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President Mogae welcomes civil society from around the globe in Gaborone
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
March 21, 2004
H.E. Mr Festus Mogae, this evening welcomed hundreds of civil society
practitioners, researchers, activists, concerned business leaders and
government representatives from around the world at the welcoming ceremony
of the CIVICUS 5th World Assembly in Gaborone, the first of
these biennial World Assemblies to be held in Africa. The CIVICUS World
Assemblies provide unique opportunities for civil society organisation
and other stakeholders from around the globe to share their experiences,
consider new strategies and consolidate existing ones in advancing greater
space for citizen participation.
Over 700 delegates
gathered to the sound of drums in a unique outdoor, open discussion kgotla
style setting. The kgotla, traditional to Botswana, is one of the most
important mechanism by which citizens in Botswana are involved in open
consultations about issues affecting their lives. This participatory opening
set the tone for all the meetings, discussions, plenaries and over 70
workshops and learning exchanges that the delegates will be attending
in the next five days.
The host, CIVICUS,
is an international alliance aimed at nurturing the foundation, growth
and protection of citizen action throughout the world, especially in areas
where participatory democracy and citizen’s freedom of association are
threatened. Through its worldwide membership base, it aims to have a positive
impact on civil society organisations’ ability to engage with governments,
corporations and international institutions in order to effect broad social,
economic and political change.
In his opening speech,
President Mogae highlighted the importance of coordinated action and committed
partnership at multiple levels if individual societies and the global
community as a whole are to effectively address the many challenges they
face. " I believe gatherings such as this one can play a critical role
in highlighting innovative experiences and practical solutions from diverse
contexts. I am hopeful that your discussions and debates this week will
lead to a sharper understanding of how civic energy can be harnessed in
the quest for social, political, economic and civic justice."
Others speakers included
Kgosi Mosadi Seboko, Paramount Chief of the Bamalete and Botswana first
female paramount chief, Philip Makgalemele, Chair of the Botswana Council
of Non-governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) and Patrick Johnston, Chair
of the CIVICUS Board.
The Assembly, themed
"Working Together for a Just World" is taking advantage of its African
location to highlight some of the key issues relevant to development in
the region. It is seeking to highlight innovative strategies around HIV/AIDS
and the search for practical solutions to the pandemic. Other pertinent
issues will include the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD),
the devastation caused by internal and regional conflicts, and the challenges
faced by African nations in defining strategies for governance in the
The diverse workshops,
plenary sessions, learning exchanges and capacity-building workshops will
focus on defending the rights of civic association, strengthening the
governance and legitimacy of civil society organisations, the role of
civil society in situations of public or private conflict, working for
social and economic justice and enhancing citizen engagement in decision-making.
In between the workshops,
accomplished speakers will present views on the global state of civil
society, human rights and development. These include Mary Robinson, former
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President
of Ireland; Prega Ramsamy, Executive Secretary for the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) and Graça Machel, United Nations children’s
rights champion and recipient of multiple international awards.
will also launch the new 'CIVICUS Nelson Mandela Graça Machel Innovation
Awards' which are aimed at supporting innovative ideas that engender a
more just world and that emerge directly from the Assembly.
For more information,
Florence Kiff at email@example.com
or Tel: (+27) 11 833 5959
For further information
on CIVICUS, see http://www.civicus.org
or see the dedicated World Assembly website www.civicusassembly.org
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