The Majority Leader, Mr. Osei-Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has urged Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in Ghana’s 2020 general elections and beyond.
He said the role of CSOs in the use of “soft power” and dialogue in promoting tolerance within and among political parties could not be overemphasized.
“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,” he said, as he registered regret that “the impact of CSOs in political advocacy in civic space is shrinking.”
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, therefore, urged the CSOs to reinvent themselves in order to stay relevant in efforts to grow Ghana’s fledgling democracy.
Describing himself as a keen supporter of civil society, the Majority Leader said CSO activities were necessary parts of the governance system, which acted as a feedback loop between government and the citizenry.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said this at a forum organized by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for Civil Society Organisations in Accra.
The meeting, on the theme: “CSOs and Democratic Elections in Ghana: The 2020 Elections in Focus,” was to help deepen democratic governance and strengthen CSO’s involvement in the 2020 general election.
He said CSO’s advocacy had been more upwards towards the government than downwards to the governed and called for strenuous efforts to be made to correct the trend.
He also called on them to advocate for support systems for members of parliament to enhance respect for the institution.
Parliament, the Majority Leader noted, became the first casualty anytime there was an overthrow of the Constitution, and despite the Fourth Republic having sustained Parliament, members were vilified at the least opportunity.
“We have practiced this for 28 years and Parliament, the Executive, Judiciary, Civil Society, Academia among others have all observed the inadequacies in the Constitution,” Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said, adding that its review could be done by building on the work of the Constitution Review Commission and bring it to conclusion through a Consultative Assembly.
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, the Ranking Member on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, representing Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, urged CSOs to ensure tight scrutiny of public office holders in the performance of their functions.
He said where they had reasons to suspect that public resources were not being used for the ultimate benefit of the people, they had a duty to hold such officeholders accountable.
“As public servants, we serve the public. We’re paid from the purse of the public. All of us as public servants ought and must come under your tight scrutiny for the performance of our functions as public officers,” he said.
Professor Kwesi Jonah, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance, said the Covid-19 had affected funding sources to CSOs, causing a decline in funds they receive for their activities.
“If the funds are not coming, we’ll expect that there’ll be reduced activity of the CSOs during this election,” Prof Jonah said.
The meeting was also to enhance the integrity of the electoral process and improve accountability, transparency, and participatory democracy in Ghana.