the end of the year.

It has taken longer than expected to launch the field research in most countries due to the complexities of working in a tripartite process, employing joint technical and research teams, and refining research questions in a participatory manner. SAPRIN-Bangladesh, for example, managed to resolve differences with the Bank on the selection of researchers and, following a methodology workshop, launched its field research in October. SAPRI-Ecuador completed an extensive tripartite process of writing a background study and defining terms of reference for field research; it recently opened a public bidding process to select research teams, which should be finalized in November. With secondary research, field work and report writing scheduled over a six-to-eight month period in each country, the research phase is expected to be completed early in the second half of 2000.

Economic Literacy and Alternatives Work

Economic literacy and the development of alternative economic policy proposals have recently been adopted as additional components of country exercises by SAPRIN at the urging of the national SAPRIN teams. While most country exercises have included capacity-building in the various phases, adding economic literacy as a specific component is intended to ensure a more systematic approach to popular education with broad segments of civil society in order to enhance participation in research, economic-policy formulation and advocacy. Plans for economic-literacy and alternatives work were discussed at a global SAPRIN workshop in El Salvador in October. Participants concluded that SAPRIN's work on the construction of alternatives to adjustment policies should be a participatory process that would feed into the research and the Second National Forum in each country and continue beyond the SAPRI or CASA exercise. In Ecuador, because of the need for a timely response to the economic crisis and for a forum for discussing policy options, work on alternatives has already been initiated.

Completion of SAPRI and CASA

It is now anticipated that Second National Fora in the SAPRI and CASA countries will be convened next year between April and September. 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, in the case of SAPRI, as well as by the public and the local and international media, for their policy and policymaking implications. These findings will include recommendations for changes in economic policy that have emerged from civil-society's work on economic alternatives. 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 late next year or in early 2001, changes in Bank economic-policy advice and decisionmaking processes will also be considered.

New SAPRIN Initiatives

In 1997, the SAPRIN global Steering Committee committed itself to the support of 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 the governments of large, emerging-market countries in SAPRI, the Network began its expansion into new countries by supporting CASA exercises in Mexico, the Philippines and a northern nation, Canada. SAPRIN is also supporting shorter, more-truncated processes in Argentina and Brazil, which will focus on the participatory design and promotion of civil-society platforms on alternative economic policies. A similar regional initiative in Central America is in the design stage.

At the same time, SAPRIN has been developing new relationships with official institutions, including the UNDP and the European Union, with whose support it organized a European forum in April on the future of economic reform. It has also been establishing relationships with other civil-society, grassroots-oriented movements and initiatives dealing with the adjustment issue. It has joined forces with Social Watch around the Copenhagen+5 assessment at the United Nations to ensure that the impact of structural adjustment policies is considered as part of this social-development review. SAPRIN also sent a representative to the recent Jubilee South global meeting in South Africa with the idea of working together to expand and strengthen citizen advocacy around the world on the debt and adjustment issue. It has been decided by the SAPRIN Steering Committee that such advocacy will become a principal feature of the Network's work next year, as it promotes the findings of the SAPRI, CASA and other country exercises.

Relationship with the World Bank

SAPRIN entered into the agreement with Bank president Wolfensohn to carry out SAPRI jointly, knowing that the sensitivity of the adjustment issue and its centrality to Bank operations would generate institutional resistance at the Board, management and staff levels. At the same time, SAPRIN dedicated itself to executing its part of the exercise in a manner consistent with the "rules of the game" negotiated with the Bank in order to demonstrate the professionalism of civil-society organizations and to ensure that the views of local populations would be heard and respected by national and global policymakers.

While the Bank's president has recognized the quality of SAPRIN's performance, the lack of consistency of lower Bank management in implementing the commitments made to SAPRIN has caused tensions in the exercise. SAPRIN has been forced to take steps in an effort to hold the Bank accountable to the agreements reached, including: the incorporation in SAPRI of a full complement and range of countries, including emerging-market nations; the involvement of the Bank's best technical staff in the initiative and keeping all departments informed of its progress; ensuring the participation of a full range of government ministries in each country; the recognition of the findings of the broad-based national consultations as manifested in the national fora; and following the rules established with SAPRIN to resolve disputes. To ensure maximum impact, SAPRIN has placed increased emphasis on sharing interim project findings with other institutions and the media and on channeling the expressions of organized civil society into the widening global debate on the future of economic reform.


In order to maintain its independence, SAPRIN neither seeks nor accepts World Bank money, and it strongly advises the coordinators of the individual country programs not to accept funds from their respective governments for the same reason. Four European governments -- those of Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium -- have contributed to SAPRI, with one third of the grants from the first three going to the Bank in order to support its SAPRI activities. While SAPRIN's shares of these contributions are routed through World Bank trust funds, the Bank, under the terms of the agreement with the funders, retains no programmatic control. SAPRIN and the Bank are programmatic and financial equals in SAPRI and hold each other accountable to programmatic and financial commitments. SAPRIN has been able to reinforce its independence of action and expand its activities by negotiating additional contributions directly from the European Union and the UNDP, as well as grants from a number of Northern foundations and other non-governmental institutions. In addition, local SAPRIN civil-society organizations make significant in-kind contributions to the country exercises and raise funds locally. At the same time, Northern organizations contribute their time and effort without remuneration, and the Secretariat in Washington raises more than half its funds from non-SAPRIN sources in order to maximize the resources available to the country programs.

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