By POJOAJU, member of Forus in Paraguay

The National Association of NGOs of Paraguay, POJOAJU, has concluded its yearly initiative intended to strengthen its organizational body. Among its main outcomes was the 2020-2025 strategic plan, which provides guidelines for building social consensus and defending an NGO-friendly environment. This process was facilitated by the cooperation of Forus, with support from the European Union (EU) and the French Development Agency (FDA).  

The experience provided an opportunity to reaffirm the principles on which POJOAJU was founded more than 20 years ago: respect for diversity and non-discrimination; equality and fairness; social inclusion; democracy; integrity and transparency; justice; and self-determination and sovereignty of the people.  Our discussions regarding the current reality in Paraguay took note of the challenges present within the political arena, where a democratic transition, which began 31 years ago after the fall of the military dictatorship, has fallen short in the task of strengthening the nation's institutions. Considerations on the socioeconomic front pointed out the contradiction between the country's economic growth and its increasing social inequality, imposed by an agro-export model based on soy and meat production with associated adverse ecological impacts.  The COVID-19 scenario has made these dimensions all the more visible and raised public debate -- here, as in other regions -- over the need to define "A New Social Contract" for the sake of sustainable development. 

Within this aforementioned scenario, Pojoaju has defined seven strategic guidelines, oriented toward the building of social consensus, as part of its five-year planning: increased democracy with a focus on human rights and rights of nature; stronger civic spaces, construction of an engaged citizenry, and public policy monitoring; defense of nature's common goods; reform of the State to serve the common good; a New Social Contract and reforms for fairer and more just taxation; sustainable development, with renewable energy and a restructured production model; and support for multilateralism and for spaces of regional integration.

The need for an NGO-friendly environment formed the subject of both dialogues and joint statements from platform members.  Often, cooperation with public institutions with which the association is involved has been accompanied by affronts on the part of the government and industry trade groups requiring the association's response and clarification, reminding those parties that NGO participation is a right that results in contributions beneficial to all. Finally, as a lesson learned, it was the internal and external communication promoted through the cooperation of Forus that has become an invaluable component of the association, bringing NGOs closer and helping to create bonds of solidarity -- an experience that will continue to be developed in the coming years.