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Opinion |

The IFP is established as an institution

by Miguel Santibáñez

President of the Chilean Association of NGOs (ACCIÓN), member of the IFP political committee and coordinator of the Mesa de Articulación.

The International Forum of National NGOs Platforms (IFP) brings together 64 national development NGO platforms and 6 regional coalitions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania, representing together more than 22,000 organizations. 2015 was a landmark year for the strengthening of the global network, particularly with the adoption of its 2016-2020 Strategy and the decision to be set up as an institution by creating a legal structure in France and obtaining European funding for the next 4 years. This, in order to play a pioneering role, among others, in the capacity building of NGO platforms and the monitoring and implementation of Agenda 2030.
The International Forum of National NGOs Platforms (IFP) was established in 2008 in Paris, during an international conference of national NGO platforms. Since then, members of this worldwide network, comprising 64 national NGO platforms and 6 regional coalitions, have been working together based on a common vision and values. These include the defense of human rights, including those of the most vulnerable populations; combatting inequality and injustice; the eradication of poverty, and the commitment to sustainable development.
The IFP promotes exchanges and cooperation among its members at the regional, interregional and international levels. This work is developed through regular online exchanges, as well as some meetings that were fundamental for the consolidation of this global platform, including the General Assembly of the IFP in Dakar in 2011 and in Tunis in 2015.
In recent years, the IFP has largely contributed to the emergence and strengthening of regional structures, and has achieved tangible results with the launch of working groups on specific themes called Non-Governmental Diplomacy Exercises. These have allowed our members to work with their counterparts in other countries, maximizing collaboration between the various NGO platforms and, therefore, their intercultural work skills. These have been further strengthened through their participation in regional and international events.
The evolution of the IFP has fueled its desire to step up in order to heighten its impact and increase its legitimacy. The General Assembly in March 2015 decided to set up the IFP as an institution, and validated the guidelines of its 2016-2020 strategy.
Its overall objective is to influence public policy at the national, regional and international levels, as a legitimate catalyst and representative of the voice of NGOs worldwide. This is the mandate given to the network by its members, which is reinforced by their decision to create a legal structure for the IFP, based in France. The legal empowerment of the IFP demonstrates its maturity, both in terms of resource management and in terms of governance.
The meeting of the IFP Council in December 2015 has put the decisions of the General Assembly into operation. A Constituent Assembly was held on the occasion to formalize the decision to create the IFP association; adopt the new articles of incorporation, and elect the governance of the IFP. The composition of the Council was confirmed and, for the first time, a Bureau was elected with a mandate of two years renewable. It is made up of five members, including myself, Miguel Santibáñez, Executive Secretary of ACCION and President of the IFP. These historic decisions strengthen the IFP’s governance and provide the tools to improve its effectiveness.
Over the years, several donors have supported the IFP, such as the French Development Agency (AFD), the Fondation de France, the Ford Foundation and UNDP. With the inflow of European funding, the IFP has the means to implement its strategy with three main objectives: (1) strengthening the capacity of the IFP at the central level to better support its members; (2) building the capacity of its members at the regional and national levels, becoming an influential player in terms of the learning process of NGOs; and (3) advocacy at national, regional and international levels, especially regarding the monitoring and implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda.
Regarding the first objective, it is worth mentioning that the IFP Secretariat is international, multicultural and decentralized, fundamental aspects that will be consolidated hereafter. New communication tools and social media will play an important role in supporting work with members in the next phase of the IFP. The tools currently used, such as the website, remain as an area of dissemination of information and promotion of member activities in the four official languages of the network (English, French, Portuguese and Spanish).
With respect to the impact of civil society organizations’ networks, it is possible to say that it remains highly dependent on the ability of the actors themselves to mobilize their members to collaborate; build expertise based on their practices; learn from local experiences; engage strategically in interaction with local and national authorities; develop partnerships with other actors in society, and to attract the attention of their members, politicians and the media through innovative proposals. This is why the second objective of the IFP’s strategy –capacity building of member organizations in relation to their organizing and development practices- intends to be ambitious. Network members operate in different environments and have heterogeneous capabilities. So, in order to adapt capacity building activities to needs and ensure their effectiveness, targeted support and resources will be channeled following a needs assessment.
Stronger and better equipped national and regional platforms can further strengthen and represent their members. Thus, the actions of individual NGOs will be better articulated at all levels, and their voice will be carried by the networks to which they belong, multiplying efforts to serve the vulnerable people they represent.
The IFP is establishing itself as a strong international civil society player, asserting strategic and long-term investment in capacity building with the ambition of spreading to thousands of individual CSOs. Peer learning and dissemination of best practices are major assets that this international network can offer. The IFP plans to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience between members to catalyze the creation of innovations for the field of development NGOs. An example of the planned activities is identifying current and emerging leaders in order to provide them with targeted support. The promotion and development of leadership in the platforms will lead to better governance and a greater impact of advocacy.
The third objective of the IFP’s strategy is to promote the positions of members and their participation in discussions with governments, international organizations and other stakeholders. At the international level, the work focuses more specifically on the monitoring and implementation of Agenda 2030. To this end, a working group is being created to map the needs and expectations of members on Agenda 2030, strengthen their advocacy capacity as appropriate, as well as guide the IFP in its positions. As an international network, the legitimacy of the IFP also comes from sharing analyses collectively built by its members, facilitating their participation in international discussions.
It is important to note the IFP’s smart approach in avoiding redundant efforts and rather encouraging effectiveness and combining experiences among its members, their target groups, and across the field. The IFP has strong relationships with other CSO networks and platforms as well as the potential to develop strategic partnerships with other key players.
These three specific objectives have deep connections between them and mainly aim to position the IFP as an essential player because it is legitimate and representative of NGO voices. The creation of the IFP’s legal structure and the consolidation of its operational and governance structures, as well as the activities of the coming years, will further strengthen the network and the sense of ownership and belonging of its members. The IFP will build on its strengths, including representativeness on several parts of the globe, increasing its visibility and widening the geographic scope of members at all levels.
Miguel Santibáñez