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    Why Coalitions?


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2005 

    Services players in several developing countries are setting up coalitions for collaboration to boost the sector.

    Just a few years ago, services coalitions were mainly located in developed economies such as Hong Kong (China) and the United States. Increasingly, developing countries are looking at regrouping their service sectors under some form of umbrella organization. Today, countries such as St Lucia, Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago are planning to establish coalitions.

    Strength in numbers

    A coalition partnership can have a wide range of activities from networking and lobbying to coordination. In The Art ofCoalition-Building: A Guide for Community Leaders (1984), Cheri Brown defined a coalition as: "An organization of diverse interest groups that combine their human and material resources to effect a specific change the members are unable to bring about independently."
    Certainly, the power of numbers creates a synergy to achieve goals and bring about change much more effectively than individual small firms, which form the majority of companies in the service sector.

    Individual service providers usually discover that they need other providers to create a significant voice that government officials, politicians or others will take seriously.

    Services coalitions are created for many different reasons, usually decided by the proponents, including:

    • Recognizing the importance of the service sector. Services representmore than 50% of gross domestic product (GDP) in most developing economies and are one of the fastest-growing sectors. The message is clear: public and private sectors need to focus on promoting trade in services. Until recently, little attention was given to services trade in developing countries. A services coalition builds awareness.


    • Advocacy. Service providers can be constrained by flawed or non-existent policies, necessitating policy development or reform. Some services coalitions were formed to lobby with a single voice for economic reform.


    • Networking and information sharing. Successful services exporters report that effective networking is one of the most important skills to develop because most services are sold through referrals. In addition, many small firms recognize that "bundling" their services gives them greater opportunities to bid on international projects. For example, construction, architecture, design and engineering firms may come together in a bid for a contract. A multi-sectoral coalition fosters networking and information sharing among companies.


    • Executing a work plan. The Philippines is a good example of a country in which services are a priority sector, but where work needed to be carried out on a number of initiatives, such as developing several service sector profiles, studies and workshops.Spearheaded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Services Coalition was established this year to maximize various stakeholders' efforts.


    Ten guiding principles

    Job Kihumba, Executive Director of the Association of Professional Societies of East Africa, offers these guiding principles:

    • Be guided by need and purpose.
    • Combine the needs of individual members.
    • Committed, effective leadership is a must.
    • Institutionalize governance structures.
    • Develop a clear strategic plan of activities.
    • Ensure that benefits for members outweigh costs.
    • Establish sound financial and management systems.
    • Create a communications strategy.
    • Don't go it alone - build alliances.
    • Remain relevant. Re-evaluate goals.
    Doreen Conrad is Chief of ITC's Trade in Services section. In late

    2005, ITC will publish a guide to establishing services coalitions. 

    Contact services@intracen.org