All of us at CUTS, a super simple wish you a Happy New Year! May this year add new happiness, achievements and inspirations in your life! May the coming year be as successful for you as the previous one has been for us.
We are happy and proud to share with you our top 10 moments that have made 2015 a success for us! Our public policy work cuts across three verticals of Trade, Regulation and Governance. In this bulletin, we take a few examples only.
However, the achievements would not have been possible without your support and we would like to thank all, i.e. our development partners, who showed great trust in supporting CUTS; Governments of India and other countries; Members of our International Advisory Boards, whose timely guidance has always been valuable; and last but not the least, the team of CUTS, who faced challenges and ensured timely achievement of the targets. Equally importantly, we would like to thank the media for their valuable support in carrying our news and articles, which have helped us to reach out to a large number of people around the world.
‘WCO Certificate of Merit’ Awarded to CUTS
On the occasion of the International Customs Day, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) awarded CUTS International with a ‘Certificate of Merit’ for rendering exceptional service to the international customs community. In 2015, the theme of the International Customs Day was ‘Coordinated Border Management: An inclusive approach for connecting stakeholders’. The Department of Revenue, Government of India recommended CUTS for this award in recognition of its contribution to the promotion of trust-based partnership with the Central Board of Excise and Customs and enhancing India’s foreign trade.
Integrating the Voice of CSOs in Regional Integration Process
Since the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in Africa was initiated, CUTS Nairobi has been the first to enhance the level of engagement of the ‘voiceless’ in Eastern and Southern Africa and provide a solid engagement framework. Assessments in Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia, representing three different Regional Economic Communities (RECs), revealed that engagement of marginalised groups in regional integration processes has been minimal in existing RECs and absolutely absent in the TFTA process. The project managed to bring apex bodies of the private sector and civil societies together with negotiators and trade policymakers to familiarise the former with TFTA issues. It also presents a proposed engagement framework that considers not only big businesses/urban CSOs but also voiceless stakeholders, such as women cross border traders and small scale farmers for incorporating their concerns in the implementation of the TTFA going forward.
Performance Audits of Telecom Towers
The Government of the Republic of Zambia sought to improve access to information and communication technologies for all especially in rural areas through a multimillion dollar tower installation project. This project was initiated in rural chiefdom areas of the country. Motivated by this fact, CUTS Lusaka initiated performance audits of selected telecom towers and revealed that all towers put up in rural areas do not meet the technical and legal requirements, i.e. these fall short of meeting the 5km macro-coverage radius requirement. The findings raise questions how these installations are being monitored by Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority and saw the involvement of government, parliamentarians, local communities’ consumers and various stakeholders among others, demanding for accountability and rectification.
Empowering the Women Electorate
Women’s participation in politics remained quite insignificant in villages even after six decades of self-rule. CUTS Centre for Human Development initiated a campaign for strengthening the political leadership of elected women representatives in local village councils/gram panchayats of Chittorgarh and Bhilwara districts of Rajasthan, India so as to address violence against women through a good governance framework. The campaign resulted in increased participation of women, with greater awareness across communities to their role as responsible citizens and voters during elections. Women contested in larger numbers both in reserved and unreserved categories, when compared to previous years.