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Review of the International Conference on Population and Development, New York 1999

Round-table on Partnership with Civil Society in Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action
Dhaka, Bangladesh, 27-30 July 1998

Executive Summary

The Round Table on Partnership with Civil Society to Implement the Programme of Action, International Conference on Population and Development, was the third round table in a series of expert meetings and technical symposia held on selected population and development issues. These meetings have been organized to assess the progress achieved regarding the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action since Cairo in 1994, and to identify priorities for future action.

The findings, conclusions and proposed future actions from the round table meetings and other symposia will constitute significant inputs for the ICPD+5 International Forum to be convened in The Hague, The Netherlands, 8 to 12 February 1999, and for the report of the Secretary-General for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 30 June to 2 July 1999.

The Round Table was attended by more than 85 participants from civil society, Government and the international donor community, including United Nations organizations and agencies. The Round Table, held from 27 to 30 July 1998 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was organized by the United Nations Population Fund, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Division, and was hosted by the Government of Bangladesh.

During the Round Table, participants:

reviewed the status of partnership among civil society, Government, and the international community to advocate for and implement the ICPD Programme of Action;
identified successes, constraints and lessons learned since the ICPD with respect to policy, legislative, administrative, managerial, strategic and financial aspects regarding tripartite collaboration and partnership, particularly at the country level; and
proposed future actions to further promote and enhance partnership among civil society, Government, and the international community to achieve the goals and objectives of the ICPD Programme of Action.

Notable progress had been achieved by the civil society, Governments and the international community in undertaking collaborative efforts. The Round Table adopted the following key recommendations to promote and strengthen the partnership process to implement the ICPD Programme of Action:


All Governments should adopt measures to facilitate the involvement of civil society in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, strategies and programmes. The following actions will assist in the process of creating an enabling environment for an effective partnership among civil society, Government and the international community to advance the implementation of the Programme of Action:
Create common forums for dialogue. Regular and systematic dialogue is to be the key to partnership. Such dialogue should lead to increased involvement of civil society in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national policies and programmes and to more coordinated development efforts by Governments, civil society and the international community;
Re-examine concepts, assumptions, agendas, priorities. For partnership to flourish, reflection on and re-examination of agendas and priorities, as well as the basic concepts of Apartnership@ and assumptions about possible partners, are essential;
Listen to and respect the experiences of other partners; and Identify and build on the comparative strengths of partners and utilize existing relationships. Mutual respect increases with regular interaction with partners. In this way, the strengths, comparative advantages and weaknesses of each partner can be identified, evaluated and put to use accordingly;
Identify key issues. Key common issues regarding legislation, policy and programmes have to be identified as the basis for collaborative action;
Identify key players and institutions. The identification of key players is crucial. Different approaches may be used to assist in the identification of potential key partners, such as during joint efforts on social issues with other institutions or civic leaders;
Develop mutual accountability among partners. It is essential to develop transparent systems by which partners become accountable to each other and to the respective communities and constituencies which they serve;
Develop joint plans of action at various levels. The process of dialogue should lead to joint or complementary plans of action, developed in a transparent and participatory manner; and
Continue monitoring the implementation of the Programme of Action. Mechanisms are needed to monitor implementation and to provide feedback. Various modalities might be used, such as country-level assessments by Governments, CSOs and donors.


Governments and civil society should strengthen and intensify their social and resource mobilization efforts as well as formulate IEC and advocacy strategies which are bolder and more innovative, based on sociocultural and economic research, and designed to reach specific audiences within a broader spectrum of civil society. The following actions would advance this process:
Communicate directly and clearly. The Programme of Action's message must be translated not only into the local language but, equally important, explained in terms which relate to the life experiences of the selected audience;
Use media more effectively. More time and money should be devoted to the effective use of the media. Quality and creativity must match the quantity of media output;
Develop new strategic alliances. New models and inclusive approaches should be used to reach selected audiences, including private sector organizations, parliamentarians and religious communities;
Engage ICPD critics and adversaries. There is a need to conduct detailed study and research on the objections and concerns of the critics and adversaries of the Programme of Action, and, to educate and support effective spokespersons, at all levels, to address these issues;
Address controversial topics and cultural taboos. Public discourse on controversial issues should be opened up for discussion in a culturally sensitive manner and with a commitment to the promotion of justice and sound health; and
Mobilize resources. Increased attention must be given to mobilization of financial and other resources at all levels to ensure that the Programme of Action is well supported.


Governments and the civil society, particularly CSOs, with the assistance, as appropriate, of international organizations, should give increased attention to improving and strengthening their respective human resource management and technical capabilities as well as institutional capacities and financial viability. Innovative financial and technical assistance approaches, including direct funding to CSOs, should be adopted to foster partnerships. Actions might be taken to:
Strengthen capacities at all levels. Governments and civil society should formulate a common framework for working together. Donor and NGO partnerships should be broadened to include the provision of financial and technical assistance by donors to build the human resource and institutional capacities of their partner organizations;
Promote accountability and transparency. NGO accreditation should be encouraged. A formal mechanism among NGO partners, Governments and local communities as well as donors should be instituted to ensure exchange of information on programme activities and financing, and to assist in planning strategically, determining future directions, identifying lessons learned and strengthening partnerships. There should be periodic internal and external programme, management and financial auditing;
Ensure sustainability. Government, civil society institutions and the international community should address the critical issue of institutional viability and programme sustainability; and
Encourage coalition-building and networking. Civil society institutions, especially NGOs, should give increased attention to coalition-building and networking at the national and regionallevels in order to promote programme replicability, complementarity and synergy, in addition to facilitating information exchange and concerted action for policy and legislative inputs.


Given the pressures of economic globalization, Governments, NGOs, the private sector and international organizations should significantly increase their efforts to identify areas and to promote innovative modalities for concerted action to achieve programme complementarity and synergy, particularly with respect to provision of reproductive health services. Actions might be taken to:
Formulate reproductive health policies. Policies and programmes should be formulated by Governments and international donors through consultative processes involving the civil society, particularly the providers and users of reproductive health services;
Undertake strategic programme planning. The sociology of demand and supply, as well as the mode of service delivery, should be reviewed. Capacity-building must be strengthened to ensure that appropriate quality services can be provided, especially to groups such as youth/adolescents, mothers at high risk, and hard-to-reach or underserved, marginalized groups;
Provide core financing. A core grant should be earmarked by Governments to support NGO/civil society involvement and a percentage of country programme funds set aside by international aid agencies for NGOs and civil society participation and execution;
Develop quality assurance. Governments, through legislative action, must enact standards of quality assurance for the provision of reproductive health services and contraceptive commodities. NGOs and professional organizations should take a leadership role in assisting the Government in determining and setting appropriate quality standards and in disseminating these standards among providers and clients;
Create built-in sustainability. Service charges should be introduced on an incremental basis, as appropriate. Clients should be empowered so that they become active seekers of quality services from private and other facilities, on a fee-paying basis, if and as feasible; and
Continue External Assistance. As long as there are unserved, underserved, marginalized, poorer persons who are unable to obtain the basic necessities of life in many developing nations, external assistance will be needed. This assistance must reach poorer persons - through those institutions, Government or NGOs, which are working in the field to provide quality reproductive health services.

Full report available at


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