Introduction/ What is civil society?
One cannot imagine a democratic dispensation today without the critical role that civil society organizations play. Sometimes referred to as the “third sector”, civil society organizations emerged as non–state movements that subjected governments to scrutiny. It has since then developed also to become a collaborator in delivering development to the people.
What role do they play in the governance process?
In Ghana, for example, the civil society’s role in consideration of a return to constitutional rule cannot be forgotten. The demands of civil society for a constitutional system of government could no longer be ignored as the military regime of Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings set in motion the process for the return of the country to civilian rule.
We see the work of civil society in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in America, where through activism, the government came under pressure to abolish laws of segregation and grant Black Americans the right to vote. Civil societies, therefore play a crucial role in promoting fundamental human rights.
Civil society organizations such as think tanks contribute immensely through research to the policy directives of the government. They provide advice and make recommendations on policy initiatives, commend where necessary and offer alternative solutions.
Non–governmental organizations, in their role as civil society organizations, complement the effort of the government to deliver on the mandate of development for its citizens. They have assisted in areas ranging from education to healthcare to campaigns against climate change and gender-based violence.
A major challenge faced by Civil Society organizations is the fact that their advice and opinions are not binding on the government. For one reason or the other, the government may choose to accept or reject recommendations on a wide range of issues offered by civil society and other field experts. Also, they face problems concerning funding. Lack of funds to large extent limits civil society’s capacity in undertaking research, employing the best skills and wean itself of political interference.
Civil societies can do more to better serve the needs of society. With more capacity building and less political interference, they will be a greater force for good as a check on the government and co–partners in a nation’s governance process and development plans.