Presentation on Government/Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)
Partnerships in Monitoring Poverty/PRSP
Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki TCDD Chairperson.
The presentation began by defining the role of the Government. The
Government is the leading organ of the state with powers, mandate and legitimacy to set
policies and formulate laws, ensure law and order is maintained and followed, peace,
security, justice and human rights are observed and prevail throughout the country.
Clearly, the Government has some strengths as well as some deficiencies and weakness,
which manifest themselves in the course of implementing its mandate. These areas of
comparative weaknesses provide the basis for the emergence of civil society organisations
to complement Government efforts, which involve the provision of basic social services and
development in general. In essence, CSOs exist in order to fill up the gap left by the
Government because of its limited resources and broad priorities and mandate. CSOs also
have an advocacy role in pressurising the Government to adopt good and drop bad policies
and practices, which affect the people, economy, development and the nation as a whole. In
order for CSOs to successfully perform their advocacy function, there is the need to
promote, build and strengthen partnership with the government at the national, regional
and distinct levels. CSOs/Government partnerships is possible because:
They share similarities, as they all have the same goals i.e. to promote
sustainable development and improve the standard of living of the people.
They all serve the same people.
It is however critical for one to note that there are key differences
between the Government and CSOs. These differences arise from their relative and
comparative strengths/weaknesses. Government/CSOs partnerships are strengthened and made
more relevant precisely because of their differences. These differences include:
Cover small areas
Focus on specialized areas/fields (e.g. health provision, primary
education, HIV/AIDS etc.)
Involved in humanitarian service delivery
Work directly with the beneficiaries/affected people
Accountable to the people
Efficient, effective in service delivery Government
Cover whole country
Does something in all sectors
Government invests in sectors which NGOs and the private sector are less
likely to invest-in e.g. roads, bridges, railways, universities
Government's role limited to monitoring law and order, and other
Have the mandate over police and army and other law enforcement agents
There are certain things that the Government cannot do as well as CSOs.
CSOs have proved to be more effective in mobilising communities for poverty reduction
because CSOs have the will of the people, involve the people, and have the technical
ability to mobilise ideas and actions (even with other non grassroot Key Actors, through
lobbying and advocacy). Also NGOs persuade and influence people at the grassroots level
and work directly with the people. Because of these differences and similaries of work and
goals for promoting development and fighting poverty, Government-CSO partnership is
inevitable. However, caution needs to be taken so that this relationship remains a distant
relationship in order to maintain the autonomy of CSOs and remain as purely
non-governmental as possible. Partnerships with the government have often generated some
problems, one of which is the "arrogance" of the Government. A Government can
choose to treat recommendations from CSOs with arrogance claiming that it is a Government
that draws its legitimacy from being popularly elected and therefore representing people,
whereas CSOs are organisation with a narrow constituency base. They can therefore not
claim to speak on behalf of the people. CSOs also generate a problem known as the
"naivity" of CSOs. CSOs are na´ve enough to think that everything that CSOs do
is good, non-bureaucratic, non-corrupt and efficient. What makes CSOs think so?! These
qualities showed he earned through demonstration of evidence. Since CSO partnership with
the Government (at all levels) is inevitable CSOs must wake up and adopt strategies,
through affective lobbying and advocacy mechanisms to promote, build and sustain
collaboration with the Government especially with the district councils at the district
level and use that relationship a basis to advocate for more pro-poor expenditure
The role of the Government should be limited to a lean Government that
performs functions which are confined to areas of its comparative advantage. The
Government should focus on laying down regulatory procedures, maintain law and order,
collect tax and use the tax collected to invest in areas where the private sector does not
have the resources to invest-in (e.g. roads, airports, bridges, etc.)
We should be careful with the concept of a "lean" Government.
This is a modal advocated by the World Bank and IMF who tell us to privatise everything!
as if privatisation is an answer to everything!! They tell us to privatise but they do not
privatise critical sectors in their own countries (i.e. developed countries).
We should be careful with IMF/World Bank advice. The World Bank are
business people. I was surprised to read on their website that the World Bank is striving
for a world that is free from poverty. We question why they call their country programme
document a CAS (Country Assistance Strategy), it should be called a CLES (Country Lending
Civil society participation in what the Government is doing is
guaranteed by the constitution. There should not be the question of Government
"arrogance". If we do not claim to exercise our rights to represent the concerns
of ordinary people, then we will end up being GONGO's (Government's-Non Governmental
The question of Government's "arrogance" is critical. The
Government may ask us whom do you represent to make the claims that you are making. The
only way to strengthen our position versus those claims is to network, and be close with
one another. To promote a collective civil society bargaining position. In the north CSOs
are powerful, have a collective position on certain issues. When the Government formulates
policies in those sectors they have to consult them. Then the Government cannot say that
this is an agenda of a single NGO/person as was the case for the Women Umbrella NGO -
BAWATA, but a collective position of civil society organisations, or de facto a mirror of
the position of the very civil society that elected the Government of the day.
Although the role of the Government has changed into a "lean"
more focused Government, the people have not been made aware of these changes. They still
see the Government as a big service provider. Even civil servants at the district level do
not know that the new modal assumes that CSOs will complement the Government in a number
of key functions. As a result, when CSOs approach the Local Authorities for partnerships,
they are sometimes turned back. We need to network together so that we may co-ordinate the
process of presenting our views to the Government on a number of critical issues.
There is a general consensus that there is power in networking. TCDD is
a loose network of CSOs. It is an informal democratic forum. All CSOs are free to join and
leave the coalition as they want. Up to about 20 days ago, there was no employee of TCDD.
We are now grateful that we have secured funding for one Programme Coordinator, who is a
full time employee of TCDD. TCDD does not aim to take over the activities of individual
NGOs. If there is a specific task, it is given to a member NGO with the comparative
advantage to perform that task, and then the results of that assignment are shared to all
International NGOs have also been invited to join the Coalition as
CSOs should start lobbying the district councils so that they get
involved in decision making and work with them through representation in District
Council's Select Committees, utilising the 1982 Local Government Act whereby a provision
allows other stakeholders to participate in the business of the Councils as observers.
CSOs must show credibility of work and efficiency in order to be
accepted and recognized by the Government and to be transparent in whatever they do.
Ways should be sought to find out solutions to problems which constrain
relationships and partnerships between Government and CSOs.