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“Governance and Active Citizenship”

Concept paper for the workshop organized on February 8th

Round table organized by Development and Civilisations Lebret-Irfed
World Social Forum – Dakar 2011

Date: February 8, 2011
Time: 4 – 7 PM
Place: Cheikh Anta Diop University
General Theme : 8


The multiplication of political and social crises brings to the fore, in many countries, on different levels, grave failures of democratic practice and good governance. These situations lead to difficulties in citizens’ participation or the lack of it. This issue is especially important in Africa, a continent where outside interests weigh greatly (international financial institutions, multinationals, clientelism, corruption…).

With the aim of understanding, analysing, supporting the emergence of democratic processes (meaning, rooted in the people), without which there can be no power and governance coming from “the base”, we will reflect on these questions based on three national experiences: Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, and India.

Introduction by the moderator: Claude Baehrel (France):

« The challenges of citizens’ participation and civil society – public authority relations in Africa »

Speakers:

Lily Razafimbelo (Madagascar):
« Mobilisation and organisation of civil society at times of political crisis »
What are the organisational, structural and institutional constraints that hamper effective citizens participation?
What are the opportunities, strengths and forces at work?
What are the operational challenges we need to put up?

Achille Biffumbu (Democratic Republic of Congo):
« In an environment marked by conflicts and wars, how can we address issues concerning peace, democracy, governance, development ?»
How can we work on dynamics and processes aimed at democratic values and good citizenship ?
How can we work with young people from both rural and urban areas to enable them to participate as genuine citizens in society?

L.A. Samy (India):
« The participation of marginalized people (Dalits, women…) in public governance »
How do the Dalit and women’s movements organize to conquer the local political space that should allow them to exercise their rights and active citizenship ?
How can we go beyond communal conflicts ?
What lessons can AREDS (Association for rural education and development service) draw from its 30 years of experience in organizing these groups?

An important issue raised during the discussion (but not the only one: more info later …): the term "civil society"

Achille Biffumbu, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, points at the emergence of a certain "civil society", an offshoot of political parties: this is one way to "domesticate" social movements.

L.A. Samy (India) stressed out the concept of responsibility: solidarity is not a "feeling", it is a responsibility, a commitment.

Lily Razafimbelo (Madagascar) insists: in order not to be tamed by the very people who are responsible for situations that social mobilization wants to change, we must learn to take a stand on principles of commitment and resist the lure of money and power… It is the "collective" that can guarantee that the action remains aimed at the common good and to avoid manipulation.

The Senegalese present in the workshop were specially concerned about the enlargement of what they call the "NGO intermediaries" that receive funds from the development assistance at the expense of the population, apparently forgetting that they should concentratre their efforts and means to serve the interests of these very populations.


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