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role of CSOs in promoting social justice and sound developmental
policies in SADC
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
June 30, 2007
PDF version (236KB)
African Development Community (SADC) Accountability Project surveys
in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe were carried out by three
researchers from each country. This report draws heavily from these
country studies to provide a synthesis of the salient issues applicable
to and obtaining in Southern African countries. In addition, the
report also provides a comparative analysis of the main issues across
countries in order to come up with clear conclusions and recommendations
for the benefit of CSO-State relations.
main objective is to
make a contribution to building closer cooperation between civil
society and governments in the SADC region in order to strengthen
the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in promoting social
justice and pursuing sound development policies.
the study will:
how civil society actors relate to the government and its policies
at national levels (studies drawn from 3 countries)
key constraints impacting on the role of civil society in policy
formulation and monitoring implementation of policies
- make recommendations
on how to strengthen the role of civil society in working to build
social justice and contribute to broad-based participatory development
It is of no
doubt that civil society organisations in Southern Africa are playing
an important and critical role in the development of any state.
As outlined above, civil society does not and should not operate
in a vacuum. It needs to interact with the state and business in
order to influence the two. Government cannot govern alone. It needs
CSOs, and CSOs cannot be the alternative to government - they need
the state. CSOs need to continue to guard and maintain their autonomy
but autonomy should not be used as a reason for non engagement nor
should it be an excuse for poor CSO-state relations. The terrain
is difficult and is contested in Southern Africa but there is a
need for closer cooperation between civil society and governments
in the region. This should be a major objective of civil society
in the region.
In the light
of the above, CSOs need to consider the following recommendations:
- If states
are seeking to institutionalise CSO-state relations by putting
legislation in place to control the environment, it makes sense
for CSOs to realise that the time for a stand alone approach in
dealing with the state is coming to an end. CSOs need to find
each other and organise better if they are to remain a formidable
force. One way of doing this is to strengthen ties with the national
and regional CSO representative bodies. In addition, utilisation
of or calling for linkages or engagement protocols with organisations
such as the African Union and the Southern African Development
Community is imperative.
- CSOs need
to take advantage of the openings to engage governments on legal
frameworks that are still under debate in the region by coming
up with comprehensive alternatives superior to the ones currently
being floated by various states.
the human rights and democracy oriented CSOs are greatly misunderstood
and disliked by governments. More dialogue around best strategies,
policies and rules of engagement, education and linkages within
the countries and regionally are critical as a way forward. Sustainability
and independence in terms of CSO funding sources is critical to
CSO-state relations. As long at funding is largely from donors
outside of Africa, the state view that CSOs are creatures of foreign
states will continue to sour CSO-state relations. CSOs need to
begin to place emphasis on local funding as well. \ · CSOs
need to look into mechanisms that enhance the visibility of those
sections of society they represent or on whose behalf they speak
to provide a strong sense of mandate or representivity without
CSOs having to turn into being membership based organisations.
- Donors need
to play a pro-active role in CSO-state relations, particularly
where they fund both government and CSOs in the same country.
There is much to be gained in cooperating with the state and therefore
conditionalities for some level of cooperation can be constructive.
- CSOs need
to constantly review the obtaining determinants or driving factors
in CSO-state relations in each country and create a barometer
by which to measure any changes in order to react accordingly.
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