Find us on Google+

Friday, 18 January 2013

Broken Civil Society

"Civil society and the public can be powerful allies in a reform process, generating demand for reform and helping to maintain pressure on politicians...By contrast, an uninformed and uneducated civil society can be a dangerous obstacle to reform"
- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Nigerian Finance Minister is spot in that quote from her new book. She is absolute right to point out that civil society can sometimes exert negative energy. Not every voice is productive. Indeed, often African politicians thrive in getting uninformed NGOs a seat at the table because it legitimises their actions.

Even worse, sometimes civil society can be directly captured by political parties. During the Banda administration we saw the emergence of political NGOs (PONGOs) and Government NGOs (GONGOs). These PONGOs and GONGOs had no vision or direction. They were created just to sing public praises of Mr Banda's government. PONGOs and GONGOs gave a false impression that our civil society was growing, when in fact it was shrinking in substance.

One hopes the MMD has now learnt it lesson. It now needs real civil society more than ever! More importantly we all need to realise that it is not good enough just creating NGOs to fight for the public, we need public voices that are informed and educated. We need quality as well as volume in our civil society.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All contributors should follow the basic principles of a productive dialogue: communicate their perspective, ask, comment, respond,and share information and knowledge, but do all this with a positive approach.

This is a friendly website. However, if you feel compelled to comment 'anonymously', you are strongly encouraged to state your location / adopt a unique nick name so that other commentators/readers do not confuse your comments with other individuals also commenting anonymously.