Student Volunteer Research and Networking Opportunity with the 2019 Moynihan TNGO Fellow: Lilian Mercado, Asia Regional Director at Oxfam International

The Transnational NGO Initiative hosts a senior transnational NGO leader each year through our Moynihan NGO Fellows program. These leaders spend 2 weeks of ‘intellectual rest and recreation’ at the Moynihan Institute, researching a topic which poses a challenge to them as NGO leaders and which is aligned with our research interest in the governance, leadership, and effectiveness of transnational NGOs. 

This spring semester (March 25 to April 5, 2019), Lilian Mercado will be visiting the Moynihan Institute as a Transnational NGO Fellow. Ms. Mercado has served as the Asia Regional Director at Oxfam International for the past two years. She has worked with Oxfam in a variety of positions over the last 19 years, rising through the ranks from being a campaign officer to Country Director to Deputy Regional Director to global Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns. Ms. Mercado has been a long-time activist for human rights, democracy, and justice in addition to a career as an investigative journalist. Among such activities, she campaigned for the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

While here at Moynihan, she will be conducting research on the following topic: What role do INGOs play in reclaiming and defending civil society space, particularly in the context of Asia?

Oxfam is going through a transformation it calls Oxfam 2020. The quest for greater relevance in a rapidly changing world and the intention to shift power to the south are among the drivers behind this transformation. However, the external world has become more hostile to national civil society organizations (CSOs) as well as to international NGOs (INGOs) like Oxfam. Many refer to this as “the shrinking of civil society space.” In the process of developing Oxfam’s regional strategy for Asia, it examined the rise of conservatism, intolerance, and authoritarian regimes that use state power to close down civil society spaces. These key trends shape the future of Asia and, consequently, inform Oxfam’s strategy. A deeper analysis and understanding of this situation will strengthen its praxis as a transnational NGO working in Asia and facilitate it becoming more suitable and effective in the field.

A recent Oxfam statement underscores this need.  “In the 1990s, the international donor community perceived support to civil society as an integral part of democracy promotion and, thus, an end in itself. The discourse on civil society has changed in the last decade, and civil society participation is increasingly reduced to a means for national development and poverty reduction, primarily through service provision.” There appears to be continued and widespread acceptance of service delivery, on the one hand, but growing intolerance for advocacy campaigns, public engagement and mobilization, and rights-based work on the other. Given that a vibrant civic space is part and parcel of development, what role could INGOs play in reopening spaces for civil society?

Student Role

We are seeking students who are interested in volunteering to do preparatory literature research on behalf of Ms. Lilian Mercado from mid-February through March as well as to conduct follow-up work as necessary during her stay at Moynihan from March 25 to April 5,2019.Students will have an opportunity to interact with this important leader throughout her stay, which can help with networking, career development, and research assignments. We are asking for approximately 5 hours per week of a student’s time from mid-February through April 5th

If you are interested and available, please send an indication of interest, CV, and course schedule to Shauna Soljour, Program Coordinator, Transnational NGO Initiative, Moynihan Institute (TNGOinfo@maxwell.syr.eduby Friday, February 8, 2019 at 5:00 pm.

Thank you for your consideration!