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OCTOBER 7, 2009.

The Ghana Social Watch Coalition launched the 2009 Social Watch Report at a well–attended ceremony at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra on October 7, 2009. The Ceremony was chaired by Mrs. Patricia Blankson Akakpo, the Programs Officer for the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT).

Dr. Yao Graham, Coordinator of Third World Network Africa Secretariat (TWN-Africa) used the occasion to brief participants about the October 2009 Social Watch General Assembly to be held at M-Plaza Hotel in Accra, while Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, the Convenor of NETRIGHT discussed the critical issues and performed the actual launch of the report.

In her opening remarks, Mrs Patricia Akakpo informed participants about the Social Watch and the Ghana Chapter. She said Social Watch was formed in 1995 as an international network of civil society organizations working towards the eradication of poverty and the promotion of gender equality. The network which has members in over sixty (60) countries in the world also exists to hold governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the realisation of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty and advocate for gender justice.

Mrs. Akakpo said that the Ghana Social Watch is an active member of the Global Coalition, having over forty (40) organisational members, many of whom are themselves coalitions and networks. She noted that Social Watch has published fourteen (14) yearly reports on progress and setbacks in the struggle against poverty and the promotion of gender equality. She therefore welcomed participants and urged them to take an active interest in social development issues in the various spaces they occupy to promote a better world for all.

Dr Yao Graham, the Coordinator of TWN-Africa on his part informed participants about the 2009 Social Watch General Assembly (GA) to be held in Ghana from October 27-29, 2009. Dr Graham explained that the General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the Social Watch and the fact that it is being held in Ghana signifies the important role the country plays in the Coalition. He added that General Assembly meetings have been was held in Rome in 2000, Beirut in 2003 and Sofia in 2006.This fourth General Assembly to be held at M-Plaza Hotel in Ghana is under the theme “People First: Social Watch Response to the Global Crises.” It is expected to bring together about a hundred (100) participants from more than fifty (50) countries around the world. “The General Assembly offers a moment for us in Ghana here to engage actively with the issues of poverty and gender equality. I urge you all to take an interest and find out more about Social Watch,” Dr Graham concluded.

Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin, Convenor of NETRIGHT, raised critical issues in the 2009 Social Watch Report and officially launched it. She started her presentation by linking Ghana’s Launch with the Global Launch, which had taken place on September 25, 2009 at the United Nations Plaza in New York. She also stated two reasons why the launch is significant:

§ The theme of “Making Finances work: People First” which is derived from the global financial crises

§ The fact that the 4th General Assembly of Social Watch is to be held in Ghana from October 27-29, 2009.

Dr. Mensah-Kutin then drew the attention of the participants to the critical issues contained in the 2009 Social Watch Report. First of all, she pointed out that the report’s identification of the need for a human rights’ response to the financial and economic recession is a major shift away from how financial regulation has been looked at the past as a purely technical endeavour. “If we begin to look at the financial and economic system from a human rights perspective, we will be able to address injustices, gender inequality and social marginalisation. So many women and men who are on the fringes of the economy can have access to basic resources to meet their well-being if we put people first in economic policy-making,” she stressed.

Another issue in the report which she considered relevant is the point it makes about the need for reforms in the global decision-making processes on economic policy. Dr. Mensah-Kutin reminded participants of the negative experiences of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers 1 & 2, and said they were largely policies which were formulated by the IMF and the World Bank in a top-down fashion without any real involvement of the citizens of Ghana. She therefore lauded the Social Watch proposal of situating global economic policy-making within the contest of the G20 framework.

On the banking and financial sectors, the speaker related the reports critique of how financial entities manage to transfer burden of risk-taking to the most vulnerable in the society to the situation in Ghana and other African countries where the poor have very little access to mainstream banking opportunities. She said that it was unacceptable for ordinary citizens to look for their own sources of credit for their survival while the numerous banks that keep expanding in the country concentrate on making more profits for the benefit of the rich. She referred to a recent call by the public to the banks to provide interest on monies saved as an important initiative by citizens in their attempt to hold the banks accountable to their well-being.

Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin also spoke about the general effect of the economic crisis on the economies of development countries. These included the negative impacts on countries such as Ghana, which pursue export-led growth and free market policies, the increasing debt levels and low levels of investments.

On gender equality, she explained that the financial crises were worsening women’s already precarious living conditions at all levels of the economy. She referred participants to how women are constantly been moved off from the streets where they sell even though those spaces have become their last resort in making a living for themselves.

With specific reference to the issues raised in the Ghana Report which forms part of the global report, the speaker mentioned issues such as the low value of the cedi against the dollar and euro, the stalling of progress to achieve the MDG target on poverty, drop in remittances, high inflationary rates and increasing violence against women as sources of the major consequences of the financial crises on the country.

She concluded by calling on all citizens to take an interest in the debates and discussions around the financial crises so that they can be part of the solution of making relevant economic policies that prioritizes their needs and concerns. “We need to insist on our government to take action now on issues of human rights, women’s rights and social development. We can do this if we organize and mobilise to influence economic policies from a human rights perspective”, Dr. Mensah-Kutin concluded.

During an open discussion, some participants sought for clarification about the Social Watch General Assembly while others made contributions to the issues raised in the Social Watch Report. The concern was that the report needed to be studied carefully and used broadly by the media and other groups to demand accountability from government and development partners.


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