January 23, 2023
- CUTS holds its global retreat in the backdrop of its Ruby Anniversary
As CUTS International prepares to celebrate its Ruby Anniversary (40 years) in 2023, it held its Global Retreat at Jaipur on 21st January to chart a forward-looking strategy for the organisation in the years ahead.
The day-long brainstorming also took stock of the organisation’s various ongoing activities and programmes. Apart from CUTS management and staff, external experts also participated and shared their insights on both substantive and organisational matters. The previous Global Retreat was held in August 2016, while Minis Retreats were held in all India-based and foreign centres since then to discuss the progress.
Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, opened the Retreat and gave a brief overview of CUTS’ thematic work areas and their evolution over time.
On rules-based trade, he observed how all of CUTS’ work in this area was ultimately aimed at underlining how trade really helps people, particularly in the developing world. On regulation, he pointed out how the focus has shifted from simply achieving “ease of doing business” to a larger aim of improving the “ease of living” for citizens. On the other hand, increasing monopolies around the world, particularly in the digital space, are a cause of concern.
Finally, on governance, he mentioned the importance of consumer protection and welfare as a part of the good governance agenda and how the experience developed in India on good governance can be taken to countries in Africa.
He also briefly touched upon certain cross-cutting principles that are at the heart of CUTS’ work, such as a strong belief in multilateralism, transparency and inclusiveness.
Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, stated that seen holistically, CUTS has a huge knowledge repository and therefore, enhancing collaboration across the various centres needs to be a priority.
This will ensure that CUTS’ knowledge workers, combined with its extensive networks, can synergistically work on all of CUTS’ thematic work areas.
He also mentioned the need for greater internal monitoring and evaluation at an organisational level, along with the need for developing internal expertise endogenously.
This was followed by thematic discussions on climate change, food, health, digital economy and skill development, along with related topics such as climate resilient infrastructure.
A core area of deliberation was the multi-dimensional interlinkages between climate change, food security and trade, along with related considerations of climate smart agricultural practices, decarbonisation and logistics, among others.
The potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences between CUTS’ work in the Indian subcontinent and Africa on these issues, and the emerging centrality of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) in promoting African economic integration was pointed out by many speakers.
It was also observed that the vast repository of CUTS’ existing work should be fully leveraged by finding common threads between them and using them as the foundation for future work.
Many speakers recognised that CUTS was uniquely positioned to act as a bridge between international and domestic policies, and their impact at grassroots.
In this context, an important takeaway which emerged was the need to use CUTS’ existing grassroot activities, such as its network of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in India as laboratories for sampling pioneering activities, such as climate-resilient agricultural techniques and renewable energy initiatives.
As India embarks on its year-long Presidency of the G20 in 2023, a focus on how CUTS can support taking G20-led solutions to global challenges to other developing countries in the Global South, particularly in Africa, was another important area of discussion.
Further, since India will be followed by Brazil and South Africa taking over the G20 Presidency, framing projects around India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA) cooperation will be another important consideration in CUTS’ future project pitches.
Suggestions were also made on renaming the three programmatic centres in Jaipur to give them a refreshed look. For example, the Centre on Competition, Investment and Economic Regulation could be renamed as Centre for Inclusive Markets.
The Retreat saw the active participation of CUTS senior management and staff from its centres around the world, including Geneva, Accra, Lusaka, Nairobi, Kolkata and Chittorgarh. Two former colleagues also joined in as external experts, whose presence really helped because of their own institutional memory and fresh experience gained outside the organisation since they departed.
Overall, participants recognised that the day’s discussions had been fruitful and productive. They looked forward to advancing some of the project ideas and structural reorganisation in a concrete manner.
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