Report of the International Forum for the Operational Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD - Strengthening Partnerships



Election of Forum Office-bearers and other Matters

Functioning of the Forum

Findings and Proposed Actions

Creating an Enabling Environment

Enhancing Gender Equality, Equity and Empowerment of Women

Promoting Reproductive Health, Including Family Planning and Sexual Health, and Reproductive Rights

Strengthening Partnerships

Mobilizing and Monitoring Resources


84. The Programme of Action is an intergovernmental instrument, but it is also a reflection of discussions between government delegates and NGO representatives at the ICPD. It recognizes that to implement the conceptual shift to human-centred development and the life-cycle concept of sexual and reproductive health, a broad-based and interactive collaboration among Governments, the international community and civil society is required. "Civil society" in this context refers to non-state institutions, including NGOs; community groups; professional associations; religious communities; the private sector; labour and trade unions; political parties; foundations; academic and research institutions; the media; and women, men and youth groups as well as individuals as members of society. Parliamentarians often serve as bridges between civil society and the government apparatus.

85. In Chapter XV, the Programme of Action calls for the promotion of effective partnerships between all levels of Government, the full range of NGOs and local community groups as well as international organizations and the private sector. The involvement of civil society in initiating and sustaining social and economic transformation has become essential in the context of economic globalization, privatization, limited resources and the downsizing and decentralization of the government apparatus. The full participation of civil society organizations and leaders will become increasingly critical in order to carry forward the goals of the Programme of Action.

Progress made

86. The five-year review has found that the changing development paradigms have shifted the roles of Government, civil society and the international community:

  1. Many Governments have adopted significant measures to promote the involvement of civil society groups, particularly NGOs, in various stages of policy formulation and/or programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Countries with economies in transition have made special efforts in this regard.
  2. Positive changes have been made in the concept of participation and the processes for consultation and in the recognition of the enhanced roles of civil society.
  3. Governments and civil society have become increasingly aware of the societal dimensions of development and economic issues, and there is growing recognition of the necessity for a human rights-based approach.
  4. In some countries, Governments have taken strong measures to strengthen the institutional capacity of civil society, including, inter alia, the provision of funding and the removal of cumbersome legal restrictions.
  5. Coordination among United Nations organizations and agencies has been enhanced.
  6. In 1995, eighteen United Nations organizations and agencies, including the Bretton Woods institutions, established the Basic Social Services for All (BSSA) Task Force.
  7. Involvement of such partners as women's groups, advocacy organizations, youth groups, private sector associations, and religious communities has increased.
  8. Parliamentarians have taken significant action for the adoption of legislation on reproductive health and on gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation. They have been instrumental in ensuring provision of national budgetary allocations for population and development. Parliamentarian networks have been established at the national and regional levels; networking at the international level has been initiated.

Constraints and issues

87. Policy formulation and programme implementation. Notwithstanding new policies and legislation, the enabling environment for civil society participation needs to be further strengthened in most countries. Clear legal frameworks, regulations and guidelines to facilitate partnerships with NGOs often do not exist.

88. Human resource and institutional capacity. Only limited progress has been made in strengthening the human resource, institutional and financial capacities of civil society organizations. Their weaknesses in transparency, accountability and responsiveness to constituencies seem to be obstacles in mobilizing additional public and financial support for population and development activities through civil society organizations. Networking among civil society organizations remains weak, particularly at the country level.

89. Financial support. Government provision of technical and financial support for NGOs has been hampered for various reasons, including constraints on government resources. At the same time, dependence on external funding often leads to increased competition between Governments and NGOs as well as among NGOs themselves for the limited funds available. At times, the dependence on external funding has hindered strategic planning on the part of NGOs.

90. Coordination. One of the major constraints to partnerships that is faced by both Governments and civil society organizations is the lack of mechanisms for coordination, funding, and accountability at the national level.

91. Joint Action and Monitoring Frameworks. Multisectoral frameworks for identifying key issues for joint action and indicators for assessing the contribution and impact of civil society groups are very often not present.

92. Private Profit-oriented sector. Important opportunities and innovative modalities for cooperation with the private sector must be further explored.

93. Political environment. In some countries, obstacles to partnership have been encountered due to mutual distrust, civil unrest and unstable political situations.

94. Youth. Special initiatives for youth have been supported in many countries; however, youth involvement in programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation remains insufficient.

Proposed actions

Establishing an Enabling Environment for Effective Partnership

95. Partnerships involving Governments, multi-bilateral and bilateral donors and civil society need to be based on negotiation and agreed intentions and explicit outcomes that bring benefits for all people. Partnership should enhance the activity of Governments and not substitute for their responsibilities to address people's basic needs.

96. Governments should:

  1. ensure legitimacy and autonomy of NGOs based on a legal framework and within the process of democratization;
  2. adopt policy measures as well as remove legal and bureaucratic obstacles to facilitate the involvement of civil society, particularly of NGOs, in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of strategies and programmes to achieve the Programme of Action objectives;
  3. institute dialogues on common objectives to build partnerships with civil society organizations from a broad spectrum of society, including women's organizations; traditional community leadership structures; religious groups; indigenous people; children; youth, the aged; and persons with disabilities;
  4. work with civil society organizations to formulate the underlying principles, an enabling framework, goals and objectives and operational systems for partnership so that respective roles and responsibilities will be clearly defined.

97. Governments and civil society should:

  1. develop operational guidelines for complementary or joint programmes; develop transparent systems to become accountable to their respective constituencies and to each other;
  2. develop instruments to assess and monitor the interaction of Government and civil society organizations and identify obstacles to partnership;
  3. ensure that youth representatives are elected to governing bodies, such as parliaments and city councils as well as school and university boards, to advise on youth issues and to ensure youth participation at all levels of policy and decision-making processes.

98. Parliamentarians should:

  1. continue to establish national and international networks on population issues and advocate for and elaborate on appropriate legislation on Programme of Action provisions as a way to mobilize political support and to ensure sufficient budgetary allocations for population and development programmes, including the costed reproductive health components of the Programme of Action;
  2. strengthen their partnership with the health community to develop appropriate legislation on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

99. Governments, civil society and the international community should:

  1. work to find innovative approaches to enhance civil society participation, such as the facilitation of community-based initiatives.

100. Youth organizations should:

  1. find creative ways to support and mobilize other youth groups through peer education programmes, information exchange and networking; develop programmes that ensure youth participation in population and development activities.
  2. Strengthening the Human Resources and Institutional Capacities of Civil Society

101. Governments and the international community should:

  1. adopt innovative financial and technical assistance approaches, including direct funding to NGOs and other non-state actors, to foster effective partnerships;
  2. broaden the scope of their financial and technical assistance to build and strengthen the human resource, institutional, managerial and accounting capacity and sustainability of civil society institutions, in particular the women's and youth NGOs.

102. NGOs should:

  1. establish mechanisms to promote and strengthen their human resources and institutional capacities;
  2. give increased attention to coalition-building and networking at the national and regional levels to promote programme replicability, complementarity and synergy.

103. Governments, civil society and the international community should:

  1. support and strengthen South-South cooperations in order to bolster the sharing of relevant experiences, the mobilization of technical expertise and other resources among developing countries.
  2. Strengthening and intensifying social mobilization efforts

104. Governments and civil society should:

  1. establish youth councils and include youth in programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation;
  2. involve religious groups and traditional community leaders in population and development activities.

105. Governments, civil society and the international community should:

  1. include the media as partners to strengthen and intensify social mobilization efforts;
  2. define new opportunities for partnership with the private sector in population and development sectors;
  3. encourage women in the private sector to be advocates in the work place for the Programme of Action.
  4. Promoting access to high-quality reproductive health and family planning services

106. Governments, civil society and the international community should:

  1. actively pursue efforts with the private profit-oriented sector to provide affordable high quality reproductive health services for all, ensuring transparency and accountability within a human rights and social justice framework;
  2. involve the medical professional associations in ensuring the high quality of reproductive health services.
  3. Strengthening collaboration among United Nations and Inter-Governmental Organizations

107. United Nations agencies and organizations should:

  1. strengthen inter-agency coordination and collaboration at all levels on selected population and development themes; UNAIDS, the Administrative Coordinating Committee (ACC), the Consultative Committee on Health, and the Basic Social Services for All (BSSA) Task Force are good examples of such coordination;
  2. make further efforts to include the development banks in partnership activities.

108. The United Nations Population Fund should:

  1. continue to focus on including the civil society in partnerships and support governments in developing a process with national resources to work with civil society; establish NGO advisory committees at regional and national levels; and continue and broaden the range of members of the NGO Advisory Committee to UNFPA at the international level;
  2. should further develop a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of partnership and should formulate clear guidelines for partnership;
    should strengthen and intensify its relations with countries with economies in transition.

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