Story By: Kwesi Coomson, Parliament
The Civil Society Organizations CSOs in Ghana, are confronted by financial constraints and are ill-prepared to meaningful contribute their quota towards the State going into the 2020 general Elections, compare to the roles they have performed in previous elections in ensuring free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in the past.
It emerged that, the financial constraint is as the result of a depletion in donor funding support for the activities of Civil Society Organizations in the country occasioned in part by the global financial hiccups associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among others.
This came to light at a forum held by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs in a dialogue with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the upcoming elections under the theme: “Civil Society Organizations and Democratic Elections: the 2020 Elections in Focus”.
Dr. Kwesi Jonah, a Fellow at the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), stated that, “In fact, as at the time I am speaking right here, the situation rooms are not up, the orientation course for the coordinators of the situation room would be held tomorrow. If you should ask me the reason, it is very simple, the [money] is not there so we have had to cut it short.”
The Ministry was compelled to engage the CSOs in the country to examine the context within which the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections would be conducted in order to offer some parameters on how Ghana can continue to consolidate her electoral democracy because of the recognition of the critical role these CSOs have played in the country’s democratic development.
Dr. Evans Aggrey Darkoh Chief Director of Ministry’of Parliamentary Affairs In his welcome address noted that, the
Civil Society Organizations have no doubt become very integral to the consolidation of democracy by virtue of their contribution to the shaping of public discourse, contribution to the drafting of policies and programmes, and generally serving as an important countervailing force against the overbearing powers of the executive and other institutions of state for purposes of good democratic governance.
The forum was also aimed at strengthening the CSOs involved in elections, to enhance the integrity of the electoral process and to improve accountability, transparency and participatory democracy in Ghana as well as examine the contribution of CSOs thus far to the electoral process.
Due to the political pedigree of the personalities leading the two main political parties into the 2020 general elections, it is envisaged that the stakes would be much higher in this contest. However, funding challenges has hampered the support of Civil Society Organizations for the process.
Dr. Kwesi Jonah, observed at the forum that demands on the CSOs to play their role as before in delivering credible and peaceful elections should be measured at this point in time because of these constraints on their activities.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, called on the Civil Society Organizations in the country to do more to secure the credibility of the 2020 elections in his keynote address.
“Sometimes I worry about the possibility of a shrinking civic space.”
In election 2020 and beyond, the impact of CSOs in political advocacy in my opinion, is reducing”
This requires that you reinvent yourselves in order to stay relevant. “I have learnt in my many years in governance, that the use of “soft power” and behind the scenes negotiations work better than open confrontation,” the Minister who also doubles as the Majority Leader urged.
Dr. Kwesi Jonah on behalf of CSOs stressed the need for the Civil Society Organizations to be understood as they are confronted with very many constraints at this particular point in time and therefore should not be expected to do what they used to do.
“I think everybody in this here would understand that CSOs in this country are very much donor dependent.
They get the fund for everything they do from international donors. And the COVID situation plus so many domestic problems of the donor countries themselves; Ghana Beyond Aide and everything have complied to reduce the inflow of financial support to Civil Society Organizations especially during this COVID era.
“We expect Civil Society Organizations to continue as in previous elections, making the same contributions that they did. If the funds are not coming, you definitely expect that there would be reduced activities of Civil Society Organizations in this particular elections,” he observed.
Dr. Kwesi Jonah indicated for instance that, the Civil Society Organization he belongs to has had to downsize the scope of their observation role for the upcoming elections for the same funding reasons.
“We have cut down substantially, the number of observers that we are going to put in the field. Now take this against the background of all the things that the Honourable Majority Leader said about Civil Society Organizations and the role they play; what Honourable Inusa Fuseini said about the role Civil Society Organizations are supposed to play, and you will see that in the present context, Civil Society may be a bit incapacitated to do all the things they were able to do in previous elections.”