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Botswana President Mogae welcomes civil society from around the globe in Gaborone
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
March 21, 2004

Botswana President, 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 citizenís freedom of association are threatened. Through its worldwide membership base, it aims to have a positive impact on civil society organisationsí 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 new millennium.

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 childrenís rights champion and recipient of multiple international awards.

Graça Machel 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, please contact:
Florence Kiff at
florence@civicus.org 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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