International Forum “Convergences 2015”

Launched in 2008, Convergences 2015 is the first think tank that aims at building new convergences between public, private, and solidarity-based actors to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Europe. It is based in France. They focus their work on social entrepreneurship and the necessary search for innovative solutions in the fight against poverty at a time where resources available for funding become scarce. They foster dialogue and debate for example through events, but also through other means. They launched a survey on microfinance and a barometer on social entrepreneurship. Irène Serot Almeras participated in a recent conference and reports.

The launch of the MDGs in 2000 meant the beginning of a new millennium to poverty eradication. It signalled a shift towards a new development paradigm that leads stakeholders into a new participative approach, thus bringing companies and the civil society into a worldwide partnership to fight poverty. This is not the place for me to list the MDGs. I just want to recall that MDG3 is the goal that is focused on women, with: “promoting gender equality and empowering women”.

Progress so far on MDG3, as indicated at the recent forum of Convergences 2015, is that: “the world has achieved parity between girls and boys in primary education. In spite of this, gender inequality persists. Girls and women continue to be faced with barriers in education, in the economic sphere and in the political sector. Globally, women occupy only 25% of senior management positions, and account for only 20% of parliamentarians.

There is a general acknowledgement that the MDGs were the occasion to send out an alarm signal on the urgency to do something about poverty. After more than 10 years of mobilization among these so urgent issues, in my opinion, we must question the results now the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals framework has started to be developed. Do the quantitative measures announced on each MDG take account of all aspects of that problem that it aims to address? When statements are made for example in Convergences 2015 that: “the world has achieved parity between girls and boys in primary education”, isn’t it a little dangerous to conclude from some quantitative results on a few indicators, as we all know that it may not be the real situation facing population on the ground in developing countries?

The result regarding the empowerment of women (including ending violence again women) is that, in the words of UN Women executive director Michele Bachelet: “we still have a long way to go to achieve real equality”. This is also a reason to worry. Women are definitely not taken into account as they should be, as half of the sky.

Returning to the 2012’ Convergences 2015 Forum.It was a major event for all professionals interested in exchanging and discussing innovative solutions to alleviate poverty in Europe and around the world. Over 3,000 experts and international policy makers attended, representing institutional bodies, corporate organizations, civil society and charities together with academics, journalists and students. They have reflected on the social and environmental challenges facing the world today, both in the North and in the South.

It was a huge work done, congratulations to the organizers. Extreme interesting themes were explored during the three days.

I was among the crowd. Aside from the very interesting workshops in which I learned more about new innovative solutions available for NGOs and other actors involved in the fight against poverty at grassroots level while protecting our environment, I was wondering: what were the spaces in the Forum dedicated to women and/or MDG3? Not much to my opinion. I did not of course attend all workshops.

During the time I have spent listening to the very interesting programme, I had the feeling that women were not given the specific space that they should have. Each conference nowadays should for example pay attention to give women as much as voices as men in speeches. I do not automatically speak about having workshops or plenaries dedicated to women’ issues if it is not the purpose of the conference, but I think that each conference should pay specific attention to systematically have a just gender balance in its debates, reflecting the reality of our society (i.e. we, women represent half of humanity).

I would like to give you some figures regarding this 2012’ Convergences 2015 Conference. More than 300 speakers participated in the 55 workshops and plenaries. 28,5% of the speakers (!) were women. 11% of the workshops were 100% men speakers, while there was just 1 workshop (2%) for women.

It is interesting to see what were the workshops with only men participating in the panel:

  • “the impact of urban development on poverty and the environment in developing countries”;
  • “strengthening local governance in developing countries: a key issue for sustainable local development”;
  • “energy transition and sustainable energy: how to address energy poverty while preserving the environment?”;
  • “finding synergies between public, private and solidarity-based actors to achieve sustainable development”;
  • “what part can banks play to support the development of a more responsible economy?”; and
  • “what are the global stakes of food sovereignty?” This was an opening session with 8 speakers of which one woman.

The workshop where you could find only women in the panel was “impact evaluation: choosing the right methodology for different projects and objectives”.

I think these numbers speak for themselves.
Irène Serot Almeras, a WIDE+ member, is currently responsible of the Office for Cooperation with CSOs in the Embassy of France in the United States. This Office works on development issues and develop tools to strengthen relations between French and American CSOs. She was previously director of Fondation Ensemble, and other NGOs.

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