Developing and Strengthening CSO Capacities for Empowered Representation supported by the European Union in the Philippines

DISCERN Semestral Planning Photo by: Kisha Beringuela
DISCERN Semestral Planning Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

Developing and Strengthening CSO Capacities for Empowered Representation  (DISCERN) Action, is a collaborative initiative between We Effect, PLCPD, and the European Union that champions the social activism of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) by actively involving them in public decision-making processes and fostering social accountability. This partnership aims to address the multifaceted challenges faced by marginalized sectors through proactive engagement and collective action. DISCERN seeks to strengthen capacities of CSOs to meaningfully participate in good governance and government processes with special focus on the thematic issues of adequate housing, gender equality, and environment and economic resilience. DISCERN seeks to strengthen capacities of CSOs to meaningfully participate in good governance and government processes with special focus on the thematic issues of adequate housing, gender equality, and environment and economic resilience.

DISCERN Semestral Planning Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

The Developing and Strengthening CSO Capacities for Empowered Representation  (DISCERN) Action project is implemented by We Effect in partnership with the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and is supported by the European Union.

Floreen Simon discussing about DISCERN Project Goals to CSO Partners
Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

DISCERN works to capacitate ten (10) CSO partners who intend to make a dent on local government policies and programs in thirteen (13) project areas on issues of adequate housing, gender equality, and economic and environmental resilience putting premium on participatory and gender responsive governance and policy formulation. In the first year of the project, CSO partners’ representatives assigned to do policy advocacy had undergone three (3) training sessions on (1) Basic Policy and Budget Advocacy, (2) Agenda Formulation and Advanced Policy and Budget Advocacy, and (3) Orientation and Capacity Building on Local Sectoral representation for CSOs. Learnings from these trainings have been applied to their regular engagement activities with their respective target Local Government Units (LGUs) and Agencies – from face-to-face meetings, policy dialogues and local policy fora.

Person to person meeting with Baco Municipality Vice Mayor Reymark Marco
Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

This year (2024) the final training entitled CSO Visioning and Ordinance Writing Workshop, partners were able to draft their policy proposals together with a clearly defined their policy advocacy strategies – identifying their targets, constituents, intended specific policy change result, and planned activities.

PLCPD Project Manager, Ron Magbuhos introduces the DISCERN partners to Cebu City Officials (City Planning Officer, Architect Espina, desk officers on Gender, social welfare, vendors); dialogue focused on the plight of Cebu City’s small ambulant vendors amidst the medium term city infrastructure and property development plan; DISCERN and local partners stressed the need for improvement of the present GASA ordinance to provide more support and protection to the vendors.
Photo from: CONCERN (DISCERN CSO Partner)

This year will also be the rollout of EU-DISCERN’s Financial Support to Third Parties (FSTP) intended to support policy advocacy strategies targeting Local Ordinances and local government programs addressing their specific issues, and institutionalized CSO partner participation and/or representation in local legislative and governance bodies. DISCERN FSTP comes in the time of the Philippine midterm elections in May 2025 where local officials will be elected, and this presents an opportune time for local partners to engage their local politicians to advance their policy agenda.

DISCERN Action meeting with the QC Government Public Employment Service Office (PESO), the office in-charge of implementing the Magna Carta of Workers in the Informal Economy in Quezon City
Photo from: PATAMABA (DISCERN CSO Partner)

This project is of paramount significance as it enables Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to wield influence over local government policies and programs within their respective communities. Through the promotion of participatory and gender-responsive governance, it guarantees the inclusion of marginalized voices in decision-making processes. Ultimately, the project seeks to tackle pressing societal challenges at the grassroots level, paving the way for the implementation of more inclusive and impactful policies that enhance community well-being.

Watch the beginning of their DISCERN story here: