5th Sudan National Discourse Forum: Communities’ Participations in Development Projects (3-3)
The role of civil society organizations in supporting communities participation in development projects was the issue of focus in the 5th Forum of the Sudan Discourse Forum on 29th July, 2012.
In a welcomed gesture the Sudanese Businessmen Union(SBU) have hosted the Forum as an indicator of the growing relationship of cooperation between the private sector and the civil society organizations (NGOs).In the first part of this article ,we review the paper presented by Ms. Amal Bushara (CDF)Community Development Fund Project and on the second part, the focus was on presentation by Ms. Abda Osman on the Butana Rural Comprehensive Development Scheme (ARCDS) . This third and last part will be on the Concept of Communities Participation in Development Projects which was presented by Dr Sumaia Elsayed.
The paper started by a brief on the historical background of the concept dating to 1986 when the United Nations declared the Right to Development as a human right, the Declaration said:” that development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefore”.
The civil society organizations in composing non-governmental organizations .community based organizations and the private sector play a crucial role in sustainable development be, so they should be given their due weight in the process. The paper went to a lot of details on this aspect of the topic.
The defined the society participation in development does not mean only those who are effectively implementing the project or only those who provides the funding or the equipments and inputs but means the active participation of the whole targeted society in the process of developing the project , the decisions and implementation. This aims to make people responsible for the project and the results on the short and long term and this participation helps people to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. But we should always bear in mind that there are different types of participations at the different stages of the project, so the formula should be flexible.
The active participation of society in development projects have many components which includes the mobilization of society to achieve certain developmental objectives and at the same time the empower the people with the tools or remove the obstacles that hinder their effective participation and this is what is called in the development literature empowering the people . The other components are the enabling social environment both at the society, national and regional level which supports the active participation of communities through comprehensive technologies. The last fourth and important component is the need to insure sustainability.
The United Nations have widened the definition of human development since 1990 which have been defined as the development of the people for the people by the people. Also, it means investment in people whether in education, health or skills, so that they can be productive and innovative and same time insure economic growth and fair distribution of the fruits of economic returns among all the population.
In addition the UNDP Human Development Reports have strived to provide the criteria for the role of the civil society starting from the 1999 Report in sustainable development. This implies the need for transparency, acceptance and respect of the differences in views and to understand and accept that there are boundaries which means that not one single human endeavor can solve all the problems or provide all the needed development. Instead the success in a certain developmental aspect can lead to receiving support to move to another stage or project.
In the society participatory developmental approach there are certain critical elements which includes the need to set clear targets for the development of the local community and the positive look to the ability of the local community to develop using local resources in ways and methods that are suitable to the local situation and to strengthen the skills and capacities needed for change. Also, not to focus only on the economic aspects of the development but take into consideration that needs of the society; and give due consideration to the local environment, culture and traditions ,in other words a holistic approach to local societies development.
But there are constraints in the participation of society in development, this can be in the form of traditions, local leaderships, degree of available confidence in the development institutions, the communications tools used to engage local communities, and the pattern of the relations within the existing institutions.
|National Discourse Forum|
There different view and concepts on the role and participation of the civil and local societies organizations in development but all agree on three essential elements ,a strong civil society organizations, to insure and stress on the value of participation and the popular grass roots participation.
The most traditional area in which civil society, community based organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been active for a very long time have in the provision of services and have reached a good standard in this respect that is acceptable by the local communities. In the area of sustainable development, the NGOs have played a very important role in strengthening the capacities and skills of the local communities in different areas including strategic development planning, formulation and implementation of development programmes and widen popular participation.
The active participation of the different types and levels of civil society organization in the processes of sustainable development faces many challenges and constraints. Some of the major constraints is the sometimes un-favorable legal frameworks and regulation that govern the work of NGOs and CBOs and which also hinder the natural development of these organizations.
In addition to the absence of transparency at the different governance level when dealing with the NGOs and CBOs ,specially in the provision of vital information as well as the lack of mechanisms for making these institutions accountable in general.
This is companied with the allocation of insufficient funds for development and not empowering adequately the civil society in projects implementation. Also, there is in general a lack of interest among the general public to participate and engage in public policies debates and decision making because these is a voluntary action of the citizens.
One advantage that have not been fully utilized and development is the traditional spirit of solidarity in the Sudanese society to cope with the modern developments in the work of NGOs and CBOs as well as the lack of the effective organizations of the existing ones.
But this in not the only internal constraints, there are many others including the lack in many of them of a developmental vision and strategies, weak implementation capacities and absence or inadequate programmes of actions.
The absence in the majority of these organizations of good and democratic governance hinders a healthy growth when compounded with non-transparency and personality cult.
Also, they suffer form un-adequate networking and coordination with each other working in the same issues, areas or fields. In addition the public mass media doesn’t focus much on the activities of the civil society organization accept in rare occasions which don’t develop their image among the public in general.
The promotion and development of the civil society organization depends in their active participation in the formulation of the developmental strategies and give them the chance to work according to their needs and plans. Also, they need to train and rise the capacity of their leadership and cadres to enable them to implement and execute the designed plans and programmes. This necessitate they use of the expertise of the more advanced organizations and find the suitable and effective mechanisms for networking and coordination with each other to utilize to the utmost their resources and capacities. Public funds should be made available to them and distributed among them in a fair manner according to the needs of each after neutral and transparent evolution of their programmes and plans. Same time insures the increase and effective participation of women at all levels in their work. The last point is that the work and activities of the civil society organizations, whether NGOs or CBOs are seldom given due attention in the official mass media .an issue that should be addressed within the framework of developmental media.
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In this article of three parts, we have tried to high-light the most important issues raised on the Forum. It was interesting to learn that the First-Vice President have instructed that necessary measures should be taken to insure that the CDF continue after the end of the MDTF role ends in June 2013.
We are in complete agreement with Dr. Sumaiya Elsayed that the official position towards the civil society organizations should be more positive and genuinely recognize their role in sustainable development but there is at the same time the urgent need for a radical internal reforms within these organizations to be more democratic and accountable to their members and to move away from the personality cult that besiege many of them. The role of the official mass media needs a radical review within the concept of the importance of their role in the promotion of sustainable development to depart from the seasonal coverage that is prevailing at the present.
One of the major constraints in the work of civil society organizations is funding and this cannot be addressed unless there is a radical approach to the issue which start with the importance of members subscription and innovative methods for generating income and not to depend completely on external funds, whether national or international .In this context there many lessons that can be learned from the experience of international NGOs.
The best end for this article is to read again together some of the Articles of the Rio+20 (Brazil 20-22 June 2012) Outcome
Art.31: We emphasize that sustainable development must be inclusive and people-centered, benefiting and involving all people, including youth and children. We recognize that gender equality and women’s empowerment are important for sustainable development and our common future. We reaffirm our commitments to ensure women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy, society and political decision making.
This should be read with Art.44: We acknowledge the role of civil society and the importance of enabling all members of civil society to be actively engaged in sustainable development .We recognize that improved participation of civil society depends upon, strengthening access to information is to ICT, building civil society capacity as well as an enabling environment. We recognize that information and communication technology (ICT) is facilitating the flow of information between governments and the public. In this regard, it is essential to work toward improved access to ICT, especially broad-band network and services, and bridge the digital divide, recognizing the contribution of international cooperation in this regard.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 12/08/2012