Mediation for Civil Society: Sensitization Seminar in Egypt
The AfDB Compliance Review and Mediation Unit (CRMU) co-organized a civil society seminar with the Egypt Field Office and Better Life Association for Comprehensive Development (BLACD), a community-based organization based in the province of Minia in Egypt, on December 17-18, 2008 in Cairo. Mr. Khushhal Chand Khushiram, the Bank’s Resident Representative in Egypt opened the seminar and briefed the participants on the Bank’s support to Egypt, and assured the important role of civil society that the Bank accords in its projects and policies. Mrs. Almaz Amine, the Country Operations Expert at the Egypt Field Office, presented the Bank’s projects and technical assistance grants in the country. Mr. Per Eldar Sovik, the Director of CRMU, presented the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) and responded to several questions from the participants which in essence focused on how to render IRM effective and accessible to local communities who are directly affected by AfDB financed projects. Mrs. Adila Abusharaf, Principal Compliance Officer, presented CRMU’s outreach strategy and the community kit which the Unit is developing for use in its forthcoming community information program.
Mr. Maher Boshra, the Director of BLACD, presented the association’s experience in empowering small fisherman/women in managing fishery resources and generating income in different provinces in Egypt. The association’s key awareness tools included needs-assessment meetings, public-service announcements, and documentaries. The thirty participants coming from Minia, Alasmaylia, Alexandria, Dimiatti, Gina, Suez, Halwan, and Cairo, represented local communities and NGOs based in areas covered by the Bank’s projects. They acknowledged the Bank for establishing IRM as a tool that can contribute to fill the vacuum left by national recourse mechanisms which yet are to be strengthened to redress people when negatively impacted by development projects. They considered the mechanism as an enabling means to motivate civil society to correlate their views with their actions to systematically monitor and respond when the projects’ social and environmental impact assessments are found inadequate, and the livelihoods of people living in the projects areas are at risk. Among the participants’ main recommendations: CRMU should continue to organize information-sharing seminars and capacity building sessions for civil society organizations, and to use hands-on demonstration materials in order for uneducated communities to better understand the IRM.
Furthermore, CRMU was asked to provide information about Bank financed projects to civil society before their approval by the Bank in order to allow NGOs to discuss their problems with Bank’s management or Bank field office as early as possible, or to send complaints to CRMU while it is still possible to improve the projects’ design. Finally, they proposed that CRMU should disseminate best practices and cases from other African countries.