Civil so­ci­ety ‘oxy­gen of democ­racy’

Lesotho Times - - News - Mot­samai Mokotjo

A CALL has been made for gov­ern­ment to forge stronger links with civil so­ci­ety to en­sure Le­sotho’s so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

This was said by Le­sotho Coun­cil of non­Govern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions (LCN) Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Se­abata mot­samai, on Tues­day dur­ing a public fo­rum to com­mem­o­rate In­ter­na­tional Day of Democ­racy at a maseru ho­tel. The fo­rum was at­tended by civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and de­vel­op­ment part­ners among oth­ers.

The United na­tions (Un) Gen­eral Assem­bly re­solved to ob­serve 15 Septem­ber as the In­ter­na­tional Day of Democ­racy in 2007, with the pur­pose of pro­mot­ing and up­hold­ing prin­ci­ples of democ­racy.

Ac­cord­ing to the Un, this year’s theme, “Space for civil so­ci­ety”, was a re­minder to gov­ern­ments around the world that the hall­mark of suc­cess­ful and sta­ble democ­ra­cies is the pres­ence of a strong and freely op­er­at­ing civil so­ci­ety.

The in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion also called on gov­ern­ments and civil so­ci­ety to work to­gether “for com­mon goals for a bet­ter fu­ture, and at the same time, civil so­ci­ety helps keep gov­ern­ment ac­count­able”.

In his re­marks, mr mot­samai said civil so­ci­ety’s role was to me­di­ate be­tween the public and State to en­sure good gov­er­nance.

“We are charged with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of me­di­at­ing be­tween gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple. We need to be the coun­ter­bal­ance; that’s our man­date,” he said.

“Trust and un­der­stand­ing can only ex­ist in a na­tion if there is tol­er­ance and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween civil so­ci­ety, gov­ern­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.”

mr mot­samai said Le­sotho’s con­sti­tu­tion was un­equiv­o­cal in sec­tions 20 and 16 by en­shrin­ing the right to par­tic­i­pate in gov­ern­ment and free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion re­spec­tively, hence the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of civil so­ci­ety.

“Civil so­ci­ety is the oxy­gen of democ­racy. Where gov­ern­ment stops, civil so­ci­ety starts the jour­ney,” he added.

In his re­marks, Euro­pean Union (EU) Head of Co­op­er­a­tion, Theo Kaspers, said as civil so­ci­ety lob­bies for trans­parency and good gov­er­nance from the author­i­ties, the same should ap­ply within their own or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“Civil so­ci­ety’s role is to cri­tique gov­ern­ment and it is ac­cepted in Le­sotho. We are rel­a­tively for­tu­nate in Le­sotho that there’s space,” said mr Kaspers.

“As civil so­ci­ety, you need to be trans­par­ent and ac­count­able. As the EU del­e­ga­tion in Le­sotho, we will con­tinue in­vest­ing in the sec­tor be­cause it plays an im­por­tant role in ca­pac­ity-build­ing pro­grammes.”

On his part, min­istry of De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Act­ing Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Te­boho mokela, said gov­ern­ment had em­braced non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and clearly un­der­stood their role.

“We have to work in part­ner­ship. Gov­ern­ment will al­ways be there, but there will also be space for civil so­ci­ety to op­er­ate. That is why the pri­vate sec­tor, gov­ern­ment and civil so­ci­ety need to work to­gether,” mr mokela said.

In his mes­sage to mark the day, Un Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Ban Ki-moon, said civil so­ci­ety must be given the space to carry-out its vi­tal func­tions.

The com­mu­niqué, read by Gov­er­nance Spe­cial­ist at the United na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, Thabo mosoe­un­yane, said: “Civil so­ci­ety is the oxy­gen of democ­racy. We see this clearly in the world’s most vi­brant and sta­ble democ­ra­cies, where gov­ern­ment and civil so­ci­ety work to­gether for com­mon goals.

“Civil so­ci­ety acts as a cat­a­lyst for so­cial progress and eco­nomic growth. It plays a crit­i­cal role in keep­ing Gov­ern­ment ac­count­able, and helps rep­re­sent the di­verse in­ter­ests of the pop­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing its most vul­ner­a­ble groups.”

Min­istry of Plan­ning Act­ing Ps te­boho Mokela.

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