December 9, 2007 (ABYEI) — Civil society representatives met in a conference organised by the US based Mercy Corps in Abyei last week to discuss the need for advocacy in the democratic process. In the country
- People from across southern Sudan and the Three Areas had a chance to
exchange opinions on advocacy during the conference.
(Photo: Rodrigo Ordóñez/Mercy Corp)
More than 250 representatives of civil society groups hailing from regions across southern Sudan and the Abyei area, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, participated in a meeting in Abyei to discuss the role of advocacy in democratic process.
Participants showed a strong interest in advocacy, which in many cases was a new concept for them. The trainings and debates revealed the participant’s belief that the role of citizens in a democracy is not just confined to casting their ballot, but they should be actively engaged, particularly when the government fails to deliver essential services.
Supported with funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), this conference was organized by Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
People attending the conference were particularly vocal about corruption and lack of transparency. “On the budget, do as you say, do not put it in your pocket,” said Gabriel Malish, Project Manager of Mother Action to Assist Widows (MAAW), an organization based in Yei.
Mayen Gabriel Monychok, a member of Saint Bakhita Women’s Association, an organization from Ruweng, Unity State, reminded government accountability does not only refer to money. “Government should only make promises on things that they are sure they can deliver,” he explained.
Chris Johnson, head of the United Nations mission (UNMIS) in Abyei, hailed the meeting underlined the vital role of civil society in the building of democratic governance.
Participants agreed that civil society organizations know best the needs and demands on the ground, so they are well placed to offer consultation when the government considers new laws and budgets.
The discussion on the role of the media was the liveliest. “If someone in the government is stealing public money, how many of you would want to know? Do you think the government media would report that?” asked Edward Terso, Senior Information and Advocacy Officer of the Southern Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics and Evaluation.
The diversity of the participants offered an unrivaled opportunity to assess the level of understanding of the democratic process across southern Sudan and the three transitional areas, said Mercy Corps.
Representatives from the southern Sudan commission for census shared information about the upcoming census and the many challenges they must overcome. Also another training session reinforced the awareness of participants on citizens’ rights and obligations.
This was the fourth in a series of six Regional Civil Society Exchange Conferences, organized twice a year by the USAID-funded Localizing Institutional Capacity in Sudan (LINCS) program. Through this program, Mercy Corps works to foster a healthy and active civil society in Sudan, by supporting 70 partner civil society organizations working in the local communities across 6 regions and 15 counties.