The conference discussed building financial resources for civil society groups.
Funding for Civil Society Organisations in West Africa is on the decline and is affecting the capacity of the groups to impact positively on the society, Aicha Bah Diallo, the Chair of the Conference by West African Civil Society Institute, WACSI, has said.
Ms. Diallo said this at a conference of the Institute in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on Monday, to reflect upon building financial resources for accelerating positive change in West Africa. She described various ways that civil society groups had impacted positively on West African society.
The Executive Director of WACSI, Nana Afidzinu, also lamented the declining resources available for civil society activities.
In his keynote address to the Conference, Abdul Tejan Cole, the Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa affirmed the existence of a vigorous civil society in the region, which is independent, non-partisan, and doing good work for various constituencies; and promoting the rights and welfare of ordinary citizens.
He however pointed out that not all who speak in the name of civil society are genuine actors. He also argued that many of the actors in civil society do not have the capacity to deliver on their mandate and will fall by the wayside.
M. Cole warned development partners to stop trying to take over the work of civil society and pleaded for an atmosphere in which genuine actors have the room to operate and their capacity is developed for more effective action.
The Open Society head applauded the good work being done by WACSI which had trained 1,600 activists since 2007.
Participants at the conference also pointed out that civil society must keep to the highest standards of behaviour. One example raised was that of executive directors of civil society organisations seeing themselves as permanent staff and owners of their organisations while they call on presidents seeking third terms in office to desist from thinking they are indispensable.
A weakness of civil society that was pointed out was the low emphasis placed on recording and narrating their successes thereby under-selling their own achievements. Related to this is limited documentation of knowledge produced through civil society activism thus depriving the wider society of comparative approaches that could be used to solve problems.
Beneficiaries of WACSI capacity building porogrammes also narrated how the programmes had helped them to be able to improve the life of citizens of their countries.
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