Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Project Launch Meeting & Training Seminar
Jaipur, February 24-27, 2005
The event was held to launch the GRANITE Project, which is being implemented by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), India in partnership with civil society organisations. CUTS Centre International Trade, Economics & Environment (CUTS- CITEE) is responsible for coordinating its activities as the National Coordinating Unit. Over a period of 24 months (January 2005 to December 2006), the project will be implemented in eight Indian states, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharastra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. It is supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD, through the Royal Norwegian Embassy, New Delhi, India) and Novib (Oxfam, The Netherlands).
- Clarify the objectives, activities and expected outcomes of the project.
- Orient project partners with the process and impact of globalisation, particularly in the context of trade in agriculture and textiles & clothing and its linkages with economic reforms in India.
- National Coordinating Unit is to ensure regular communication between and among project partners.
- Some additional activities, such as specific workshops for state government officials, specific advocacy workshops will be conducted.
- National Coordinating Unit, in partnership with project partners, will take forward the results of the project to the international audience.
- Key advocacy messages will be developed in consultation with project partners and advocacy strategies (tools, target, etc) will be prepared accordingly.
- Media is to play a crucial role for the success of the project. Media persons will be involved with project-related activities.
- Local stakeholders are to act as multipliers of knowledge and project partners will prepare and dynamically update the database of local stakeholders.
- Outcomes of the project will be assessed dynamically and with the involvement of project partners.
- Civil society’s involvement is a must for the success of pro-poor economic reforms and the challenge is how to create a better environment for such involvement at the local level.
- Capacity building of local stakeholders (at the state level) is a much-needed area of intervention if India is to reap benefits from an increasingly open international trading system and also to devise appropriate safety nets to protect the poor from adverse shocks.
- India is not required to reduce its subsidy to agriculture as per its existing commitments to the WTO agreement on agriculture.
- The Textiles Policy of India should be made more pro-cotton (as compared to synthetic fibres) in order for the poor to benefit from new opportunities arising from increasing openness of the international trading system.
- More clarity on the project in terms of its genesis, objectives, activities, milestones and outcomes.
- Clarification/demystification of basic issues relating to the WTO and its agreement on agriculture and textiles & clothing, as these are the two sectors identified under the project as areas of interventions.
- Role of the National Coordinating Unit (NCU) and methods of communication/coordination between and among the project partners (two-way communication, i.e. between the National Coordinating Unit and project partners, is an absolute must).
- Outreach tools to be employed for information dissemination and the purpose of employing such outreach tools.
- Key advocacy messages to be prepared and advocacy strategies to be developed (in this context, diversity is important because there may be common problems across states but there are nuances).
- Identification of relevant stakeholders/ stakeholder groups.
- Roadmap beyond the project.
- With respect to globalisation and its impact on people’s livelihoods in India, there are several myths and most of them are a result of the fact that people are unaware and/or improperly aware of relevant issues. Therefore, the NCU should prepare a booklet, explaining basic issues of globalisation and its possible impact on people’s livelihoods in India. This booklet should have practical stories and hypothetical examples. Another suggestion was that instead of preparing a booklet, such issues could be covered regularly through using the newsletter to be produced under the project. The reason for this suggestion was to have better involvement of project partners in demystifying concepts/issues and arguing against myths with realities.
- There is a need to take forward grassroots concerns/ideas from India to the international civil society platform. Other than disseminating information through web site and similar electronic means, it is necessary for the NCU (i.e. CUTS-CITEE) to devise means to reach out to the international civil society movements with the results of the project. In this context, it was mentioned that bodies such as Millennium Development Campaign should be utilised to the fullest extent possible.
- At the local level, there is lack of information on globalisation and its impact on people’s livelihoods. This is one of the main reasons for traditional reluctance of the state to consult civil society. Thus, capacity building of civil society organisations and state representatives at the local level should continue simultaneously and interest and involvement of local stakeholders should be dynamically generated through information dissemination by using materials such as the GRANITE newsletter. This will then help in creating a better environment for pro-poor growth at the local level. This, i.e. better environment of pro-poor growth, requires monitoring of the activities of local-level institutions and such monitoring will be with respect to the functioning (governance aspects) of those institutions.
- What criteria are to be considered for judging whether Foreign Trade Policy of India contains pro-poor elements or not? Whether policy elements are enhancing the bargaining power of the poor, adding value to the products produced by the poor are to be considered for judging pro-poor elements of the Foreign Trade Policy of India. These are to be kept in mind while developing messages and strategies for making pro-poor changes in the Foreign Trade Policy of India.
- If a project partner and/or the NCU failed to achieve a particular outcome will it be considered as a failure? It was clarified that other than achieving an outcome of the project in concrete terms, success and failure will be judged through qualitative aspects of interventions. Such an evaluation will be done towards the end of the project.
- There is a need to prioritise and categorise (short-term, medium-term, long-term) expected outcomes of the project, i.e. what to achieve when, instead of trying to achieve everything together. The NCU will prepare a priority list of expected outcomes, making it sequential and compatible to project-related activities.
- In order to achieve the outcomes of the project, re-organisation of some activities is essential. There is also the need to implement some other specific activities, especially to create a better environment for pro-poor growth, which will, in turn, help in achieving the outcomes of the project.
- There should be a project launch meeting at the state level. The purpose is to use this as a platform to inform relevant stakeholders about the project: what are its objectives, what activities are to be conducted, what are the expected outcomes, how and why advocacy will be conducted, etc. Relevant stakeholders to be involved in the project (in the state reference group) will be invited to attend this meeting. The duration will be one-day and it will not be a seminar. Two panel discussions will be organised (on two major issues to be addressed in the project). In each panel, there will be a moderator and maximum three panellists (representing the government, NGOs and media).
- State Reference Group (SRG) is an informal and interactive body of state-level stakeholders to be involved in the project. The formation of this group is not a one-time exercise. This has to be dynamic. In other words, project partners in each state will prepare a list of members of this group at the beginning of the project and this list will be regularly updated. These persons will be the immediate target audience of the project, i.e. they will be targeted with newsletters and other documents to be produced under the project, with the purpose that they will act as “multipliers of information”. It is not necessary that all of them will be invited to attend each and every project-related activity. Their involvement will be need-based and there will be no obligation on the part of the members of the SRG. In short, this will be an informal platform for interaction and information dissemination.
- The purpose of public hearing is to reachout to the grassroots: not to sensitise people with issues, but to understand people’s views and concerns on relevant issues. As “public hearing” has different meaning/connotation in different parts of the country, it was decided that these meetings will not be called public hearings, but will be termed as “reachout meetings”. These reachout meetings will provide a platform for the people to share their views and concerns on issues being covered under the project. Such views and concerns will be collected and collated by project partners and the National Coordinating Unit will use such information in newsletter and for other purposes.
- Reachout meetings (the new name of public hearings) will be sequenced in a manner that they are used to collect information for pro-poor changes in the Foreign Trade Policy of India and for other purposes. Therefore, instead of doing five such meetings in the first year of the project, it was proposed that two/three meetings would be organised in the first year (and before the state-level workshop) and two/three meetings will be organised in the second year. Project partners are to visit the places where such meetings will be held in order to prepare grounds for organising. Inputs from these meetings will also be used for designing the state-level workshops. The target audience will be the stakeholders of the project.
- What will be the key indicators to judge civil society’s empowerment on globalisation and related issues? One indicator would be the number of organisations who get involved with the project at the state level.
- Events, such as state-level workshops, national seminars, are to be designed in consultation among project partners. However, taking into account local diversity, different models will be used in different states. Among other issues, during the national seminar, there will be a specific session to discuss advocacy tools and strategies.
- The impact assessment of the project will be done on the basis of qualitative response from people to be associated with the project (project partners and stakeholders). Such assessment will help in the establishment of a national network, which is one of the expected outcomes of the project.
- One criterion to assess the capacity of project partners is to analyse the implementation of this project in the light of the vision/perspectives of the organisations. This will be done towards the end of the project. Besides this, the NCU will continuously assess the capacity of project partners by analysing their involvement in different activities.
- Project partners will be more involved in conducting perception and impact analysis of globalisation at the grassroots. The outcome of this exercise will be documented and published by the NCU before the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of the WTO.
- State government officials are one of the crucial stakeholders of the project and there should be specific activities targeting state government officials. In the first year, there will be a specific workshop involving state government officials. This will be followed by a specific advocacy workshop in each state to discuss the structure and function of state trade policy council and an advocacy workshop at the national level to discuss the structure and function of the national trade policy council.
- In order to enhance information sharing between and among project partners, the NCU should prepare an e-group.
- Instead of doing regional workshops for media persons, it is necessary to conduct state-level workshops. One such workshop will be organised in each year of the project. The duration of these workshops will be half-day or one-day and the timing will depend on the availability of media persons. Representatives of alternative media will also be targeted at these workshops.
- Project partners will use alternative media, such as wall newspaper, to reach out to a larger audience. Local newspapers, local language newsletters are some such means of reaching out. The newsletters of project partners will also be used for this purpose.
- GRANITE newsletter will be of four pages and it will be published on quarterly basis. NCU will be responsible to publish this newsletter in English and will share the same with project partners. Two pages will be devoted to local news and project partners will be responsible to feed such inputs to NCU. Project partners will be responsible to produce this quarterly newsletter (for which a suitable name will be selected) in local languages and for its distribution to local stakeholders. This newsletter will be a tool to get the relevant stakeholders together to act as a pressure group at the state level, thus the language will be simple. The main source of information will be newspapers.
- NCU will prepare an electronic e-list. Project partners, members of the Project Advisory Committee, local stakeholders (state reference group) and other relevant players from India and other countries will be invited to join this list and post relevant issues for information sharing. NCU will be responsible for making this an interactive platform.
- Media’s role is crucial for the project to be successful. Therefore, other than involving media persons in state reference group and conducting media workshops, project partners are required to regularly interact with media. For this purpose, project partners will write in local language media in respective states (articles, letters to editor) and would also urge local media to do features based on the project-related activities. Select media persons will be invited to state-level workshops, national seminars and other meetings. NCU will conduct similar interventions with the national (Delhi-based) media. At present, issues relating to globalisation and WTO are not covered much in local media and increasing such coverage will be a good indicator of the success of the project.
- NCU will prepare the project web site, which will have links with the web sites of project partners and other organisations. All project-related information will be posted onto this site and project partners will regularly feed the NCU inputs to be posted onto this site.
Economic Reforms & India
- Reforms cannot happen without the involvement of all stakeholders. In India the problem lies in not understanding reforms. Different people think differently about reforms and this is one of the reasons why globalisation is misinterpreted.
- In India, politics is out-powering economics. It is important to understand local politics before understanding economic reforms. The political economy of reforms is a neglected area in India and because of this even pro-poor reforms are not being understood in right context and perspective. For example, issues relating to seed are politics-driven and trade and technology-related and therefore, any reform regarding seeds should take into account local factors, besides matching different dimensions at different levels of governance.
- Reforms are required for areas of the Indian economy and it will have different consequences for different people. It is also important to know, which markets are we talking about, while debating on economic reforms: commodities, utilities, labour, and money.
- In India, many areas of reforms are in state domain, i.e. state governments are responsible for those areas (e.g. agriculture). On the other hand, the treaty-making power is in the domain of the centre and in effect, the centre is not required to consult states while signing an international treaty (like the WTO agreement). In such a situation, there is a role for an institution like the National Development Council (which is a representative body of states).
- Domestic economic reforms are equally, if not more, important in the Indian context. For example, domestic agricultural market is segmented and as a result of that, farmers are not getting better price for their produce whereas middlemen are benefiting.
India & the WTO
- WTO is a vehicle of globalisation. It is an unequal treaty and we have to find ways to cope with it.
- The question is why civil society organisations want to get involved with WTO-related issues? The reason is that trade issues are no longer at the borders of a country, but are affecting the people’s livelihoods in a significant manner.
- As per Paragraph 10 of the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO, countries are required to develop the capacity of civil society organisations to better understand the linkage between trade and national development strategies. Not much is happening in this regard and there lies the importance of the GRANITE project.
- On WTO issues, media is half-informed or mis-informed and therefore, it is the responsibility of civil society organisations to make media better informed.
- WTO issues are complex and require comprehensive understanding by the civil society organisations before taking a position and doing advocacy.
- It appears that India is gaining from the rules-based international trading system, but the question is whether the poor are gaining or not.
- Engagement of local stakeholders, including state governments is required in order to make trade beneficial for the poor. In this regard, the most essential thing is to develop the capacity of local stakeholders for meaningful contribution to development discourse of trade issues. This is also reflected in poor cogency between and among states and the centre.
- For the capacity building of civil society organisations and other stakeholders at the local level on WTO issues, it is necessary to demystify terms with practical and hypothetical examples.
It appears that some of policies taken by the central government are not coherent with India’s WTO commitments and it gets further complicated when state governments come into play. Therefore, policy coherence is an important area to be looked into.