Goodwill message from the Democratic Governance for Development Project Director at the Workshop on the Role of CSOs in the Formulation and Implementation of Public Policies and Programmes in a Developing Democracy

Jul 4, 2013

Speech delivered at the Protea Hotel, Abuja

It is indeed an honor for me to be with you today to address this event, which will discuss the role of CSOs in the formulation and implementation of public policies and programmes in a developing democracy. The UNDP Democratic Governance for Development (DGDII) project and its international partners – the European Union (EU), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are delighted to be associated with this workshop that will discuss the relationship between civil society and parliament, which is so important to a functioning democratic system.

Engagement between civil society and legislators represents an integral element of a vibrant, transparent and informed polity. In particular, Nigeria’s democratic experience since 1999 calls for a coherent partnership that can enhance the progress made in dealing with major challenges such as poverty, corruption, unemployment, poor infrastructure and political instability.

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development explains that “Useful partnerships can be established between governments and CSOs, in which the state provides a coherent policy framework and CSOs bring innovation and strong community links” (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 2000). This speaks to the mutual benefit both groups can gain from meaningful engagement.

At the same time, CSOs can provide a critical oversight role to the development of policy. CSOs have been instrumental in the attainment and promotion of democracy in Nigeria. They have been active in advocating for human rights, the promotion of participatory governance to ensure transparency and accountability, rendering humanitarian services and collaborating with stakeholders to facilitate democratic change. Indeed, they are the watch dogs of democracy and a political wind mill of ideas, opinions and popular aspirations in this nation.

The United Nations report on Parliamentary Engagement with the MDGs states: “Hearing from representatives of civil society increases the access of Parliamentarians to relevant and current information on important issues” (UNDP, 2010). At the same time, CSOs have much to benefit from legislators, particularly through their national scope and vision. Both parties should be encouraged to work together to enable a more effective and productive process of policy development.

Specifically, a strong linkage between CSO and legislators can: promote dialogue between legislators and their constituents, enable evidence-based policy development and initiate policy reforms.

The DGD II and our partners are committed to supporting the relationship between CSO and legislators as we recognize that it can have a significant impact on the process of deepening democracy in Nigeria. We are delighted to support this workshop, which brings together like-minded people who can establish partnerships that will ensure a framework for future collaborations. It is our hope that this meeting will also build a culture of trust and cooperation amongst the participants and set an agenda that will propel effective engagement.

I wish to pay tribute to the leadership of the House Speaker, Honorable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on CSOs and Donor Agencies, Honorable (Prof) Ini A. Udoka, for their dedication to promoting a spirit of cooperation between CSOs and legislators. In particular, we note that more effective engagement with civil society is listed as a key principle of the House of Representatives Legislative Agenda (2011-2015). It is from their lead that we have organized this meeting so that progress can be ensured and crucial issues can be discussed.

Please know that the Democratic Governance for Development project and its partners fully support this workshop and I look forward to the development of key recommendations and actions which can make a meaningful difference in improving the democratic quality of political engagement in Nigeria.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you today.

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