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Social Watch
History and Background

THE ''PREHISTORY'' OF Social Watch

1 - Foreword

What is Social Watch? How was Social Watch created? Does it reflect a change in NGO relations with multilateral organisations? How does it link local experience with multilateral negotiations on social development? How did it make use of new electronic communication technologies? And by employing these new electronic communication technologies, did Social Watch transform NGO networking in international negotiation processes?

I accepted with great pleasure the assignment to produce an analysis of the ''pre-history'' of Social Watch - the events leading up to the actual establishment of Social Watch. Having been part of those events myself I thought it would be quite a challenge to look at this period in hindsight, and in a more or less ''objective'' way.

With the distance created by time I found elements and traces of important aspects that today define the nature of Social Watch, aspects which I had myself not consciously seen previously. I was surprised by the clarity of views of important actors involved in the setting up of Social Watch, on how to develop NGO participation in the Social Summit as early as 1993. I was also surprised by the convergence of similar ideas among a wide range of actors among the NGOs participating in the Summit preparations. In hindsight I could also identify more easily mistakes that were made - even if they were done with the best of intentions.

This document has benefited from the views of many. The exercise of looking at how Social Watch came about has strengthened my belief that Social Watch is a unique project of advocacy by NGOs. Its strength is the connection of local experiences with an international advocacy agenda, experimenting with the use of modern communications technology as a means to mobilise.

As this is a complex process there is no doubt that many obstacles continuously need to be overcome to make improvements. I think that I am right when I state that many of us involved in the Social Summit wanted Social Watch to succeed, and are grateful that it did. There is also little doubt that the accomplishment has been produced by the skilful handling of an intensely complex process in which many precarious and sensitive tensions were dealt with by the talented and capable leadership of the Social Watch secretariat, in particular Roberto Bissio, Patricia Garce and Constanza Moreira. It is my sincere hope that the analysis presented here will contribute to a deeper understanding of Social Watch - its origin, its aspirations, its methods and its achievements.

Mirjam van Reisen


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