Network members attending the meeting in Abidjan.
Experience shows time and again that business associations are more effective in their advocacy when they work together in coalitions, networks, or alliances, whether formal or informal, to advance the interests of their members. When the time is right to join forces depends on a number of factors, chiefly among them being the degree of maturity of the association leaders and executives who understand that together they are stronger and their concerns are more likely to be heard than if they work and engage with decision-makers individually.
Willingness to join forces is a prerequisite for a group to affect change, but it is not the only one. It is equally important for the associations that embark on such an enterprise to be built on a solid structure, to follow sound governance principles, to meet members’ needs and to use adequate tools to present members’ issues and proposed solutions in a transparent and professional manner.
Nigerian businesswomen take part in a CIPE-sponsored mentoring program in 2011.
Nigeria will soon begin a national discussion that could redefine the foundations of the entire country. Unfortunately, as originally planned, this process would have left women largely out of the conversation.
On March 17, a National Conference including delegates from government, civil society, and the private sector will convene to consider rewriting the military-era constitution, redefining the country’s internal borders and administrative structures, strengthening institutions to combat corruption, and many other issues that may shape Nigerian society for years or decades to come.
The conference could usher in important changes for a nation plagued by corruption, religious conflict, and poverty — but the original pool of nearly 500 delegates included just 72 women from three associations. With a 75 percent majority required to take what could be fundamental decisions about the country’s future direction, women were at risk of being completely marginalized.
In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, CIPE is supporting the development of the recently-established Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI), the first and only women’s chamber in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
CIPE arranged for the senior leadership of PNGWCCI to attend a CIPE conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka that convened a network of women’s business groups from across the region. At this conference, which the Papua New Guinean participants described as “inspiring” and “eye-opening,” PNGWCCI saw first-hand that women’s chambers can be hugely successful even in difficult national environments for women, and relationships were established with other Asian chambers that could be invaluable mentors for PNGWCCI.
The women from PNG told CIPE that “we came home more enthusiastic than ever!”
More recently, at a training program in Port Moresby, a CIPE delegation worked with the leaders and members of PNGWCCI to develop an organizational vision, strategic objectives, along with tangible short and medium-term action plans to accomplish them.
Following months of protest on Kyiv’s Maidan, many Ukrainians have begun to address one another these days not with hello or how are you? Instead, the exchange follows the old saying from the partisan army that fought for an independent Ukraine during World War II: Glory to Ukraine, with the response: Glory to the Heroes!
Yet over the course of the events on the Maidan, a new group of heroes has emerged – everyday people who work in and own kiosks, shops and cafes, who were fighting for right to live in a more open and prosperous country, free of the corruption that has made it so hard to do business in Ukraine.
Indeed, many businesses – often coordinated by business associations – from across Ukraine took part in the Maidan movement, both in Kyiv and in smaller regional demonstrations. CIPE has heard reports that small businesses contributed thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind donations to support people in Independence Square. Business associations provided legal aid to those who were detained or put on local wanted lists for their role in the Maidan.
Given that business associations did not exist during 70 years of Communist rule, and that they are sometimes considered the country’s weakest civil society institutions, they have shown themselves remarkably dedicated and vibrant organizations during these months, capable of uniting across regional divisions. Indeed, recently, 11 new cross-regional coalitions of associations have taken shape.
The private sector is a key actor in efforts to promote economic growth, reform the business climate and strengthen democratic policymaking worldwide. Dialogue is a key part of the Busan process, which recognizes that the for-profit private sector is a central driver of development and emphasizes the importance of inclusive dialogue for building a policy environment conducive to sustainable development.” Businesses possess the know-how of economic conditions, obstacles and opportunities for growth, while governments have the means to pass business-friendly legislation.
From a democratic point of view, a vibrant private contribution to dialogue expands participation in policymaking by creating space for civic engagement in governance, improves the quality of business representation and supplements the performance of democratic institutions.
Building upon its longstanding experience in the field, CIPE has been invited to participate in the 7th Annual Public Private Dialogue Global Workshop organized by the World Bank, BMZ-The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and GIZ in Frankfurt, Germany.
Senior Knowledge Manager Kim Bettcher will moderate a session on long term public private dialogue sustainability and the role of chambers of commerce and business associations. Director of Multiregional Programs Anna Nadgrodkiewicz will make a presentation on a new initiative between the CIPE, the World Bank Institute, and development partners on building an open and collaborative platform for public private dialogue resources.
CIPE has extensive experience in advancing policy dialogue around the world and supports market-oriented reform and private sector development by mobilizing representative business associations and strengthening their capacity to advocate for policy solutions. CIPE also invests in business association development that enables effective dialogue. Some regional success stories in public private dialogue are outlined in more detail below.
Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender equality, including gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion, and economic marginalization. The lack of prominent, respected, capable, and well-organized advocates for gender equality and women’s rights directly contributes to the sociopolitical and economic marginalization of women in Papua New Guinea.
In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, CIPE is supporting the efforts of a pioneering group of women who recently established the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI). These visionary Papua New Guineans seek to change the operating environment faced by women in PNG, and this week saw a major step forward in this effort. From February 17-21, a CIPE delegation conducted the first of several planned training programs for the leaders and members of PNGWCCI.
Last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, CIPE held the fourth in its series of training and networking sessions for a group of women business leaders from across South Asia, helping bring about a range of positive steps – both for national understanding and increasing economic opportunity for traditionally marginalized women.
This network includes participants from major and emerging chambers of commerce and business associations in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. CIPE also invited two additional participants for this session from Papua New Guinea, because these women are just starting the process of establishing the first ever Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry in that country and requested CIPE’s assistance.
The idea to bring together representatives from these countries — particularly given the tensions between India and Pakistan, and the history between Bangladesh and Pakistan — was not guaranteed to succeed. But after the first three meetings, the first last winter in Dhaka, the second last spring in Kathmandu, and the third last September in Lahore, it has become clear that these women business leaders have grown closer, have learned from one another, are sharing ideas and information, and are finding ways to strengthen their organizations based on best practices learned from one another.
The Colombo workshop was a productive, inspiring, and an exciting two days of learning and networking. Below are some words from the participants about their experience at CIPE’s workshop:
Posted in South Asia
Tagged Bangladesh, Bhutan, business association development, business associations, India, nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, women, women's associations