• INSTITUTE FOR SOLIDARITY IN ASIA

    A nation-building fair for all

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    MARIELLE ANTONIO

    MARIELLE ANTONIO

    We can all be nation-builders.

    That was the idea behind the Dream Philippines Fair, held October 18, 2016 at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City. The event was organized by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) to provide four key sectors—public, private, youth and schools, and individuals—with a venue for sharing best practices and future actions for good governance and good citizenship.

    Representatives from these sectors presented their nation-building initiatives through keynote speeches and roundtable discussions, where civic involvement surfaced as a recurring theme.

    During the “Cultivating Global Competitiveness” morning roundtable, which featured public-private working group projects of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), Henry Schumacher of the Integrity Initiative emphasized, “Continuous dialogue between the public and private sectors is necessary to create change.” He, likewise, shared with the audience, “You have to change your behavior to change the environment,” and pushed for better teamwork among those involved in the working groups.

    Later on in the “Building Integrity and Public Trust” afternoon roundtable, which featured individuals involved as governance advisors of big ticket government agencies, Gerry Plana, CEO of Investors in People Philippines and a governance advisor of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), reinforced the sentiment by saying, “Multi-sector governance councils have modeled what true conversations should be like in organizations—free and full of value.” The roundtable shed light on the need to form “alliances” between institutions and communities through initiatives, such as setting up multi-sector governance councils, a group of distinguished private citizens serving as watchdogs and guardians of transformation programs in government.

    The youth sector, seldom heard from in terms of governance involvement, was also a part of the conversation at the Dream Philippines Fair, where a session was organized for youth representatives from the World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific (WYA), University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), Philippine Army, and ISA.

    Mary Imbong, Regional Director of WYA, an international youth organization founded at the United Nations that advocates human dignity for every person, shared her position on the true goal of governance, “The human person is the most valuable resource. We have to invest in ourselves, invest in our families, invest in our communities; because once we grow together we can create a better country.” UP-NCPAG student leader RJ Belen commented that individually, young Filipinos are not apathetic to governance but simply lack opportunities to participate and appreciate it as a concept that can be applied to everyday life.

    In a breakout “skills lab” held as part of the event, Camelia Bulat, a civil society leader from Romania and a Senior Consultant of the US-based Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), mentored strategists from national agencies who were interested in learning more about policy advocacy for transforming institutions. An important insight from her was that her group does not advocate issues, but solutions.

    These plenary sessions sought to give a voice to each key sector to bring out positive dialogue and emerging ideas on issues surrounding nation-building.

    Another highlight of the Dream Philippines Fair was the participation of four government institutions—the City Government of Legazpi, Provincial Government of La Union, the National Development Company and the Philippine Air Force—all undergoing ISA’s governance reform program, the Performance Governance System (PGS). The heads of these institutions presented their successes in governance before citizen panels, which gave public reactions and communicated suggestions for improvement and collaboration in future initiatives.

    All four presenters were awarded and recognized for their efforts to improve governance and involve citizens in the evening ceremonies, where Union Bank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Justo Ortiz was the keynote speaker and guest of honor.

    In his keynote address, Ortiz reflected on the teachings of Aristotle and reminded the audience, “The proper end of government is the promotion of its citizens’ happiness. The state exists for the goodness of the individuals who comprise it.” He commended ISA and its partners “for keeping good governance relevant, value accretive, sustainable and local.”

    Bolstered by the presentations he witnessed, Ortiz ended by saying, “The wherewithal is in the local government, the framework is in the ISA journey, and the path, in my humble opinion, is good governance founded on rules, solid values, empathy, and trust, and what I witnessed here today gives me so much pride and hope that our flourishing as a people and as individuals is well within our grasp.”

    The Dream Philippines Fair, hatched just this year by the ISA leadership, takes off from almost 10 years of the group’s bringing together Filipinos and key stakeholders through a bi-annual event, the public governance forum. It is now envisioned to be held annually as a celebration of nation-building initiatives and governance programs being undertaken in the public sector.

    #DREAMPH2016 was made possible through the generous support of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), UNILAB, and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

    Marielle Antonio is a Program Officer at the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), a non-profit group that advocates for governance reform and envisions a Dream Philippines where every government institution delivers and every citizen participates and prospers. Contact the author through mantonio@isacenter.org and learn more about the group’s work through isacenter.org.

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