The Role of Civil Society in the

Topics: Democracy, Civil society, Human rights Pages: 8 (2609 words) Published: November 25, 2012

One of the approaches to democratization is the fostering of civil society organizations. Botswana`s civil society organizations have a role to play in the country’s democratization process. As stated by Maundeni (2005) the argument is that the non-partisan character of Botswana’s civic organisations has not prevented them from participating actively in democratising the public space. In fact civil society has been portrayed as the prime catalyst for promoting democratisation process in developing countries, Africa in particular. This paper attempts to examine the above assertion in Botswana and posits the roles and contributions of civil society to democratisation process.

The issue of defining what constitutes Civil Society is very controversial; it is defined in various ways. Indeed, the use of these terms in many instances depends on place and time, country and the existing legal framework for registering civil society organizations. Other factors include membership, mission, and form of organization and levels of operation. The World Bank defines civil society/NGOs as: “An association, society, foundation, charitable trust, non-profit corporation, or other juridical person that is not regarded under the particular legal system as part of the governmental sector and that is not operated for profit — viz., if any profits are earned, they are not and cannot be distributed as such. It does not include trade unions, political parties, profit-distributing cooperatives, or churches.” According to the Commission of European Communities “Civil society includes the following groups: trade unions and employers’ organizations (social partners); organizations representing social and economic players which are not social partners in the strict sense of the term… non-governmental organizations which bring people together in common cause, such as environmental organizations, human rights organizations, charities, professional associations, grass roots organizations; organizations that involve citizens in local and municipal life with a particular contribution from churches and religious communities. At one level, civil society can be described as all organized activity not associated with major institutional systems: government and administration, education and health delivery, business and industry, security and organized religion. They include religious/faith based organizations, cooperatives, trade unions, academic institutions, community and youth groups (Judge 1996).Civil societies are therefore created in the public interests and can do things which neither of the other national development actors-the government and the corporate sector-can do on their own. Civil societies would have as their main objective the improvement in the lives of the poorest and disadvantaged. This is where there is a role for the state: Harriss & de Rienzo (1997) suggest that the role played by civil society organizations will depend on the wider political setting, and on ways in which inequalities of power and resources are dealt with in the economic and political arena.

The word is derived from the Greek word demos, which mean people rule. It can be defined as a system where the authority has its legitimacy in the will of what the people have expressed. Democracy at the same time puts demands on how the people’s will should come to expression. Two principles should apply political equality and principles of freedom. The first principle defines political citizenship and focuses on who should be involved in the political process. The second principle concerns freedoms of all kinds of political opinions that may be expressed during the political process. Democratic government aspires to serve under "the people" rather than ruling over them. Implementing some form of a voting...
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