ICA International Board update, January 2015

ICAI Global Buzz, Sseptember 2014
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, January 2015.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


In December we held two online General Assembly (GA) meetings in Adobe Connect on December 12 (early & late for different time zones), and we conducted asynchronous voting on GA resolutions by Surveymonkey poll between December 12-22.  Full reports were circulated to members before Christmas.

The aims of the ICAI General Assembly, currently held twice per year in June & December, are:

  • to take ICAI membership decisions, including approval of Associate & Statutory memberships
  • to take ICAI strategy & policy decisions, to direct the work of the Board and to guide & support the peer-to-peer collaboration among ICAs
  • to elect the ICAI Board and hold it accountable to the membership, including by receipt of an annual finance report.

A total of sixteen member ICAs were represented by 24 participants at the two online meetings, and 23 of 24 statutory member ICAs participated in the asynchoronous voting.  We are grateful to all who participated.

A full 2013 Financial Statement was presented to the membership, along with summary financial report and Board report for 2014, and a budget for 2015-16 was approved. Two new Associate members were approved for membership, and five new Board members were elected, succeeding four retiring members and bringing the total to eight. The ICAI working group on global conference was extended to work with six potential hosts to recommend a programme and budget for ICAI global conferencing to the GA in June 2015. A revised draft global ToP (Technology of Participation) policy, incorporating feedback from global consultation, was presented by the ICAI global ToP working group for discussion with a view to bringing the policy to a GA vote in the new year.

I take this opportunity now to congratulate, thank and welcome our five new members joining the Board from 1 January – Shizuyo Sato of ICA Japan (a former Board member and President of ICAI), Svetlana Salamatova of ICA Ukraine, Lisseth Lorenzo of ICA Guatmala, Adufu Yawo Gator of ICA Togo and Charles Luoga of ICA Tanzania.  Also I offer warmest thanks on behalf of all the Board and members for the service of our outgoing Board members – Isabel De La Maza of ICA Chile, Shankar Jadhav of ICA India, Gerald Gomani of ICA Zimbabwe and Krishna Shrestha of ICA Australia.  And of course many thanks to my two fellow continuing Board members, Seva Gandhi of ICA USA and Staci Kentish of ICA Canada. At our January meeting this week, the new Board will be joined by outgoing Board members to reflect and learn from the experience of 2013-14 as a prelude to induction, teambuilding and planning for 2015-16.

I am also delighted to welcome now our two new Associate members the Development Institute of Ghana (nominated by ICA Ghana, ICA Zimbabwe & ICA:UK) and Emerging Ecology of USA (nominated by ICA USA, ICA India, ICA Nepal).  Find them now, and all of our worldwide community, on our online Global Network map.

Now we are global: ICAI facilitates interchange in Brussels

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first written for Network Exchange, newsletter of ICA International, in September 1998 when I had first joined the ICAI Board.  ICAI is now registered in Canada and it’s newsletter is Winds and Waves, but ICA Belgium is still going strong and I continue to visit Brussels – this week for client meetings, and next month to deliver ToP Group Facilitation Methods and Action Plannning training.  Click on the photos to enlarge them, and see who you can recognise!

ICAI 1998 General AssemblyPatrick Mbullu and I represented ICA:UK at the General Assembly of ICA International in August. As Vice Presidents elect, Mangla Gavai of ICA India, Edward Mutiso of ICA Kenya and I also worked in advance with Dick Alton of ICAI to design and facilitate the event.

The 45 delegates represented 23 member ICAs and ICAI. Day 1 was devoted to continental and global reporting and interchange. Days 2 & 3 looked at the global work of ICA including global conferences and networking, and ICAI finances, secretariat, Executive Committee elections and new membership applications. Days 4 & 5 looked at local work of member ICAs, particularly in terms of developing standards for institutional structure and strengthening, for new and existing ICAs. As a whole group we took a Brussels ‘pub crawl’ one night, and we celebrated the acceptance of five new member ICAs in a closing ceremony.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The occasion also provided opportunity for much bilateral interchange among participants between sessions – in my case, related to discussing potential volunteer placements and funding partnerships, but also social.

Minutes of the General Assembly

The Institute of Cultural Affairs International held its General Assembly at its headquarters at rue Amédée Lynen 8, 1210 Bruxelles, from 24 through 28 August 1998.

Members present were: ICA Australia, ICA Belgium, ICA Benin, ICA Bosnia i Herzegovina, ICA Canada, ICA Côte d’Ivoire, ICA Egypt, ICA Germany, ICA Ghana, ICA Guatemala, ICA Hong Kong, ICA India, ICA Japan, ICA Kenya, ICA Nepal, ICA Netherlands, ICA Spain, ICA Tanzania, ICA Uganda, ICA United Kingdom, ICA United States and ICA Zambia.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The Board of Directors elected Donald Elliott, USA, as President; Ruth Lukona, Zambia, as Secretary; Myriam Balbela, Venezuela, as Treasurer; Mangla Gavai, India, Edward Mutiso, Kenya, and Martin Gilbraith, United Kingdom, as Vice Presidents.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The General Assembly voted unanimously to change Article 12 of the statutes to read: “The Institute is administered by a Board of Directors comprised of two to fifty members. One member at least of the Board of Directors must be of Belgian nationality.”

The Assembly unanimously accepted ICA Ghana, ICA Nepal, ICA Tanzania and ICA Uganda as statutory members; and ICA Benin as an Associate Member.

The Assembly unanimously approved the financial accounts for the year 1997 and the budgets for the year 1999.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The General Assembly approved plans for ICAI to sponsor a Global Conference in the USA during the year 2000.

The General Assembly set the date for its next meeting in the year 2002.

Participants’ highlights

“Exchange! Honestly, I felt that’s the value ICA should keep! It’s good to be a part of Global Society, community… We thought we were forgotten, it’s nice to be back…” – Nejira Nalic, ICA:BiH

“We really have so much in common re mission & concerns & care even in the midst of our enriching differences. Face to face connection is invaluable. ICA is ready to really release & enlarge its global impact.” – Kathleen Joyce, ICA:USA

“A new knowledge. It was like an “intensive” training which I had expected since I came in contact with ICAI.” – Tatwa Timsina, ICA Nepal

“At this moment in history, this is readiness for reconciliation, rebuilding, and community within and beyond ICA.” – Wayne Ellsworth, ICA Japan

“Desire to reorganise and build our international image.” – Lambert Okrah, ICA Ghana

“Re-emerging global strategies especially in the Americas” – Ray Caruso, ICA:USA

“With all the wonderful diversity it encompasses, we are closer to a common understanding that will facilitate learning.” – Hala El Kholy, ICA MENA

“The people are open to new ideas and to support and welcome newcomers. There’s a lot of willingness and motivation and also possibilities to make things happen and a lot of experience in different fields.” – Adinda de Vries, ICA Netherlands

“Such kind of conference, meeting are important for us, because we learn at anytime – we share ideas, strategies. So a report in French might be appreciated.” – Koffi Nestor Amoin, ICA Côte d’Ivoire

“This is the first Global assembly of the ICA I have been privileged to attend. We used to say we were global when we saw westerners all over the world. Now we are global!” – Julie Miesen, ICA Australia

“I felt power in the room and lots of commitment. In a way I felt that all this globally/widely spread force can make a difference in world development & become more transparent in world development & recognised by other people. Global advocacy campaign?” – Slavica Bradvic, ICA:BiH

Back to the Future with the ICA Global Archives Project

This article was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, August 2014 issue.

ICAI Winds and Waves, August 2014Welcome to this latest issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International.

The theme of this issue is ‘Back to the Future’, and it features a series of articles related to the work of ICA’s Global Archives Project (GAP). The contents are overviewed by W&W editors John Miesen and Dharmalingam Vinasithamby on page 2, and by GAP guest editor Gordon Harper on page 4.

ICA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. Those 50 years of worldwide engagement in human development and social change have generated an extraordinary wealth of practical insight, models and methods, of which ToP (Technology of Participation) facilitation methods are but the best known and most widely applied today. We are fortunate indeed, therefore, that a small but tireless team of long-term volunteers has been prepared to work so hard for so long to make more of the wisdom of ICA’s global archives available and of practical relevance to the social pioneers of today and tomorrow.

Much of the material of the archives was developed and refined in the annual ICA Global Research Assemblies that for 20 years until the mid-1980s brought as many as 500 practitioners together from around the world, for as long as a month, to share, learn and create together. ICAI has continued this tradition to an extent, by means of its quadrennial Global Conferences on Human Development since 1984 – most recently in Kathmandu in 2012. The upcoming Virtual Global Research Assembly in September (page 39) is a particularly important and exciting initiative, as well as an audacious one, for seeking to translate the participatory process of research and development as well as the content of the global archives into the 21st century and the virtual age.

If you have been involved with ICA and its work of human development during the past 50 years, or if you plan to be involved during the next 50, I urge you to get in touch and get involved with the project and with the research assembly. You will find plenty of material in this issue to whet your appetite. Enjoy!

ICAI General Assembly facilitates global connectedness and collaboration

This article was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, August 2014 issue.

ICAI global networkThe ICAI General Assembly is the governing body of ICA International, a global network of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide.  It comprises representatives of ICA locations in over 40 countries, including at present 22 voting (statutory) member organisations – see our global network (above).  Recently the General Assembly has met online once a year, most recently in December 2013 (see ICAI online regional gatherings and General Assembly), and previously face-to-face every other year. This year we have begun to meet more often, to reflect a growing appetite and a growing technical capacity for online connectedness and collaboration among ICAs globally. We have also introduced some new innovations in how we meet, in order to be more inclusive of our entire network.

Twelve ICAs were represented by 22 participants in the latest 26 June online General Assembly meeting, and 18 of the 22 statutory ICAs participated in the online voting on the three resolutions. The three resolutions were all approved without opposition.

The first resolution was to approve criteria to direct the ICAI Board in disbursing funds drawn from members’ dues to provide financial support for regional meetings and other member initiatives for peer-to-peer support and collaboration among the global network. Already the Board has approved support for Spanish language training in online ToP facilitation for 20 staff and volunteers of several Latin American ICAs and ICA Spain. The Board is now inviting member ICAs to submit brief proposals for support for other new initiatives.

The second resolution was to clarify criteria for non-voting (associate) membership of ICAI. This is to enable and encourage organisations and groups who share ICA’s mission and values to formally join the ICAI global community, and so to join existing members in peer-to-peer support and collaboration at the global level. Associate members must be a registered organisation in their country or a constituted group with at least five members, and they must operate out of values in alignment with ICA’s and participate in peer-to-peer support and collaboration for the international work of ICA. The Board is now inviting new nominations for associate membership, from existing members or from prospective new associate members themselves.

The third resolution was for the Board to appoint an ICAI working group on global conferences. The last (8th) quadrennial ICAI Global Conference on Human Development was held in Nepal in 2012 – see ICAI Revisited and ‘Growing a New Sense of Leadership’ in Nepal. The new working group is to support, receive and review proposals from ICAs to host an ICAI Global Conference or conferences in 2016, and to consult with the global network in order to submit a 2016 Global Conference proposal for approval at the December 2014 General Assembly. The group is to comprise around 6-9 people representing all continents, diverse in terms of language, age and gender, and with considerable first-hand experience of managing previous ICAI Global Conferences and other similar events.  The Board is now inviting nominations for individuals to join the group and begin its work.

Two additional items were included for discussion in the agenda of the General Assembly meeting. The ICAI working group on global ToP facilitation (Technology of Participation) policy, convened following a decision of the General Assembly last December, presented its working draft for feedback and invited suggestions for wider consultation to further build global consensus during coming months.  Members of the ICA USA Living Archives team presented plans for an online Global Research Assembly in September, and invited feedback to help to ensure that the Assembly and the online collections that are in development will be as relevant and accessible as possible to ICAs worldwide.

The General Assembly meeting was held twice, at 10am & 5pm UK time for different time zones, and global times were announced using www.timeanddate.com. The meetings were held using the ToP Adobe Connect platform, a powerful tool with which ICAI members are increasingly familiar and adept. This allowed multiples layouts for sharing of video and various documents, with participation by voice, text chat and polling. A poll within the meeting was used to prioritise agenda items for discussion time.

Voting was conducted this time by asynchronous online poll on surveymonkey over 10 days following the meeting, in order to maximise the participation of all voting members. Surveymonkey was also used in advance of the meeting, in addition to email, to consult and build consensus among those who might not be able to participate otherwise.  In a survey on global conferencing in advance of the meeting, 44 responses were received from 31 ICA locations worldwide.

For further details of the ICAI General Assembly and any of the issues addressed, please contact me or another ICAI Board member.

Building Civil Society for a Humane and Sustainable Future

Toward a Global Role for the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the UK (1997).

The following piece ‘from the archive’ is excerpted from my masters dissertation of April 1997 to the the Institute of Development Policy and Management of the University of Manchester, for the degree of MA (Econ) Development Administration and Management. You can download the full dissertation Building Civil Society for a Humane and Sustainable Future (60 pages) in pdf. This has also been published by ICA:UK.

“The good life can only be lived in civil society…  The picture here is of people freely associating and communicating with one another, forming and reforming groups of all sorts, not for the sake of any particular formation – family, tribe, nation, religion, commune, brotherhood or sisterhood, interest group or ideological movement – but for the sake of sociability itself.  For we are by nature social, before we are political or economic beings” (Walzer 1992, 97).

1.1  Context

The idea of ‘civil society’ is experiencing a renaissance in debates on development and democracy, as ‘third sector’ organizations and grassroots movements demand, and are often granted, greater space in which to contribute to the development and democratization of our societies at local, national and global levels.

As we approach the turn of the millennium, and the end of a century that has witnessed radical and often devastating socio-economic and environmental change, the need has never been greater, nor the time riper, for humankind to plan and act strategically in search of radical solutions to address the great global crises of our times – Korten (1990) has identified these as the crises of poverty, environment and social integration.  There are innumerable indications of positive change in many spheres, perhaps evidence of an emerging paradigmatic shift to a dawning ‘solar age’ (Henderson 1993).  Yet, the challenge remains for us all to participate effectively in the shaping of a more humane and sustainable future for all.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) is a global network of private, not-for-profit organizations and networks concerned ‘with the human factor in world development’, and working actively to foster such participation by facilitating personal, organizational and social transformation in a variety of contexts.  ICA:UK is a network of families and individuals sharing these concerns, most of whom have participated as volunteers in grassroots community development work overseas, and who now live and work in a diverse range of settings in Britain.  ICA adopted ‘Participating in the Rise of Civil Society’ as the theme of its recent quadrennial global conference, held in Cairo in September 1996, and is now publishing an edited volume on the same theme (Beyond Prince and Merchant, Burbidge forthcoming).

1.2  Aim and structure of work

By drawing on relevant literature and documentary sources, as well as on the author’s personal experience of working with ICA over 11 years in India, Egypt and the UK, this study explores the evolving idea of civil society and the debates surrounding it, with reference to the Institute of Cultural Affairs and ICA:UK.

The aims of the study are two-fold.  Firstly, for those enthused by the idea of civil society and the sector’s role in democracy and development, it aims to highlight some of the important dimensions of that role, in theory and in practice, and the practical approach of ICA that is not only working in building and strengthening civil society for such a role, but that is also uniquely appropriate to address to the great crises of our times as viewed from a civil society perspective.  Secondly, for those involved with ICA or familiar with its approach, it aims to highlight the relevance and utility of the idea of civil society as an insightful (and newly fashionable) conceptual framework by which to understand and appreciate the work in which ICA has been engaged for over 25 years.

Chapter 2 introduces the idea of civil society in its historical context, and reviews its re-emergence and current place in contemporary debates on democracy and development.

Chapter 3 explores how such a civil society perspective may offer insight into the dangers and opportunities of the global crises demanding our attention in the late-1990s, and into their implications for the role of civil society, and for all those concerned with acting, and catalyzing action, for positive change.

Chapter 4 demonstrates the particular relevance of the idea of civil society to the Institute of Cultural Affairs and ICA:UK and, conversely, of ICA and its practical approach to the rising civil society and the challenges it faces.

The study concludes, in Chapter 5, by reaffirming the high level of ‘fit’ apparent from a civil society perspective between ICA, its practical approach and the challenges of the contemporary global crisis of governance; and by calling for a dynamic learning approach to a renewal of civic engagement from all those who share ICA’s ‘concern with the human factor in world development’.

5.   Conclusion – a call for participation

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;  indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead)

This study has explored, in chapter 2, the philosophical roots and some of the contemporary interpretations of the idea of civil society that has in the 1990s emerged with such resonance in current discourse on democracy and development.  Adopting the popular contemporary notion of civil society as one of a trinity of social sectors, and adopting norms of community co-operation, structures of voluntary association and networks of public communication as its three defining characteristics, the study has reviewed in chapter 3 how the idea of civil society has been applied to explain, and to seek ways to address, the great crisis of governance facing our global society as we approach the turn of the millennium. For local and global systems of governance to be effective, it concluded, civil society must be afforded a central role – and its restitution to such a role must be central to any strategy for creating a more humane and sustainable future for us all.  It showed, moreover, that civil society is already on the rise worldwide, offering insight and strength to all those ready to take their responsibility as citizens to act for positive social change.   As Darcy de Oliveira and Tandon have written,

“Citizens are at the centre of the global drama unfolding today.  They are the lead actresses and actors in building global democratic governance and human development.  The state and the market, and their related institutions, must serve the citizens, not the other way rounds. The security of our common future lies in the hands of a informed, inspired, committed and engaged citizenry” (Darcy de Oliveira and Tandon 1994, 16)

Adopting the same analytical framework, the study has in chapter 4 examined the case of the Institute of Cultural Affairs and ICA:UK, and found them to have for over 25 years embodied the principles of the contemporary idea of civil society, and intentionally contributed to the building and strengthening of the sector.  It concluded that the idea of civil society is not only of particular relevance and utility to ICA and its work, but that ICA in general, and ICA:UK in particular, may be seen from a civil society perspective to display a particularly high degree of ‘fit’ between their organization, their programmatic work and the urgent challenges facing global society.  They may therefore be considered particularly well placed and well qualified to contribute effectively to further efforts to restore the social balance, toward meeting the challenges of the contemporary crisis of governance.

Ward has observed: “The most important change that people can make is to change their way of looking at the world.  We can change studies, jobs, neighbourhoods, even countries and continents and still remain much as we were.  But change our fundamental angle of vision and everything changes – our priorities, our values, our judgments, our pursuits…  a turning of the heart, a ‘metanoia’, by which men [sic] see with new eyes and understand with new minds and turn their energies to new ways of living” (Ward 1971 cited in Commission for Global Governance 1995, 47).

Of course the idea of civil society, while increasingly found to be insightful at this point in history, is only one lens through which to look at the world and ask, ‘what is to be done?’ and ‘what shall we do?’.  Perhaps less important than the lens used is that we do look, and that we do ask – and, most of all, that we do.  Moreover, the world is increasingly understood to be ‘more like a river than a rock’  (Uphoff 1992), such that no one static perspective, however insightful, may substitute for a constant and dynamic search for new insights and new approaches.

Far from being distinguished only by its affinity with the civil society perspective, as explored in this study, the Institute of Cultural Affairs has been described as being uniquely characterized by its stance of constant searching and questioning.  In an influential address to ICA’s Global Order Council of 1986, the then Programme Director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, Van Arendonk, remarked:

“If you say you are going to develop man, then you have to know what he is or what he stands for…  That is, I think, where you can make a enormous contribution.  I have simply not seen any other organization, and I know many, who can make that contribution because of one reason…  You are a question mark.  You are saying ‘we really don’t know’…  You are searching.  You are looking for what it is that we are here for.  That is the essence of development” (Van Arendonk 1986, 10).

ICA has shown the courage to raise the most fundamental of questions in development, and has demonstrated the capacity and potential to serve effectively to empower individuals, organizations and communities to address these questions in actively creating their own futures.  The Institute of Cultural Affairs, and ICA:UK in particular, represent both a powerful resource and an important avenue for the active participation of citizens in building civil society for a more humane and sustainable future, in the UK and globally.

In the light of the high degree of ‘fit’ revealed in this study, and in the light of ICA’s defining culture of participation, it behoves ICA:UK, it’s members and all those who share its concerns, to take advantage of their unique position and potential, to embrace their critical role as citizens of the rising global civil society, and to participate together to create and implement a new strategic agenda for action as we approach the turn of the millennium.

ICAI online regional gatherings and General Assembly

Winds and Waves December 2013These three articles were first published in the ICA International magazine Winds and Waves, December 2013.

Welcome to another great issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International. The theme of this issue is Imaginal Education, a whole-person approach to life and learning that has been at the core of ICA’s work in human development and participatory social change since it began some 50 years ago.

The 2012 book Changing Lives Changing Societies, republished by ICA International this year, quotes Gail West of ICA Taiwan:

“Imaginal learning is what ICA has always been about. Enabling the shifting of one’s images or internal pictures of ‘what is’ is what directs my beliefs and behaviour. As a facilitator or trainer, or any person supporting another’s development, my understanding is that learning requires image shift. In order for that to happen, a person needs to change the messages that one pays attention to. No change in learning, no change in behaviour.”

This important link between self-image and personal behaviour remains core to ICA’s approach to ToP facilitation and human development worldwide, as illustrated by the many rich and varied stories from ICA colleagues included that book.  It has also been at the heart of the of global, online community of practice on Reshaping Education for the 21st Century that grew out of the 8th ICAI Global Conference  on Human Development hosted last year by ICA Nepal in Kathmandu.

This issue draws on the work of that community of practice and others to share something of what works, and some of the challenges and the rewards, of applying such an Imaginal Learning approach in the field of education and more broadly.  Marge Philbrook of ICA USA writes of the ICA Archives project in Chicago, and its efforts to make these and other ICA models and tools from the archive more available online to a generation. Svitlana Salamatova and her colleagues of ICA Ukraine, in a country and a city again currently in the midst of profound social change, write of their use of online communication tools for connecting, learning and empowering of communities. Nelson Stover and Shankar Jadhav share insights from ICAI India’s ‘Global classroom in a village school’, and Isabel de la Maza writes of changing self-images in Chile. Mane Arratia writes of ICA Spain’s facilitation role in the global conferences of Initiatives of Change in Caux, Switzerland, and Amani Jensen-Bentley of Australia writes on ‘a teen’s perspective on a rural Aussie initiative aimed at celebrating multiculturalism’.

As I write, ICA International has just completed its third series of online regional gatherings this year, to connect ICAs and ICA colleagues and facilitate peer-to-peer learning and collaboration worldwide, and we are poised for our online General Assembly in a couple of days’ time.  Nineteen ICAs participated and shared reports for the regional gatherings, and also in this issue you will find an overview of the gatherings and excerpts from some of those reports.

ICAs Name of OrganizationYou will also find a scattering of graphs, maps and word clouds, illustrating both the diversity and the commonalities of our global ICA community. These are drawn from the 37 responses to this year’s new ICAI global membership survey that we have received from ICA locations around the world. We are grateful to all those who took the time and effort to respond.

I hope you will agree that all this makes for a stimulating and inspiring read. Please let us know what you think, and connect and learn with each other online, by posting your thoughts on our facebook page.

ICA International online regional gatherings facilitate peer to peer support and collaboration

ICAs Values StatementThe Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network. ICA International also maintains consultative status on behalf of the membership with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.

With member organisations and related organisations and groups in over 40 countries worldwide, online gatherings play a key role in facilitating peer to peer support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues, within and across regions.  ICAI currently convenes online regional gatherings three times per year, for three regional time zone groups – Asia/Pacific, the Americas, and Europe/MENA/Africa.

ICAs Mission StatementThese regional gatherings are open to all ICA members, staff and volunteers worldwide, and people are welcome to attend another region’s gathering if they cannot attend their own.  The third series of gatherings for 2013 were held December 9-11, and attracted 23 people from 19 countries.

The aims of the gatherings are to connect ICAs and ICA colleagues with each other, and help to build & strengthen relationships between them; to share information and facilitate peer-to-peer support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues; and to hold ICAI accountable to its members, and seek input & support to strengthen our global network and advance our global mission.

The agenda every time includes introductions and questions & discussion on reports shared by ICAs and ICAI. Agenda items particular to the December gatherings, in preparation for the following online General Assembly, included criteria for ICAI financial support to member initiatives, a proposed procedure for developing global policy for ICA, our pattern of face-to-face global conferences, and categories of ICAI membership. A full transcript of the gatherings has been circulated, including links to the meeting papers and online recordings of the three 90-minute meetings – please ask if you’d like a copy.

ICAs Current ProgrammesIf you have not been able to join the online gatherings this year, please do let me or another ICAI Board member know if there is anything that we can do to make these online regional gatherings more relevant and accessible to you next year.  Please also let us know what alternative approaches to remote networking might work better for you, whether synchronous (such as online meetings and twitter chats) or asynchronous (such as email, facebook and linkedin).

ICAI December 2013 General Assembly

The ICAI General Assembly meets normally once per year. Its aims are to take ICAI membership decisions, including approval of Associate & Statutory memberships; to take ICAI strategy & policy decisions, to direct the work of the Board and to guide & support the peer-to-peer collaboration among ICAs; and to elect the ICAI Board and hold it accountable to the membership, including by receipt of an annual audited finance report.

The 2013 GA was held online on December 16, using Adobe Connect. Nineteen people from 12 ICAs participated, including voting representatives from 10 of 19 voting statutory members. We were grateful for technical support for the meeting from ICA:UK Associate and virtual facilitator Orla Cronin.

ICAs Major funders and partnersSeven ICAs were accepted as new or renewed statutory members, bringing the total to 19. A further 11 ICAs were accepted subject to payment of dues and/or formal request. It was decided to change the term of membership from the January-December calendar year to the 12-month period following receipt of dues.  The GA received the audited financial statements for 2012, and Timothy Wright in Canada was re-appointed to audit ICAI’s Financial Statements again for 2014. The seven serving members of the ICAI Board were re-elected as Directors. A new procedure for development of global policy was approved, and a number of ICAs agreed to propose a working group to use the procedure to develop a new global policy for ToP facilitation and training.

In addition to this decision-making, feedback was invited on the Board’s plan to develop its work plan for 2014 on the basis of the 2013-14 strategy approved by the GA in 2013, and no objections were raised.  Further discussion was had on the question of whether to call a face-to-face General Assembly for 2014 and/or a Global Conference for 2016, although it was decided not to hold a vote due to insufficiently inclusive and in-depth discussion among members prior to the meeting. The meeting was notified of the new legal requirement to obtain a ‘continuance’ in order maintain ICAI’s registration as a non-profit in Canada. A special General Assembly will be called for February 2014 to amend the Bylaws for that purpose.

A full report is available on request, with a link to the full online recording of the 90 minute meeting. Feedback from those participating included: Efficient and effective”, “Very smooth and good timing”, “It was excellent. Thanks for all who made it possible”, “Awesome organization! Thank you for such professionalism!” and “Appreciate clarity, preparation from area meetings and moving well”. Isabel de la Maza of ICA Chile was unable to attend but watched the recording and wrote:: “It was a great meeting!!!!, Thanks for a very professional virtual facilitation job. Wow!!! It is incredible what technology is permitting in these days”.

ICAs collaborative projects, funding relationships, etcA brief online survey has been circulated by email to 99 representatives of 42 ICA locations worldwide to seek further feedback, particularly from those who did not participate, to help the Board make future online gatherings and GAs more inclusive and more effective.

Civil society, the promise and peril of democratization and prospects for the Arab world

Welcome to the first of what may become an occasional series, of writing ‘from the archive’. This essay was first written in 1996 for my MA in Development Adminstration and Management at Manchester University. It was published in the magazine of the Ibn Khaldoun Centre in Cairo, Civil Society (October 1996), and in the journal Representation (Volume 34, Issue 3-4, 1997).  Almost 20 years on, with so much and yet so little having changed in the Arab world and worldwide, it is ever clearer that Ibrahim was right at least about the “painfully long journey”…

Civil Society (October 1996)Introduction

“The end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996 are witnessing the promise and the peril of democratization in the Arab world.  …the Arab world is joining, albeit reluctantly, what Samuel Huntingdon calls the third wave of democracy.” (Ibrahim 1996, 4)

Although he cites important elections in Algeria, Egypt and Palestine to support his view, Ibrahim accepts that these represent only “a few steps taken on the road of a painfully long journey” (Ibrahim 1995, 4) and that the path of Arab democratization will likely be neither smooth nor fast.  This paper will argue that the prospect of  joining the third wave of democracy may in fact be considered one of the perils of the road ahead, and that realizing the full promise of democratization for the people of the region will depend crucially on the extent to which Arab civil society is able to broaden the agenda for change to embrace a more substantive conception of democracy.  With particular reference to the central role of civil society, this paper will seek to assess the prospects for substantive democratic transformation in the Arab world.

The concept of civil society will be introduced and defined in terms of its essential characteristics and an analytical framework presented by which to interpret a process of democratization in terms of the extent to which it conforms to the prevalent ‘transitional’ model of the third wave scholars, or to a broader ‘transformative’ model.  Inherent perils of the transitional model will be discussed, and the central role of civil society identified as a distinguishing feature of the transformative model.  Accounts of civil society in the Arab world will then be related to its defining characteristics and central role in transformative democratization to assess the prospects of the Arab world for realizing the full promise of its emerging democratization.

Civil society

The idea of civil society has its roots in the writings of philosophers of the eighteenth century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, but the concept has re-entered contemporary debates with the spectacular popular uprisings against totalitarianism in Central and Eastern Europe (Walzer 1995), and to capture “the emergence of an unprecedented worldwide phenomenon – men and women, groups and individuals, getting together to do things by themselves in order to change the societies they live in” (de Oliveira & Tandon 1995, 1).

Although a variety of definitions of civil society have appeared in recent literature, encompassing some differences as to what the concept may include and exclude, there is broad consensus over its essential characteristics.  Diamond has defined it as “the realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self-generating, (largely) self-supporting, autonomous from the state, and bound by a legal order or set of shared rules” (Diamond 1994, 5).  These ‘shared rules’ he regards as the “irreducible condition” of the dimension of civility, even in the absence of an effective legal order (ibid.), a view characteristic of the broad consensus that may be termed the “modern, liberal conception of civil society” (Schwedler 1995, 6).  Going to the roots of those shared rules, Hyden’s interpretation emphasizes the place of ‘social capital’, the “normative values and beliefs that citizens share in their everyday dealings”, upon which basis acceptance of the legal order rests (Hyden forthcoming, 1).  He views civil society as “the forum in which [these values and beliefs] are nurtured and developed” (ibid.).  This paper will adopt Bratton’s concise but comprehensive definition, drawing on a range of contemporary theory:

“Civil society is defined… as a sphere of social interaction between the household and the state which is manifest in norms of community co-operation, structures of voluntary association, and networks of public communication”  (Bratton 1994, 2).

It is pertinent to ask whether it is even appropriate to apply such a historically specific and essentially Western concept outside its cultural context?  Wickham has argued that “efforts to locate civil society… reveal more about the preoccupations of  Western scholars than they do about new social configurations in the Middle East today” (Wickham 1994, 509).  Nevertheless, as Norton writes, “a categorical rejection of the idea of civil society in the Middle East is unwarranted, not least because the idea of civil society is fast becoming part of the indigenous intellectual and policy dialogues” (Norton 1993, 213).  The extent to which the idea has gained currency  in the region is described by Bellin:

“State officials in the Middle East use the term ‘civil society’ to promote their projects of mobilization and ‘modernization’; Islamists use it to angle for a greater legal share of public space; and independent activists and intellectuals use it to expand the boundaries of individual liberty” (Bellin 1994, 509).

This paper is based on the premise that, by focusing on its essential characteristics and role rather than its particular institutional manifestations, civil society remains a valid tool of analysis for the Arab world.

‘Transitional’ and ‘transformative’ models of democratization

The table below presents a framework by which to interpret a process of democratic change in terms of two theoretical poles designated here ‘transitional’ and ‘transformative’ models of democratization:

key features  ‘transitional’ democratization ‘transformative’ democratization
goal transition to, and eventual consolidation of, procedural democracy substantive democracy embracing sustainable and equitable development
arenas political multiple – political, social, economic
levels national multiple – local to global
key actors strategic elites citizens, organized in civil society
relation of civil society to state “watchful but respectful of state authority” – third sector demanding of state accountability: first sector
key challenge political institutionalization state & corporate accountability to civil society

The two models need not be considered to be in opposition to each other.  Transition may be a means to the end of transformation, and the prospect of transformation may serve as motivation for pursuing transition.  However, while a process of transformation is likely to give rise to some form of procedural democracy, a process of transition is unlikely in and of itself to result in a substantive democratic transformation.

The Promise and Peril of Democratization

According to Huntington, “the current era of democratic transitions constitutes the third wave of democratization in the history of the modern world” (Huntington 1991, 12).  Since 1972, the ‘third wave’ has seen democracies more than double in number from 44 to 107, representing more than half of all countries, and reaching every region of the world (Shin 1994, 136).  The notion of democracy has thus gained sufficient popularity among peoples and leaders worldwide to occasion triumphalist declarations in the West of the ‘end of history’, as the great competing ideologies are said to have been discredited, leaving democracy “the only model of government with any broad ideological legitimacy and appeal in the world today” (Diamond, Linz & Lipset 1989, x).

The body of literature that has emerged around this third wave may be distinguished from earlier scholarship by, inter alia, its optimism that democracy can be ‘manufactured’, and its often explicit aim to “provide advice for would-be democrats from an operational perspective” (Allison & Beschel, cited Shin 1994, 141).  Certainly, few today would reject outright the principles of democratic governance, but how and to what extent they could, or should, be operationalized generates increasing controversy.

In his review of recent theory and research on the third wave of democratization, Shin 1994, 141) reports that a ‘procedural’ or minimalist conception of democracy is generally favoured over a more ‘substantive’ or maximalist conception that stipulates socio-economic advances as defining criteria.  Diamond, Linz & Lipset further clarify that they consider democracy “a political system, separate and apart from the economic and social system to which it is joined” (Diamond, Linz & Lipset 1989, xvi).

Shin cites Karl’s explanation of this approach on the grounds that, were they not to adopt it, scholars would be “hard pressed to find ‘actual’ democratic regimes to study”, they would be unable to identify important, if incomplete, moves toward democracy in the political sphere, and they would also be unable to examine hypothesized links between different regime types and socioeconomic outcomes (Shin 1994, 141).  Methodological justifications notwithstanding, can the “social agents” seeking “theoretical tools for understanding and altering conditions of oppression” that the third wave scholars seek to advise (Shin 1994, 141) justify such a procedural focus?

White asserts that “democracy, even in a limited procedural form, is a valuable developmental end in itself, because of the rights and freedoms it attempts to guarantee [although] it is widely recognized that fledgling democracies face a number of basic constraints which limit their capacity to deal with the deep-rooted intractable developmental problems” (White 1995, 79).  Even if a procedural democracy could actually guarantee these rights, still there is a trade-off here that requires an ordering of priorities.  In fact White’s remarks reflect an all too common logical weakness and fail to address powerful arguments against universal applicability of  the procedural approach, such as those invoking cultural relativism (Blunt 1995) and ‘fundamental illiberalism’.

Those advocating a procedural democracy on explicitly instrumental grounds, however, face mounting evidence to contradict the implied causal relationships (as White has appreciated).  Shin notes that “many of the countries of the third wave of democratization are now engulfed in grave political crises because democracy is not delivering economic prosperity, honest and efficient government, protection for human rights, peace and security” (Shin 1994, 166).  Similarly, in the light of intractable social and economic problems, there is increasing public disillusionment with the democratic procedures of consolidated Western democracies.

Osaghae, in contrast, considers democracy to be “not simply about form or means; it is also about ends, which have to do with its inherent capacity to enhance development” (Osaghae 1995, 189).  Since “development is a total  and all-inclusive process whose political, economic and social aspects are concomitant and mutually reinforcing” he asks, “can any aspect of it be meaningfully studied in isolation?” (ibid., 185).  As states are ‘rolled back’ to transfer ever more decision-making power to markets, the value of a democracy defined in terms of political procedures becomes ever more ambiguous, and the need for democratic accountability to extend also to the economic sphere becomes ever clearer.

Similarly, processes of globalization bring into question the value of a democracy defined in terms of the nation state. Even in consolidated democracies, increasing regional and global connectedness of states and markets means that national governments no longer enjoy exclusive political and economic sovereignty in their own territory, and that their decisions and policies may affect the decision-making capacity of other states beyond their borders.  Moreover, democratic procedures at national level become increasingly meaningless in a context where transnational economic and political power grows ever stronger, free from democratic accountability.  As Held writes, “democracy at [regional and global] levels is an important condition for the development of democracy within national and local communities” (Held 1993, 14).

A product of the procedural approach is that democracy may be regarded as primarily a “product of strategic interactions and arrangements among political elites (Shin 1994, 139).  As Osaghae remarks, however, “by hinging the success of the entire transition process on the whims and caprices of the elite, [Diamond] unwittingly undermines the whole purpose of democratic transition” (Osaghae 1995, 191).  A democracy in which the citizens are not the key actors is surely not worthy of the name.

Conflicting interests are at stake in determining the key actors.  In the wake of the much heralded ‘triumph’ of western liberal (and capitalist) democracy over its competitors, wealthy industrialized nations and international financial institutions have felt justified to pursue a project of democratization abroad, by even coercive means ranging from aid and trade conditionality to military intervention.  Thus choices of political, economic and social organization, paths of democratization, are intimately linked to international as well as domestic power relations.  Those international and domestic elites that enjoy political and economic power tend to perceive their interests to be best served by pursuing a limited procedural and capitalist democracy.  Indeed, in the conventional economic wisdom of a zero-sum game in which actors aim to maximize a narrow conception of their individual utility, pursuing a more transformative democratization (or no democratization at all) may be irrational.  From the point of view of the politically and economically disempowered, however, and those who reject the conventional economic wisdom, such a procedural democracy may be seen to be at best irrelevant, if not actually against their interests.

With the developmental problems characterized by Korten (1990) as the three great crises of poverty, environment and social integration becoming ever more pressing, globally and in the Arab world, in spite of the rapid advances of democratic procedures worldwide, an exclusive operational focus on limited procedural democracy may be seen to be perilous indeed.

The role of civil society

Schwedler writes “Although the existence of civil society in the Middle East (or anywhere) does not mean that countries are on the verge of democratization, it does illustrate that citizens are both willing and able to play a role in shaping the state policies that govern their lives” (Schwedler 1995, 2).  As Diamond observes, however, “most transitions have been… negotiated (if not largely controlled from above by the existing authoritarians)” (Diamond 1994, 4).  Thus, civil society is regarded among third wave scholars as a facilitating, though not necessary, factor in transition to a procedural democracy.

The functions of civil society do not differ between the transitional and transformative models, but the extent to which civil society is able to effectively perform those functions will be critical in determining the path of democratization followed.  Diamond has identified ten unique democracy-building functions of civil society, and five features of the internal character and structure of civil society affecting its capacity to perform those functions (Diamond 1994, 7-11).  These functions and features may be as valid for either model of democratization, but it is among Diamond’s four caveats that his preference for the transitional may be distinguished.  He stresses that “societal autonomy can go too far…  the state itself must have sufficient autonomy, legitimacy, capacity and support” (ibid., 14); and that “civil society must be watchful but respectful of state authority” (ibid., 15).

These caveats must be understood in the context of a transitional process with the end goal of consolidated procedural democracy.  Thus, when the transition in the political arena is accomplished, the onus is on civil society to temper its claims and legitimate the new democratic regime.  In the context, however, of “the growing realization that neither the market nor the state alone can meet the challenges of equitable and sustainable development” (de Oliveira & Tandon 1995, 3), a strong and autonomous civil society must be a necessary and central condition for transformative democratization. Rather than the ‘third sector’, civil society is considered the only legitimate ‘first sector’ (Tandon 1992, 38), and  “the appropriate role of the state is to create enabling conditions for civil society to ‘manage’ the public affairs of the community” (ibid., 39).  To achieve a transformative democratization, therefore, civil society will need to make its legitimization conditional on full state and corporate accountability to civil society, and the extension of democratic transformation throughout economic and social as well as political spheres, and at all levels, local to global.  The strength and autonomy with which it performs its functions may therefore be considered primary indicators of the potential for such a democratic transformation.    

Civil Society and Democratization in the Arab world

Adopting Bratton’s definition, we may identify civil society by its essential characteristics of structures of voluntary association, networks of public communication and norms of community co-operation.

As Norton has observed, “the region is replete with voluntary organizations, trade unions, human rights groups, women’s associations, minority rights groups and various other social organizations” (cited Schwedler 1995, 10).  He notes in particular the women’s movements of Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen and the Palestinians; the businessmen’s groups and professional associations of Jordan and Egypt; the diwanayat (meeting groups) of Kuwait; and the peace movement, labour unions and election-monitoring organizations of Lebanon (Norton 1993, 209).  Numbers of associations are increasing, for example Lone writes that Arab NGOs have increased from 20,000 in the 1960s to 70,000 in the 1980s (Lone 1995, 20).  According to Ibrahim, Egyptian civil society alone comprises over 22,000 organizations including 23 professional syndicates, 3,000 clubs, 4,000 co-operatives and 14,000 NGOs, having been invigorated by participation in successive international events, particularly Cairo’s 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (Ibrahim 1995, 5).

Networks of public communication within and across states are expanding in their reach and their capacity to elude state control, as new technologies such as fax, satellite television and the internet are rapidly gaining ground in the Arab world, as elsewhere.  Also, as Norton observes, “hundreds of thousands of labour migrants, moving back and forth across the region, carry powerful images of change and dissent” (Norton 1993, 206).  Although domestic radio, television and print media are still subject to extensive state interference and control, independent views are increasingly heard from growing ranks of autonomous research organizations and ‘think-tanks’.  Egypt’s Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies, for example, produces a monthly bilingual newsletter ‘Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in the Arab World’, and has been sponsoring a weekly prime time spot on national television (Khalifa 1995, 160).

Norms of community co-operation are more elusive in attempts to identify civil society in the Arab world, and raise considerable controversy over where to draw its boundary, in particular in relation to Islamist organizations.  While arguably “it is individual movements, and not Islam itself, that are the obstacles” to democracy (Schwedler 1995, 24), authors such as Ibrahim categorically exclude Islamist organizations from civil society, although they may often use its channels to pursue their goals (ibid., 12).  The question essentially is whether to include as legitimate actors within civil society all those organizations that adhere to the ‘rules of the game’, or whether to exclude those that seek to change the rules when they have gained sufficient power.  In terms of the functions of civil society, certainly Islamist organizations have been “among the most effective means of challenging government authority and responding to citizens’ needs and concerns” (Schwedler 1995, 14), as highlighted in Egypt by their uniquely swift and effective response to the 1992 earthquake.

Regardless of where the boundary of civil society is drawn, to what extent may religious or secular associations, and their relations between themselves and with the state, be considered to display the essential norms of civility?  Certainly the violence of some groups, notably in Algeria and to a much lesser extent Egypt, lies well beyond the bounds of civility.  Non-violent intolerance is also endemic, however, as illustrated in Egypt for example by the campaign against Nasr Hamed Abu-Zeid resulting in a 1995 court ruling to divorce him from his wife on the grounds of apostasy (CHRLA 1996, 19).  Even secular grassroots community development associations in Egypt have been accused of being based on “a strict hierarchy of intolerance and oppression”, reflecting a culture of deference in which it is improper (aib) to question or criticize (Rifaat 1993, 17).  As Norton observes, in the region “civil society is often undermined by a deficit in political toleration” (Norton 1995, 33).  Tolerance and civility are by no means absent, however, and if social capital can be nurtured and developed through participation in voluntary associations and networks of communication (Hyden forthcoming, 1), increasing participation in many parts of the region offers reason for optimism that such norms of community co-operation will become more the norm.

Although authoritarian Arab regimes are suffering deepening crises of legitimacy as citizen and international pressure for democratic accountability mounts, civil society remains severely constrained by the state across the Arab world..  In some cases civil society has effectively been totally repressed or co-opted, for example in Sudan (Lesch 1995, 71) and Ba’athist Iraq (Humadi 1995, 51).  Even in Egypt’s relatively free and vibrant civil society, most NGOs are subject to the stifling Law 32 of 1964 which requires them to refrain from ‘political’ activity, and empowers the Ministry of Social Affairs to replace their elected councils (Al-Sayyid 1993, 236).  Furthermore, the new Press Law 93 of 1995 represents “the most repressive in two centuries of Egyptian press history” (Ragab 1995, 593) and has been interpreted as a further manifestation of “the state’s tendency to reign in the democratic margin it grants and impose more restrictions on active civic institutions” (EOHR 1996, 16).  Civil society remains resistant and resourceful, however, as illustrated by the growing number of Egyptian NGOs now functioning with relative autonomy as non-profit limited liability firms under the Companies Law.  It is also becoming increasingly politicized, as illustrated in Egypt by the domination of elections of the medical, engineering and lawyers associations by the Muslim Brotherhood (Ibrahim 1993, 304).

In spite of the reluctance of the Arab regimes to grant greater individual and associational freedoms to their citizens the domestic and international forces for liberalization, in particular the economic imperatives (Richards 1995, 39), are showing no signs of abating.  Although time-honoured measures of repression are still routinely adopted against dissenters, “the scope of failure is so broad that few rulers today have pockets deep enough or jails large enough to cope with the problem in traditional ways (Norton 1993, 206).  Even in the desperate case of Iraq, the variety of independent associations that have sprung up in the imposed ‘safe haven’ in the north, and the growing Iraqi civil society of the diaspora, particularly in London, indicates that civil society will take every opportunity it can to assert itself.

Conclusion

In the context of ever mounting pressures worldwide for truly accountable democratic governance by which to address the major social, economic and environmental crises of the times, a transitional model of democratization based on a narrow procedural conception of democracy may be seen to be not only an inadequate response to the demands of the rising civil society, but a perilous distraction from the real democratic transformation that is required.

A democracy of  elites, restricted to the political sphere of the nation state, is not only a poor shadow of the democratic principles that have been fought and struggled for by citizens around the world, such a democracy that does not allow a central role to civil society is inherently unable to meet the needs of society.  US Senator Bill Bradley has, with regard to America, likened society to:

“a three legged stool that is fundamentally out of balance because two of the legs – the capitalist marketplace and the government – have dominated our public life at the expense of the third leg: civil society.  The cost of this neglect… has been the proliferation of social problems that neither government nor business is fully equipped to address” (Lampe 1995, 91)

His analysis is as valid for society globally, and for nations and local communities of the Arab world and elsewhere, as it is for the United States.

Certainly, in the Arab world we are witnessing just the first few steps on what is likely to be a long and hard road of democratization.  As a vital strategic region in the yet pre-democratic international arena, the role of civil society in the Arab world and globally will be especially important in holding state and market sectors, domestic and international, accountable to local citizenry.  Arab civil society, although still severely constrained by state regulation and sorely lacking in the key norms of tolerance and civility, is significantly expanding and strengthening in terms of its associational structures and its local, national and international networks of communication.

Only time will tell the path that the emerging Arab democratization will take and, perhaps more than that of any region, Arab civil society will rely on global forces of citizen solidarity to broaden the agenda for change to bring about a truly substantive democratic transformation.  It is thus incumbent on true democrats everywhere to play their essential role as fellow citizens in building a truly democratic system of global governance within which substantive local democracy may thrive in the Arab world, and worldwide.

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