Civil Society Organizations and Government Relationship in Ghana: What Is the Way Forward?

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The tenet of good governance anywhere in the world is to ensure good quality livelihood for the citizenry. It is for this reason that constitutions revolve on the power of ‘WE THE PEOPLE’. The people give power to organized few, herein, political leadership to execute the developmental strategies on behalf of the people. This is the basis for good governance: a mutual relationship between the PEOPLE and political leadership.

In this part of the world where the average citizen is very much afraid of victimization, the voices of citizens are usually silent. The only way to criticize and proffer solutions to complement government’s efforts is through a well-organized structure which ideally should be non-profiting: civil society organization (CSO). In the context of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, “CSOs are non-state, not-for-profit, voluntary entities formed by people in the social sphere that are separate from the State and the market. CSOs represent a wide range of interests and ties. They can include community-based organizations as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs)”.

It is the responsibility of government to listen to the criticisms and alternative ideas from the people. It is very true that CSOs, may not know it all, likewise the government—having power doesn’t make humans supermen. This is not to say CSOs must also always have their ways. The UN recognizes the role of CSOs in good governance, in the 2000 reform document titled, “We the Peoples-The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century”. Commissioned by the late Secretary General, Kofi Annan. 

Pope Francis, the Romanus Pontifex of the Roman Catholic Church, puts it in a better form, “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good”. Unfortunately, because of the mistrust people have in both institutions (government and CSOs), it is difficult to come to a common understanding on issues of good governance.

Over the past 25 years of Ghana’s democracy, corrupt deals from government have made it increasing difficult to trust any international agreement or transaction executed on behalf of the people. Additionally, mushrooming of politically-motivated CSOs, are seen to be very active, mostly when their political parties are in opposition, pushing the agenda of minority parties. The political leaders know this fact, and will therefore think CSOs are all the same, thus they are anti-governments. These politically-motivated CSOs go moribund, and their leaders are mostly appointed into government when their politically-affiliated parties win power. The sad reality is that those in government know how most of the CSOs function—political influence, because they have done same before. CSOs must remain firm and resolute. They must operate on conscience always. This will command respect from the people they represent. Some CSOs are living to the mentioned principles. Governments must also improve on transparency and accountability principles of good governance—making unclassified information available to all stakeholders in the governance structure. Government and CSO communication should be a two-way process with respect and not arrogance. 

This article was written by Haruna Gado Yakubu. He is a Research Fellow at CEBSAR-AFRICA and a PhD Student at Szent (St.) Istvan University, Kaposvar Campus, Hungary.


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