- Knowledge base
- Policy question
As an expert on African Politics and civil society I will concentrate on the role civil society can play contributing to inclusive development, and the aid donors direct towards civil society action to inclusive sustainable development.
How to promote inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda for trade and international cooperation?
Civil society as an open public sphere of action, offers arena for accumulating of interests and freedom of expression. This enables social organizing around specific interests, local as well as global issues, and reflects diversity within societies. Strong and viable civil society will be heterogeneous in nature; will include different kinds of organizations ( women organizations, youth organizations, students, workers and others), from different geographical locations (some based in rural areas while others in the big cities), different sizes (small community based organizations as self-help ones as well as umbrella organizations) and with different capabilities. The formal and informal networking between different organizations is highly important as it creates civic common identity. It is not national, regional, and ethnic or religious identity (as so often seen in African countries) and it was not created or influenced by the state. It is based on people participation in social activity. As compared to other identities it is more civic and therefore not alienating but unifying in nature.
Embedded in civil society is its capacity to include rather than to exclude. This civil society capability, sometimes forgotten, is its importance while asking for inclusiveness.
Civil society enhancement may offer sustainable growth in a path that is productive for vulnerable communities and disadvantaged groups. Civil society organizations as promoting different human rights issues may assist in the redistribution of services (health, education etc.). As a non- governmental way of action it is bottom to top, and more community oriented (or even grass roots organizing) than government agencies and policies. The bottom-to-top nature contributes to a more inclusive action (rather than narrow interest based action).
Accepting the role of civil society in promoting inclusive development, one may agree that civil society enhancement is highly important. Strengthening civil society can be done in different ways, but I would like to emphasize the sensitive care that must be taken into account while done by external donors (whether states or private donors). The importance of civil society lies in its social nature (bottom –to-top and community based).
External aid is needed but must not interfere in inner relations, local priorities and ways of action chosen by social organizations, as long as the local organizations are acting in an inclusive manner respecting freedom of expression, and with no human rights abuse.
This implies that foreign policy may include assistance to civil societies; financing and implementing social organizations’ capacity building (assisted by Dutch or other capacity building organizations), promoting cooperation between civil societies (within a region and across regions), assistance to create different social coalitions within societies by offering and creating the platform for cooperation.
These will aid the viability of civil society without violating its bottom to top character, and without violating the delicate interrelationships between state and society. Hence, by supporting civil society, it is possible to promote inclusiveness.
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