Revisiting Istanbul Principles and its Relevance to Philippine CSOs

A 2-day workshop on “Revisiting Istanbul Principles and its Relevance to Philippine CSOs” was held on March 20-21, 2017 at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City. Evita L. Jimenez, executive director of CenPEG and concurrent lead convener of the Asia for Development and Peace Today (ADePT), capped the 2-day workshop with a presentation, “Paving the Way for Philippine CSO Development Effectiveness Work.” (Please see link)


Organized by the Center for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) and Reality of Aid, the workshop had various speakers that included Yodhim Gudel dela Rosa of Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific who talked on “From aid effectiveness to development effectiveness”; Cristina Palabay of Karapatan (or Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) who talked on “Human rights and social justice”; and former Bayan Muna congressman Teddy Casino, “People’s participation and empowerment.” CPDG’s Soleil Anniah C. Santoalla gave a brief orientation on the work of CPDG.


Participating partners in the workshop were 17 people’s organizations and civil society organizations (CSOs). Bicol-based Francia Cruz also joined to represent ADePT and Tabang Bikol. CenPEG News


Paving the Way for Philippine CSO Development Effectiveness Work

Reading paper for “Revisiting Istanbul Principles and its Relevance to Philippine CSOs”, March 20-21, 2017, University Hotel, Diliman, Quezon City

Evita L. Jimenez
Executive Director, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
& Lead Convener, Asia for Development and Peace Today (ADePT)

Genuine development – a better quality of life, decent and regular work, access to education, health, housing, and other services – is every Filipino’s aspiration which has been articulated consistently by the progressive mass movement for decades. Expressing the higher form of this social and political goal is the struggle for structural and institutional reforms such as an end to the system of family dynasties, elite and patronage politics, plunder, as well as for social and economic reforms like genuine agrarian program, national industrialization, and so on.

In many respects, the broad, multi-sector progressive movement in the Philippines – including its network of NGO institutions – has been in the forefront of the struggle for real development. The dimensions of this struggle have included the advocacy and defense of human rights, militant calls for social, economic, and political reforms, the assertion of sovereignty and self-determination, denunciation of the anti-development neo-liberalism, as well as active engagement in people-centered lawmaking and policy reforms. This is thus to emphasize the fact that “CSO development effectiveness” breathes life in the Philippine non-State community – a principle that is at the heart of the enduring progressive movement for real growth, freedom, and democracy.

In the light of the window unveiled by the current administration and given the government peace process with the Left as well as with the Moro forces, we are faced with the following questions: How do NGO institutions and organizations involved in development make their mission effective as independent development initiators? What are the issues and challenges as well as external factors affecting CSO development effectiveness in the country, and how should the CSOs respond to these? Let me clarify at this point that in the framework of “CSO development effectiveness” these questions will continue to challenge us not only under the current political situation – because it may be changeable, shifty, and unpredictable – but even beyond it.

Real development is borne out of the people’s long-drawn struggle for social change. Accordingly, development-oriented NGOs (or CSOs) function to help articulate this right in partnership with communities of people comprehensively and scientifically and come up with strategies and programs. Imperative is the need to expose and oppose the bankruptcy, myths, and anti-people orientation of the dominant neo-liberal model which is behind government’s “development policies” that aggravate and perpetuate the complex social and economic burdens of the people. Without effective people participation, no development programs and projects ever succeed meaningfully. Progressive CSOs should continue to develop the capability of linking pressing political and social issues – such as illegal drugs, summary executions, and the like – to the failure to address holistically the institutional roots of poverty, social and economic inequities, flawed criminal justice system, and other woes. So-called anti-poverty or poverty reduction programs should be inextricably linked with building up capabilities for communities and the country as a sovereign nation.  The peace talks between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which represents the longest running insurgency in Asia – with a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms as part of the core agenda – are substantive issues and resolutions that can help guide the content of development effectiveness work in the country.

Similarly, this issue challenges the CSOs as a priority task for development effectiveness to take a more active engagement in policy reforms and the projection of pro-people development paradigms even as we continue to act as street parliamentary players and stakeholders. For instance, in the ongoing peace process between the government and the Left the State should be challenged by the CSOs to make the forging of peace as a pre-condition for development so that in turn, people-centered development becomes the condition for a just and lasting peace. In a broad sense, development effectiveness embodies the end-goal of addressing the basic roots of armed conflict – poverty, social injustice, economic and political marginalization of the people, endemic unemployment, and so on.

Under the present political situation, “development effectiveness” also challenges CSOs to broaden, organize, strengthen, and mobilize development-driven partnership with the grassroots communities – including unorganized ones – especially the marginalized and at the local level. It is a given that development should be “participative” and “inclusive” but we do not hear of any success story of this kind especially at the LGU level where, for the past 26 years under the Local Government Act, local development councils and dialogue mechanisms with people representation are either just pro forma or non-existing.

On the other hand, there are promising practices where people-centered development serves as a rallying call for CSOs to organize and expand effective partnership with the people. For example, in some regions perennially hit by natural- and man-made calamities, poor family victims of disasters organize themselves as the backbone for relief and the rebuilding of lives. CSOs which matter – those who desire and effect change – must consistently be in the forefront of change and innovations, creatively weaving out of perceived or real restrictions, even at the risk of safety in order to bring about desired outcomes. Success stories around the country show how pro-people or progressive CSOs demonstrate the limitless capacity of people to struggle and transcend beyond perceived limitations, draw lessons from practice, and move to a higher level of what development effectiveness should be with the Istanbul 8 Principles serving as one of the reference guides.

A most recent example – “Tabang Bikol” formed right after Supertyphoon Niña last December 25 – reveals the potential of advocacy and leadership for development-oriented disaster response. Development-oriented disaster response served as a stimulus to form CSO-LGU partnerships, to establish the People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODIS), to design people-centered development plans, and draw in the Regional Development Council (RDC Bikol) to support a development strategy for Resilient and Sustainable Communities in Bikol.

Mass-based CSOs like these serve as platforms for tackling development issues with short- and long-term strategies for rehabilitation toward effective development introduced. To gain access to public resources, accreditation is used and partnership with some line agencies is forged alongside setting up effective mechanisms for transparency, accountability, and a people’s watch to monitor resource allocations and for impact assessment of programs. The basic partnership of families through their CSOs enables them to enter into an engagement with LGUs and local line agencies as well as with other sectors like small- and medium-scale industry groups – without, however, succumbing into a relationship of dependency but determined to maintain themselves as independent and critical development players.

For all the initiatives undertaken toward development effectiveness, mass-based CSOs face many daunting issues and challenges. Foremost of these are underlying political and cultural impediments which attest that for real development to take place CSOs must surmount the institutional obstacles posed by patronage politics (especially “utang na loob” or debt of gratitude), the tendency of LGUs and local politicians to use CSOs for their own purposes, corruption, bureaucratic red tapes, and many other issues. Patronage politics and the corruption that it breeds remains embedded in so-called development projects from the regional to barangay levels with billions of funds allocated year in and year out. Development projects are dictated by legislators, governors, and mayors so that public funds, resources, and foreign assistance support their own priority “development agenda.” In many provinces, their “development agenda” prioritizes commercial tourism over agricultural modernization, or extractive production for export as opposed to using raw materials for job-generating industries and sustainable development.

Another challenge for CSOs is how to mobilize mass communities particularly the marginalized and women along people-driven development as animated by progressive models and approaches that enable development to transition from short-term rebuilding and economism into the long-term program of multi-dimensional economic change. Under the present political situation, a strong partnership of CSOs and the people has the potential of blunting the neo-liberal bias of “public-private partnership” which favors the elite and their corporate interests and instead build a strong and broad people’s partnership for real development where collaboration with other progressive forces, development-oriented LGU elements, as well as the use of public resources can be ensured. People-centered development as espoused in the Istanbul 8 Principles for Development Effectiveness should necessarily go beyond the public-private dichotomy that is actually dominantly a government-business partnership for profit and corruption.

Similarly, development effectiveness must coalesce with other sectors including professionals, local scientists, inventors, and educators, as well as small entrepreneurs and producers. Drawing in these sectors to the platform of people-centered development effectiveness not only broadens partnerships but also, in the long run, helps enhance the capacity-building of CSOs in social investigation, scientific research, as well as in designing development strategies and policy reforms. People empowerment, rights-driven people’s struggles, and building coalitions of development activists are needed for development effectiveness. Instead of just being a short-term objective, development effectiveness is an end-goal that is served by the meticulous but participative process of education and training, capacity-building, and forming coalitions of development activists and experts from various professions and endeavors like science and technology. Development effectiveness requires a progressive content – it is precisely this critical element that CSOs are able to expand and deepen the arena of progressive politics, network-building, organizing, and mobilization. In the Philippine context, it is about development toward national industrialization and agrarian reform with sustainable agriculture.

Moreover, people-to-people exchanges across regions and countries based on shared development goals through regional and international networking provides add-on value to development effectiveness. Respect for independent initiatives and right to self-determination should be a constant principle that should be integrated in the Istanbul Principles for development effectiveness. Effective CSOs – well-grounded, well-oriented, and capacitated which deliver concrete outcomes of the successes of people-driven development programs on the ground – are the motivators and catalysts for development effectiveness.

By building development partnerships and coalitions, capacity building, as well as launching programs whether post-disaster rebuilding, education and training, organic farming, or alternative health that have clear long-term perspectives, CSOs are also able to cope with other development obstacles especially in conflict areas like militarization, labelling, and other forms of harassment – as well as organizations fronting as NGOs to support counter-insurgency operations or to promote neo-liberal programs.

In the final analysis, CSO development effectiveness is measured by the capacity of the people to take development as their own, empowering themselves not only as critical yet independent stakeholders but also as political players who share common goals of institutional and structural reforms focused on equalizing social and economic opportunities and resources toward putting an end to oligarchic rule and democratizing government by placing it – with all its powers and resources – in the hands of the people.

Allow me to conclude my presentation by citing some of the key national issues that pose bigger challenges to – and will impact on – the work of Philippine CSOs in the next 5 years:

  1. Peace process between the GPH and the NDFP and Bangsamoro groups
  2. Looming constitutional change: Federalism, major changes in economic provisions, entrenchment of political dynasties
  3. Impact of massive infrastructure projects: On IP communities, agricultural lands, environment
  4. Gut issues related to agrarian reform, labor, urban poor
  5. Human rights: “Oplan Kapayapaan”; summary executions, death penalty which can be used by some elements for narrow political ends
  6. Maritime issues and foreign policy
  7. Migration and OFWs


Urgent call to GRP-NDFP: Go back to the table, continue the talks!

BRING THE PEACE PROCESS TO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AND PERSEVERE TO BRING IT TO A JUST CONCLUSION. Involve the people especially the poor/under-represented sectors to raise and help resolve the basic issues/concerns of poverty, peace and development which are at the core of the talks. Let’s not give way for unfriendly forces to further obstruct and stall the peace process.

ADePT (Asia for Development and Peace Today) convened in January 2016 by individuals from the academe, policy study think tanks and sectoral NGOs who are into studies and advocacy for peace and development and promoting people to people relations in the Philippines and Asia.

Ref. persons:
Evita Jimenez and Maragtas Amante

Conference calls for people-centered policy actions for Asian development and peace

Speakers and key participants in the recently-held Conference on Asian Development and Peace agree that despite the diversity and policy differences among Asian countries, what binds them in the quest for development and peace will spell the difference.

In his presentation paper, Prof. Bobby M. Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies of CenPEG, said that the 21st Century has been described as the “Asian Century” and that peoples in the region – which used to be the richest in the world in terms of culture and trade 300 years ago before it was inundated by Western and Japanese colonialism and domination – can realize that dream if they work for people-centered development and peace.

The one-day conference, held on January 29, 2016 at the Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, was organized by the Asia for Development and Peace Today (ADePT), a formation of NGOs and people’s organizations initiated by Fellows of CenPEG led by Executive Director Evita L. Jimenez.

The conference, which bannered the theme, “What binds is greater than what divides us,” was also held in partnership with the Office of the UP President, the UP Asian Center, and the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI).

Keynote address

In his keynote address, UP President Alfredo E. Pascual noted that the conference on Asian development and peace is timely because of “the volatile situation in parts of Asia.”

Before his talk, Pascual was introduced by former Asian Center Dean, Prof. Eduardo Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a former president of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) is also a CenPEG Fellow.

“Development in the economic aspect is a goal that all country leaders aspire. All countries pursue policies to stimulate the national economy and provide the economic needs of its people. There is a consensus, to a certain extent, that development is an important goal to pursue whether it is planned or market- driven. The quest for development is, in fact, what binds us as a community of nations,” Pascual, a former ADB executive and first spokesperson of the Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch), said.

The UP president also said that the narrative of peace, cooperation, and development in an interdependent world “is becoming a complex issue, especially in East and South East Asia.” Complexities are shown in the flexing of muscles of great powers that pose threats to security, such as China’s assertiveness in the maritime and territorial disputes in the South China, which includes the West Philippine Sea, and the US rebalance strategy to Asia aimed at increasing the superpower’s military presence in the region, he said.

Pascual cautioned that polarization is threatening the order that allowed states to coexist for decades. “The next decades in Asia Pacific will see security challenges” which can affect inter-state economic relations in the region,” he added.

Development ‘for whom?’

A major policy objective of Asian countries “should be how to avoid catastrophe and how to understand a system that builds confidence and understanding to differing cultures,” he said. “Yet, development and peace in the region extends deeper than having no war and having a good economy. It is also important that the discourse on development and peace does not forget the marginalized. We always need to ask development ‘for whom?’”

“Development and peace is not just about states being developed and peaceful. It is primarily about ordinary people having the freedom to exercise choice from a wide array of opportunities, free from structural violence like discrimination, racism, slavery, and all kinds of exploitation,” Pascual said.

Talking about this earlier in his welcome remarks, Prof. Joefe Santarita, Dean of UP Asian Center, said that “despite the diversities, Asians also share commonalities, which should be capitalized properly to come up with people-centered policy actions to realize development.”

“What unites us is greater than what divides us. Despite the issues of injustice, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination based on ideas and religion, our differences are important to the collective Asian heritage that must be celebrated,” the Asian Center Dean also said.

Economic diplomacy

In “Chinese Perspective on Development and Peace in Asia: Implications on the Philippines,” Ericson Baculinao, Beijing bureau chief of US National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC) News, ruminated on how the Philippines should adopt a new economic diplomacy with China toward conflict resolution.

Baculinao, a UP alumnus who has lived in China for 40 years, said that the Philippine case against China pending at the international arbitration court in The Hague, should be given its due course. But the arbitration case should not be the sole approach to settling disputes with China and the Philippine government should use other mechanisms like the proverbial, “putting all eggs in one basket.”

One such mechanism, he said, is a renewed economic diplomacy with China which is currently launching major economic initiatives – such as the One Belt and One Road Initiative and the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – together with partner countries that include US allies, aimed at developing an overarching economic interconnectivity in the world. As the Chinese economy expands globally, it becomes more vulnerable and, hence, needs the cooperation of countries including the Philippines. China needs a regional and global peaceful environment for its own economy but it will rely on peaceful economic cooperation with as many countries, Baculinao said.

China’s ambitious economic plans, he added, are Beijing’s “non-military” approach to development and peace. If China succeeds in this effort, it will even make America’s rebalance to Asia military paradigm – which many observers agree are aimed at encircling China – “irrelevant,” Baculinao said.

Other conference speakers

Other conference speakers were: Prof. Roland G. Simbulan, CenPEG Board vice chair, who talked on “The US Rebalance in Asia & Its Potential Threats to Asian Peace and Security”; George T. Siy of IDSI, “Toward Inclusive Economic Growth in Asia & the Philippine Experience”; Prof. Masaki “Gus” Yokoyama, Faculty of Global & Inter-Cultural Studies, Ferris University, Yokohama, Japan, “Japanese Perspectives on Development Peace in Asia: ODA & People’s Responses;” former Gabriela Rep. and current chair of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA), Liza Maza, “Asian Women’s Role on Peace on the Era of US Rebalance and Rising Major Powers”; Prof. Carol I. Sobritchea of Asian Center, “The Politics of Critical Collaboration in Protecting the Human Rights of Migrant Workers”; and UP Institute of Islamic Studies professor, Julkipli Wadi, “Bangsamoro and its Security Implications in South East Asia.”

Moderators for the morning and after sessions were Prof. Temario C. Rivera, also CenPEG Board chair, and CenPEG Executive Director Evita L. Jimenez, who is also ADePT convener and coordinator. The welcome proceedings had Prof. Carl Marc Ramota as moderator. Secretariat support came from student volunteers of UP Manila.

The UP Singing Ambassadors, with founder and conductor Prof. Ed Manguiat, gave the cultural number.

The conference was attended by close to 200 participants from various academic communities, NGOs, think tanks, government agencies, as well as observers from foreign diplomatic missions and the media.

Conference goal

The confluence of the maritime disputes attended by escalating tensions, the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015, the renewed engagement of Japan in Southeast Asia as the US moved forward its rebalance in Asia strategy, and other major regional events were compelling reasons for the Asian conference where these issues will be raised not only in the discourse of Philippine issues but also in regional platforms.

Of great importance, in addition, is to pose the aforementioned challenge and to seek answers not just from the policy views of governments concerned but from communities of peoples whose stake in the regional issues has not been well defined and their voices not fully articulated. Central to the people’s stakes and voices are issues on development and peace – development that requires peace, and peace based on human growth and development.

The Conference thus aimed to present people’s perspectives – particularly socio-cultural, women, migration, maritime, business, and others – and come up with policy solutions and actions to bring the discourse of “oneness” unto the current platform of “regional integration and community.”

Papers and summary of the conference proceedings will be published in a policy briefing monograph. The ADePT website ( will also be sustained for the posting of conference materials as well as announcements on future publications and activities. CenPEG News

Click here to download the Conference Paper Abstracts & Speakers’ Profiles


Welcome remarks: Asian Center Dean Joefe Santarita
EdGon introduces
Former AC Dean Prof. Eduardo Gonzalez introduces the keynote speaker
UP President Alfredo E. Pascual: keynote speaker
Morning session panel (l-r): CenPEG policy director Bobby M. Tuazon, NBC Beijing bureau chief Eric Baculinao, Prof. Roland G. Simbulan, and IDSI’s George T. Siy
Morning session moderator Prof. Temario C. Rivera
Afternoon session moderator and ADePT coordinator Evita L. Jimenez
Welcome emcee: Prof. Carl Marc Ramota
Afternoon panel (l-r): Moderator Evi Jimenez, Prof. Masaki Yokoyama of Ferris University, IWA chair Liza Maza, Prof. Carol Sobritchea, and CenPEG Fellow Prof. Julkipli Wadi
UP Singing Ambassadors with Prof. Ed Manguiat conducting
UP President Pascual (middle) receives certificate of appreciation with (l-r) Prof. Gonzalez, AC Dean Santarita, National Artist and former CenPEG chair Bien Lumbera, and Executive Director Evita L. Jimenez
Conference participants
Conference participants
Conference site
Conference site