WINDHOEK: Civil society can empower citizens to actively influence public decision-making processes through which people can also influence their lives, and break free of the vicious circle of poverty.
The Chargé d´Affaires in the Embassy of Finland in Namibia, Anne Saloranta, said this whilst launching the ‘Guide to Civil Society in Namibia’s second edition in the capital on Thursday.
Saloranta said a well-functioning civil society can strengthen the preconditions for the development of democracy and good governance in society.
“A well-functioning civil society is firmly established on the key civil liberties such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of the press,” she added.
The importance of a well-functioning, responsible and pluralistic civil society as a cornerstone for sustainable development is also widely recognised by the international community.
The role of civil society is thus of paramount importance in attaining developmental goals, especially the reduction of extreme poverty.
Saloranta added that civil society actors are an essential and integral element of the Finnish development cooperation. Thus, support to civil society development comes out clearly in Finland’s new development policy programme.
She stressed that the basic pillars of democracy are clearly emphasised, such as an independent judiciary; freedom of expression, association and assembly; free and fair elections; a parliament and an accountable government; local government; political parties, and freedom for civil society.
The development of civil society is furthermore considered from different dimensions, such as the structure of civil society, the operating environment, values and impact.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID)’s Program Officer Naomi Kisting said the main aim of the guide is to provide an overview of the mandate and activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) in Namibia.
“This publication also aids the government as partners in development an overview of the sectors that NGOs and CSOs are covering with limited resources to their disposal,” she said.
Kisting said the publication covers 126 organizations in the area of Agriculture (three), Arts and Culture (3), children (8), disabilities (5), education (31), environment (3) Gender (8), Health (19), HIV/AIDS (31) and human rights (15).
The results show that most activities of NGOs and CSOs in Namibia cover health and education issues, and about five NGOs closed due to a shortage of funds.
“As much as we would have loved to reach out to all the civil society organisations throughout the country to record the important work that they are doing, we encountered challenges that hindered the smooth flow of data-collection, such as a slow response, which contributed to repeated follow-up correspondence,” Kisting said.
The publication was funded by the Embassy of Finland, and copies will be available at NID office.