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SADC-CNGO Calls For Effective Civic Participation In Development And Democratic Governance In the Region.

Effective Civic Participation in Development and Democratic Governance is the common vision that was zeroed in from the shared understanding of the over 230 delegates from the Southern Africa Region and fraternal organisations from other regions of Africa and Europe who participated in the 3rd SADC-CNGO conference in Lusaka, Zambia.

Through this scenario, it is envisioned that the region would be mobilized to act, through consensus building, respect, and social justice to bring forth a better future for all. This is premised on the broad underpinning philosophy of people centered development, partnerships and broad based participation, leading to ‘people centred dialogue’.

Addressing the delegates, Secretary General of the SADC Council of NGOs, Abie Ditlhake said that the role of the Civil Society should include acting as “watchdogs” for transparency and accountability by the governments in the SADC; being more proactive in conflict resolution and in promoting harmonious relations in communities.

“Communities and civil society should be more active in promoting good governance including greater community participation; the community must be able in turn to advocate for their own causes; should develop stronger partnerships and networks; and must work at the strengthening of Democratic Governance”, Ditlhake said.

Ditlhake highlighted the need to take SADC to the communities by coming up with interventions that would permit the participation of the communities in all facets of the development dialogue. He urged the players in the region about the need to establish a permanent mechanism to move from talk to action. 

Ditlhake said it was depressing that the region was witnessing a worrying trend where governments treated it’s people as ‘security danger’. He said this in turn breeds government leaders that develop particularly draconian and repressive legislation that curtail civic participation, freedom of expression and the right to exist. 

And speaking in an exclusive interview Zambian Chapter Civil Society for Poverty Programme Officer for Information and Networking Ivy Mutwale highlighted that the challenge that lies is not only to maintain but to re-create the democratic ways of working, in order that they may be adapted to changing political, social and economic contexts. She added that democratic reforms must take into account the new realities of the information society as well.

Mutwale said that ICTs increase the transparency and accountability of governmental bodies. She added that the two factors are important to democracy because they provide a platform that put checks and balances to see to it that governments and its institutions are working in the interests of its people. She added that ICTs create avenues that allow electorates to manage their interactions with government and get involvement in policy-making

“There should be a distinction between the terms of Citizen Engagement and Engagement with citizens. Democracy is not a gift by governments to citizens. E-engagement projects will not work if they are conceived as methods of recruiting the public to a government-owned agenda. E-engagement should not be evaluated in terms of how successfully governments win the attention of citizens, rather, how successful are e-engagement methods in enabling citizens to win the attention of their elected representatives and officials”, Mutwale said.

Mutwale said with time, participation will be more and more passing among borders, and governments will become dependent on the participation of citizens.

“The life-styles in the region will begin to change and many people will be less geographically oriented. eParticipation will certainly be not only local or state-wide, but will also become a trans-national one. Universal access and lowering of thresholds to enable citizens' participation in decision-making and planning is important.  Currently, the threshold is still too high and citizens do not understand policy-making processes and the possible impact of decisions. ICTs are necessary to provide insight and to lower the engagement threshold”, she said.

 

 

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