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Mozambican Workers, Peasants and NGOs Promoting Civil Society's Contribution to Sustainable Development Agenda

New York, 20 August— Mozambican peasants, workers, teachers, women, environment and development have joined together to form a nation-wide network to promote sustainable development at the national level and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development that starts later this month in Johannesburg.

"It is the first time a large network of NGOs and popular movements from all over Mozambique are participating in the preparations for an international summit. It has never happened before," says Norberto Mahalambe of the NGO ABIODES, which is the focal-point co-ordinator for the newly established Mozambican civil society network.

According to Mahalambe, there are active groups in every province in the country. "'At the moment, we daily receive a lot of information from the provinces. It comes from all kinds of organisations because this is a common, people-driven process. The Mozambican Worker's General Union has asked its members to participate, and so has the Mozambican Peasant's National Union. We are creating a broad movement with national coverage, which we hope will continue to develop after the Summit in Johannesburg. This will create the strength that civil society needs to put pressure on government on more issues than is currently the case."

At first, he said, representatives from many groups were highly sceptical about Summit. "They thought that a fancy Summit in Johannesburg was none of their business, so why waste time and energy on it."

But despite some reservations, preparations began early in 2001 when LINK-NGO Forum, an umbrella organisation for Mozambican and international civil society organisations, invited its members to initiate an assessment of the state of sustainable development in Mozambique for the occasion of the WSSD. The result was a working group that continued to meet regularly and eventually agreed on the principles and plans for the process.

From March to November 2001, the group worked to extend the process to organisations representing the 'major groups' identified in the Agenda 21 and to faith-based organisations in all ten Mozambican provinces. Major efforts were made to join regional and international alliances, and consequently, Amade Sucá from the Mozambique farmer union (UNAC) was elected to be part of the regional core group for Southern Africa as well as the representative of Southern Africa in the African NGO Steering Committee.

The increasing activity level - combined with access to financial support from the Danish 92-Group - necessitated an administrative and organisational focal point for the preparation process. This led to the creation of a co-ordination group which in addition to ABIODES consists of the National Peasant's Union, the Mozambican office of IUCN, CIFOA and the LINK-NGO Forum being the principal umbrella-organisation of NGOs in Mozambique.

The national network has played a crucial role in the preparation process for the Summit, Mahalambe said. "Each province identified a local organisation to act as focal point, thereby forming a nation-wide civil society network interested in discussing sustainable development. Each focal points had the responsibility of making room for participation of all interested organisations in an open and democratic manner.'

Through meetings organized by the network, Mozambique's civil society reached general agreement on principles and plan of action for the preparation process. Gathering representatives from all provinces and major groups, the network helped crystallize approval of the "Maputo Declaration" that defines the commitments of civil society in the preparation process and identifies the ten main issues to be focused on in the promotion of sustainable development. It has also worked for the legitimization of the coordination group and the focal points as co-ordinators of the preparation process, and has approved a plan of action for lobbying, advocacy plans, and for collecting the necessary data to prepare a civil society assessment of the state of sustainable development.

In addition to the data collection, undertaken with scarce resources, the network has also promoted an information campaign. Programmes and have appeared on national radio and TV, and community radio stations have aired the programmes as well. The daily national newspaper 'Noticias' has written about the process, and so have various civil society newsletters. The national focal point has launched a free of charge newsletter, Sustentando, ('sustaining' in Portuguese), which can also be found on the Internet at http:/www.rio10.dk/mozambique.

There have been cultural activities such as mini-marathons in different parts of the country and in a nation-wide competition, children and teenagers were asked to respectively draw and write their vision of sustainable development.

"The level of involvement has indeed been above our expectations," Mahalambe said, "and the overall picture is that all provinces have participated in the process, although some more actively than others."

Visions for Johannesburg and beyond

Using the data gathered throughout the country, the network hired an independent consultant to prepare a national civil society assessment on the state of sustainable development in Mozambique.

"We took this draft back to the provinces where it was discussed by a total of approximately 150 civil society representatives in three seminars to cover the whole of Mozambique," Mahalambe said. Based on the collected inputs, the report was revised and a new draft was released for the second National Seminar, which took place on the 27-28 June, 2002. More than 80 delegates from all over the country discussed and revised the document that eventually will evolve into the final version of the national report to be presented at the Global Forum during the WSSD."

Although much has already been accomplished, Mahalambe says the process is really only about to begin. The co-ordination group, he expects, will be represented in Johannesburg by at least 60 delegates from different civil society organisations.

"This will allow us to participate in different expressions, forums and other activities, but we will also host a number of debates as part of the NGO Global Forum program," Mahalambe said. And there is much to discuss.

"We want to discuss the subsidies to agricultural production in the North that distort world market prices and African agricultural production. We need to discuss how to initiate a local economic development that can serve as a tool for combating poverty and halting the social-economic exclusion. Furthermore, we must begin to demand clear policies, decentralised strategies and donor assistance with skills and resources in order to prepare better for the natural disasters that are endemic to Mozambique. And finally, looking beyond the WSSD, the civil society network has already started to discuss the content of a Plan of Action for post-WSSD activities in Mozambique."

By Thorkil Green Nielsen, Ibis information officer and Jan Nikolai Kristensen, adviser to LINK-NGO Forum, Maputo, Mozambique - placed by the Danish NGO Ibis

Further information about the work in national networks in 25 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia can be found on the website www.rio10.dk, which is decentralised updated by the national focal points. Further information can also be obtained from Hans Peter Dejgaard (hp@rio10.dk)

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24 August 2006