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Politics of Tuesday, 3 October 2017


Liberian Ex-President calls for citizen participation in Governance

Professor Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia, on Monday called for greater citizen participation in the governance process in Africa.

He said citizen’s participation in the governance process could exact accountability, ensure transparency and encourage greater inclusion.

Prof. Sawyer made the call in a speech read on his behalf, in Accra, at a two-day United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) High Level Policy Dialogue on the future of Governance in Africa.

The dialogue was on the general theme: “The imperative for imaginational new future for Governance in Africa: challenges and opportunities thoughts towards transformational Governance”.

Prof. Sawyer said there was the need to elevate the place of citizenship in the discourse and action about governance and development, recognizing that only knowledgeable, efficacious citizens could sustain democratic governance and create development.

“In respect of this, programmes to nurture citizenship though education, and empower citizens to become valuable participants in governance processes and drivers of development must be accelerated by the government, and civil society organizations.

“Think tanks and institutions of learning must also cooperate and with the support of international partners to ensure broader participation,” he said.
Prof. Sawyer said in the quest to develop and sustain good governance, attention to deepening meaningful participation of citizens had the potential to accelerate the achievement of many of the other tenants of good governance

On elections, Prof Sawyer said: “As we adapt electoral principles and institutions appropriate for sustaining electoral democracy in Africa, “we have to remind ourselves that whilst electoral democracy is a critical component in a system of representative government, it is insufficient for attaining democratic governance; not even a properly functioning parliament”.

He said low level of technical capacity of legislative staff, inability to serve constituency need, and a culture of corruption were among challenges that continue to retard parliaments in doing their work as a co-equal branch of government with the executive.

He said strengthening staff capacity of legislative committees, so as to improve technical performances, and increasing openness of debates and voting, were often identified among the measures which could improve legislative performances.
“I believe one of the most effective measures to improve legislative performance is to increase the level of meaningful participation by constituencies with legislators and with local councils and assemblies.

“In some countries, sustaining this level and quality of engagement between legislators and constituencies might require the support to local people by civil society organizations.

“Needless to say, this is also a part of strengthening of state-society relations,” he added.

Prof Sawyer said since independence, Ghana had been a crucible for the generation of political, social and economic ideas for development in Africa.
He said Ghana had also provided leadership in conflict management and resolution in so many instances, especially here in West Africa; declaring that “Liberians know this all too well and remain deeply grateful”.

Dr Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi in her contribution, called for transparent and accountability leadership in Africa.
She explained that transparency and accountability in leadership and empowering women and girls were the three important concepts for good governance.