State Civil Society Relationship Social Work Essay
Disclaimer: This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.
The concept of civil society remains elusive, complex and contested. There are different meanings and interpretations and, over time, different schools of thought have influenced theoretical debates and empirical research. Civil society is conceived to be an arena of un-coerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. As a public sphere where citizens and voluntary organizations freely engage, it is distinct from the state, family and the market. From the above conceptions of civil society, they can therefore be considered as the wide array of non-governmental and non-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, science, religious or philanthropic considerations (World Bank 2006, Kaldor 2003, Carothers 2000).
The concept has its origin from the Greek philosophy though some scholars consent that its origin dates back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Kaldor 2003, John et al., 1999) Civil society also has been centrally linked to the contemporary status of democracy and change in the world. It has been presented as the beacon of freedom, the fountain for the protection of civil rights and of resistance against state repression, the mobilizing platform of society for the protection and projection of substantive interests, the compelling force for state moderation and the epitome of popular struggles and civil power has been a central force in political and economic reforms. The activities and even proliferation of civil groups have been seen by several scholars as vital to the democratization process and its sustenance.
Donor discourse on international development policy now places much emphasis on civil society than in the past. Therefore it would be worthy to note that in practical sense, the boundaries between state, civil society and even market can hardly be defined or drawn (Kane, 2001, Camarrof, 1999, John et al., 1999, Salamon and Anheier 1996). Hyden (1995) further clarifies on the concept by emphasizing that there are variables that determine civil society, these include: basis of social action, nature of state action, nature of political legacy and nature of inter-cultural relations. But above all these, from myriad studies conducted, it is clear that the middle class has on large extent paved the way for civil society especially in fostering democracy.
The purpose of this research is to understand reality of civil society in Uganda in relation to the theoretical concept of civil society and to go deep to understand the bilateral functions of civil society in Uganda. This study may be of great use to the policy makers, civil society actors, legislators and researchers who might be more enlightened about civil society in Uganda. In doing so the study will be contributing to the board of knowledge about civil society in Uganda.
This thesis will be organized as follows; the subsequent chapter (two) will present methodology used in this study. Chapter three will present conceptual framework. This will include definitions and the concept of civil society that I consider to be crucial for this study. Chapter four will be about civil society reality in Uganda. Chapter five will be about data presentation and analysis.
1.3 Problem Statement
The past two decades have witnessed a proliferation of civil society organisations and they have made big strides towards improving the interplay between political and economic systems and thus have ensured democratic, participatory and decision making in society (World Bank 2006). NORAD (2003), UN-RISD (2005) present state, private sector and civil society as three separate arenas of development that operate independently from each other. Civil society has been well acknowledged as an important third sector whose strengths have positively influenced state and market and it is an important agent for promoting transparency, responsibility, accountability and openness. Civil society model recognizes functions that are believed to be universally applied in all societies and according to Edwards 2004, World Bank 2003, SIDA 2005, the core functions of civil society include: to protect the citizens' lives, property and freedoms; monitoring activities of state, central powers and state apparatus; advocacy through articulation of interests of the citizens; socialization through practicing values and attitudes of democracy; intermediation and facilitation between state and citizens; building communities through voluntary interactions that build a bond between members of the society and service delivery in social service sector.
Despite its increased importance and value, civil society in developing world has lingered behind and somewhat not understood. In Uganda, the basic descriptive information about civil society, its size, area of activity, sources of revenue and the policy framework in which it operates seem not to be available in an organized way. There seems to be domination of state and market while civil society structures are superficial and are shadows of the ideal model of civil society (Salamon, Sokolowski and Associates, 2003). Moreover, civil society tend to play a supportive role rather than confrontational or conscious raising roles. A report by NORAD (2002) indicates that the involvement of civil society in policy processes is cosmetic with limited impacts in Ugandan society.
Therefore the actual situation about civil society in Uganda seems not to be according to ideal model of civil society in western societies. The point of departure in this study is to investigate and compare civil society reality in Uganda to the ideal concept of civil society in developed, modern and democratic societies while also trying to understand why the bilateral function of civil society in Uganda seem not to work properly. The purpose of the study therefore, is to investigate, understand and eliminate this discrepancy and comprehend the bilateral functioning of the civil society in Uganda with subsequent benefits derived from it.
The general aim of the study is to investigate the reality of civil society in Uganda in relation to the general concept of civil society. There are a number of specific objectives, these include:
- To identify major areas of operation by civil society in Uganda.
- To identify the major actors of civil society in Uganda.
- To identify functions of civil society
- To find out factors that influence State-CSOs relationship in area of advocacy.
- To determine whether the Western models of CSOs are applicable in Uganda.
- How applicable is the western model of civil society in Uganda's context?
- How is the relationship between state and CSOs in Uganda?
- In what areas of operation are CSOs active in Uganda?
- Who are the major actors of civil society in Uganda?
- What are the factors that influence the relationship between state and civil society in policy advocacy in Uganda?
- What are the functions of civil society in Uganda
1.5 Research Frontier
The thesis aims at filling an apparent gap that exists since most studies have primarily focused on other areas of civil society like the relationship with political parties, civil society in conflict resolution and in poverty alleviation but little has been written on the civil society reality in Uganda with reference to the model concept of civil society.
1.6 Significance of the study
The study will contribute to the board of knowledge. It will be used as a literature for the future studies related to civil society and state in Uganda.
The study findings can also be used to harmonize the relationship between state and civil society so that they can work for the benefit of citizens in the country.
This thesis will consist of 6 chapters. Chapter 1 will be about Introduction of the study. Chapter 2 will include conceptual framework while Chapter 3 will be about Literature review. Chapter 4 will consist of Methodology and chapter 5 will be on Data analysis and results. The last Chapter 6 will consist of Conclusions and Recommendations.
2.0 Methodology of the Study
This chapter is about the methods that have been used in this study and explains the approaches that will be used in order to understand civil society reality in Uganda in relation to the model of the concept in the western democratic societies.
This is a qualitative study primarily based on desk research of available documentations about civil society as well as few interviews from the civil society actors in Uganda. The method used for this study has some advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages include: it saves time that would otherwise have been spent on collecting data. It provided a broad data base more than what one can collect. Secondary data also provided the basis for comparisons of the information about civil society in Uganda with the model concept of civil society in the western societies. Lastly, the author did not worry about the informed consent and human subject restrictions and the method is relatively cheap.
Much as the benefits of secondary sources are considerable, their disadvantages are also identified. There was likelihood of having outdated data. The author had no control over how the data was collected. There may be biases in the data that was already collected by researchers.
In order to ensure reliability and validity of the study, many comparisons between the data were made. This involved checking other sources such as other references and information from highly regarded sites on the internet for instance from World Bank, donor agencies, universities among others. The information used was in line with what was collected from other sources. The information is also reliable in a way that it was collected from government documents and other sites mentioned above. The information was valid since the findings relate to the issues and aim of the study.
2.2 Type of study-Case study
A case of Uganda will be used. Goerge and Bennet 2005:18 define case study “as well-defined aspect of a historical episode that an investigator selects for analysis, rather than a historical event itself”. Case study is one of the several methods used in conducting studies in the area of social science, psychology, political science and it has the following advantages:
It will be used in this study because of its high possibility or ability to achieve high conceptual validity. In other words, the researcher is able to compare, measure and identify which indicators best correspond to the concept. It has also been chosen because it helps to understand a variety of intervening variables and makes it possible to single out conditions in a case that trigger out causal mechanisms. However, case study method has a weakness of selection bias. In other words, there is a possibility of overstating or understating the relationship between independent and dependent variables (ibid)
2.3 Data collection
The nature of the study requires drawing lessons from multiple sources. Therefore, in undertaking this, it is proposed that a wide range of data collection methods should be used, both primary and secondary sources of data. The methods will capture qualitative data. The method will provide flexibility in data collection through triangulation of different research methods. This approach will also assist in cross checking information.
2.4 Primary Sources of Data
Different stakeholders will be targeted since they are able to provide valuable insights on various issues of the interest of the study. Among the specific methods that will be used to collect primary data will include:
Semi-structured interviews will be used with key informants in Uganda such as Civil Society actors. Interviews in this regards will be very helpful as they will deal with more detailed perceptions and experiences. The researcher intends to have deep and rich interaction with key informants in order to understand various issues pertaining to the various opportunities and challenges that Civil Society Organizations face. In all cases, confidentiality of sources of information will be ensured to allow for discussion of more sensitive issues.
2.5 Secondary Sources of Data
Relevant literature pertaining to issues under investigation will be collected from the various sources including government documents about CSO and official reports from various sources, including published books, journals, and other relevant materials will be consulted. Internet resources shall also be used to access relevant information as well.
Combining various methods of collecting data will enrich the whole study as each method of collecting data will capture a specific angle of the issue in consideration. Furthermore, different methods tend to have weaknesses when used in isolation, so combining various approaches will enhance chances of getting more reliable information upon which inferences will be drawn.
2.6 Sampling procedure
A non probability sampling strategy will be used, that is, Purposive sampling. This type of sampling will be used because it is helpful in targeting and getting views from those people who are perceived to be well vested with issues of civil society and policy advocacy in particular.
2.7 Data Analysis
Qualitative data from semi-structured interviews will be analyzed using qualitative techniques such as thematic analysis. This will be used because it is highly inductive and will help in understanding more about civil society in Uganda. Another advantage is that the researcher does not impose themes but rather themes are generated from the data.
2.8 Secondary and content analysis
Secondary analyses in this case regard to the studies that are taken from historical data as well as informational materials that exist beforehand but analyzed by other researchers which can be used as sources for new research or study under investigation (Goerge and Bennet, 2005). This will be used in this study on civil society in Uganda in relation to the model of concept of civil society in developed world.
2.9 Content analysis
This is another approach if used properly enables research problems to be identified both qualitatively and quantitatively. Three basic requirements used in this method include. First, the author should be objective, in other words he/she should not follow their instincts or the way they see materials but should follow an objective approach of representing the materials. In this study this will be followed and done. Second, is the exclusion and inclusion of the content. This implies that the author in some cases has to include or exclude some contents much as it can be useful or useless for the study (Mikkelsen, 2005). This has also been applied in this study in order to ensure coherence.
2.10 Materials used
Materials used in this study were obtained from already published books, articles and journals. Additional materials were obtained through the internet via various data bases that include: ELIN, LIBRIS, Google scholar. Official government websites were also used as well as other reputable sources like official website of the United Nations, World Bank, academic institutions and think tank organisations were also used.
Other relevant information about civil society in Uganda was obtained from the news paper publications of The New Vision, The Daily Monitor and The Weekly Observer and bulletins from civil society organisations in Uganda.
2.10.1 Evaluation of the sources
When dealing with sources which normally present different views from different authors, it is important to remain unbiased while using them as the source of information for the study but students normally find it very difficult to deal with. In order to evaluate the sources this study will base on the set of methodological rules of simultaneity, genuineness, independence and tendency.
2.11 Previous Studies on Civil Society
Several studies have been conducted and many authors have written a lot about civil society. Kaldor Mary (2003) a school professor on Global civil society at London School of Economics in her article “Civil Society and Accountability” highlights the issue of trusting civil society groups in regard to giving the voice to the marginalized. She further sheds more light about moral accountability and procedural accountability referring civil society groups being accountable to the people they serve and accountability as internal management respectively. She finally elaborates on difference between Non-Governmental Organisations and civil society by indicating that the former is a subset of the latter.
John Keane, a re-known scholar and a Professor of Politics at the Center for Study of Democracy, university of Westminister. He has published many books and articles on civil society, democracy and politics. He has collected myriad samples about what writers have produced on the subject of civil society especially writers in Europe. In one of his books “Civil Society and the State, New European perspective”. He clarifies on distinction between state and non-state realm of civil society. He further coins out why the distinction which was important in the first half of nineteen century but later lost trace (Keane, 1988).
Hyden Göran a professor of political science at the University of Florida. He has published a lot on governance, politics and civil society. In one of his books “Assisting the growth of civil society. How might it be improved?” he analyses various literatures on civil society and supports the idea that civil society is an important tool that has been directed at promoting democracy in societies which are under dictatorial regimes. He further points out that in many cases external support is meant to complement the efforts of transition from despotic rule, but rather, the strengths of civil society depend on the domestic social forces of a certain country (Hyden, 1995).
A study conducted by World Bank, (2006) elaborates that increase in conflicts in 1990s contributed to a focus on civil society as key actors in peace building initiatives and hugely contributed to massive increase of civil society sector. The study also points out that the presence of civil society does not simply result to peace building, but rather, proper understanding and analysis of civil society functions, validity, scope and content are paramount to peace building initiatives.
Conceptual Framework of Civil Society
3.1 Defining Civil Society
Different scholars define civil society differently. Some scholars define it broadly while others define it in specific or narrow terms. For instance Carothers (2000), Kaldor (2003) define it in specific terms as “a domain parallel to but separate from the state realm where citizens associate according to their own interests and wishes” (Carothers, 2000:1) and Kaldor, (2003) defines it as an associational sphere between state and family aggregated by organisations which are detached from the state and they are formed by society members voluntarily to guard and preserve their values and interests. From the above definitions, there is a common thread in which all authors depict civil society as autonomous from state and market. Further, there seems to be a consensus among the definitions on the term civil society signifying that it is an arena or sphere made up of different or a collection of groups amalgamated together with the a common shared purpose, values or interests. Is this amalgamation of different groups harmonious? It seemly unlikely to have a harmonious relationship between these groups because they have different interests, values and their social fabric is totally different. Therefore to belong to one sphere or dome and have same reasoning, tolerance among each other and advance one goal as civil society sector might remain a myth not a reality.
However, some scholars define civil society broadly to mean that it goes beyond being an arena between state and family. For instance Centre for Civil Society goes further to mean that civil society does not only mean a sphere outside state and market but even its boundaries in between them can never be drawn and therefore very ambiguous and Shauder et al., (2003) portray it as an all-inclusive term often used to mean social structures and interests further than household and outside the state institutions, including voluntary associations and non-profit organizations where people mingle for their collective interests. It would be argued that by making civil society all-inclusive like what Shauder et al argues above, renders it more ambiguous because like it was earlier argued, merging different groups of different backgrounds clearly makes civil society mysterious concept.
There is another category of scholars who define civil society in a broad way for instance Cohen and Arato (1992), Michael and Edwards (1996:1) look at civil society as not only a sphere of charitable links and informal networks in which groups and individuals come together to participate in activities of public importance but also is a realm of private voluntary association, from neighbourhood committees to interest groups and philanthropic enterprises of all sorts.
According to the definitions above, civil society is consented as a set of voluntary and not-for-profits associations sharing same interests. This is not far from what has been defined by afore mentioned authors but the difference here is that Shauder et al broaden the definition to imply that civil society goes beyond household and state while Cohen and Arato include an aspect of “charitable links” and “informal networks” to the definition, to some scholars it is a mixture of formal and informal and perhaps that why its boundaries are unclear. These links and networks as commonly known are horizontal linkages/networks and vertical linkages, that is, a connection of groups in a same category and connection of groups in different categories respectively. These different points of view clearly depict the term civil society to be an imperceptible concept which many social scientist have come up to conclude that it has no universal definition and therefore difficult explain due to its vagueness.
It becomes different from what Parnini (2006:4) defines it as the “totality of groups and individuals in a country who show a regular concern for the social and political affairs in that country without fulfilling the function of political parties”. Closely related, in his writing, Hyden, (1995:3) defines civil society as “the political realm, specifically the means and processes through which citizens shape the character of political life in their country”.
All the definitions above portray civil society as a sphere made up of myriad individual groups and associations, but other scholars like Hyden bring in an aspect to show that civil society is a ‘political realm' which becomes quite different from what other scholars or authors who believe that civil society is rather public or social realm. This sparks further debates; hence the term has become a centre of both political and academic discourses all over the world. It becomes an elusive term because what Parnini explains above signify that civil society cares more about what government should do to suit the interests of citizens but does not play the role of political parties, yet to some scholars, political parties are part of civil society and if anything there are some civil society actors which play the same roles as political parties; a case in point is the role of mobilizing citizenry. This role is played by actors like church, community based organisations or even non-governmental organisations.
The working definition for this study is thatcivil society is an amalgamation of both human and associational activities that operate in a non-restrictive, open to everyone sphere without involvement of the state and market. It is a dome where people express their interests and ambitions but with pull factors based on common goal, values and customs.
3.2 The Evolution of Civil Society concept
The contemporary term ‘civil society' has its origins in the early modern period in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, Kaldor (2003), points out that the term has its origin from Greek political philosophy. This is not far from what John and Comaroff (1999) noted that the term became prominent in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the period of modern European state formation, when it was used and explained by Ferguson, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Tocqueville. It is further argued that apart from being used by Gramsci, however, it did not thereafter dominate western political theory until recently (ibid). Kaldor (2003) further indicates that it has been narrowed in 20th century into forms of social contacts that are separate from both the state and market.
There is a commonality in which different authors above perceive the genesis of civil society. This implies that the concept itself was in existence though dormant before seventeen and eighteen centuries but civil society activism became prominent at a point in Europe when most societies sought to have a modern state. Thus modern state formation phenomenon in Europe was envisaged to have a civil society which would play an important supportive role in fostering democracy as part of the means of transforming societies from authoritarian rule. What should be known at this point is that civil society was brought in as one of the ingredients for democracy just as Hyden (1995) clarifies that civil society was a vital step towards the direction or realization of modern and democratic society.
The most recent usage the concept of civil society has been distinguished into three versions: the ‘activist' version which emerged in 1970s and 1980s especially in Latin America and Eastern Europe which referred to the idea of a area outside political parties where individuals and groups aimed to democratize the state, to restructure power, rather than to capture authority in a traditional sense (Kaldor 2003). It is imperative to note that different versions were perceived differently by different scholars. In the first version (activist), the situation in Latin America and Eastern Europe compelled the need for civil society because there were military dictatorial regimes and totalitarian communist rule respectively. It seems the term was dubbed ‘activist' because it was quiet hard for the common people to change governments in these regions, so what people did was to devise means of removing the government through formation of active groups independent of state which would change the relationship between state and societies (ibid)
The ‘neo-liberal' version which Salamon and Anheier (1996) argue, is connected with views of ‘third sector' or ‘non-profit' sector that was developed in the United States where there are groups or associations that were not controlled by the state or even the market, but were important with potential of facilitating the operation of both. It is argued that this version was taken up by Western donors in the early 1990s because CSOs were needed to mitigate against the shocks associated with Structural Adjustment Programmes, to provide social safety net and foster good governance. It should be remembered that when SAPs were introduced by Bretton Woods institutions, governments were forced to cut on spending on public services, in so doing, civil society was to come in and bridge that gap as well as help in fostering good governance.
In comparison with the first or ‘activist' version, it is observed that in the neo-liberal version came with the element of minimizing the role of state by checking the abuses and practices of the state just like what Kaldor had earlier alone argued, this version is linked with the ideas of social capital and trust of Robert Putman and Francis Fukuyama respectively. This differs from the first version of ‘activist' in Latin America which mainly hinges on conscientization of the poor and breaking the culture of silence the ideas of Gramsci and the inspiration of liberation theory. The overall difference between these two versions seems to be that neo-liberal version has an element of endorsing the western way of governance just as Salamon and Anheier had earlier indicated that it was developed in United States; while the activist version aims at emancipation and enhancement of human rights and justice but both have a commonality of being western-driven.
The above versions are in contrast with the third version of civil society ‘the post modern' which asserts that the ‘activist' and ‘neo-liberal' versions are a Western discourse. Post-modern version criticizes activist and neo-liberal versions because there is exclusion of civil society actors like religious groupings and organisations which are based on kinship, they are sidelined and considered as traditional, that is why John and Comarrof (1999) clarify on this by arguing that there should not be ‘good westernized civil society and bad traditional un-civil society. Therefore, here, we should ask ourselves, is there bad and good civil society? The answer is no and yes, but in order to be rational, the definition should include all the categories mentioned in the activist version (social movements), neo-liberal version (third sector) and post-modern version (traditional and religious groups).
The western concept of civil society has largely strayed from its original meaning and role where NGOs are considered as the same as civil society. The terms ‘civil society', ‘NGOs' and the ‘non-profit sector' have been regarded as the same by western donors since the early 1990s (Parnini, 2006:4). However, it can be argued that a full understanding of civil society has more than what NGOs does because civil society is a public sphere where non-state actors are mingled together. It has to include social movements that promote emancipation of poor and excluded, it has to include social organisations that protect and promote the interests of members, and it has to include nationalist and religious groups that foster empowerment of national and religious groups respectively. Therefore, it is rather a combination of all these actors that a coherent and robust collection can act together in order to bring transformation in society.
Nevertheless, Kane (2001) observes, civil society can be fostered through taking part in participatory activities ‘through grassroots organisations, through setting up meeting points like coffee houses, clubs and voluntary associations; through increased public contacts - in the framework of open lectures, recreational centers, and museums; by means of communication - written and electronic that empower and validate the citizens' sense of autonomy from the logic of regulation by the state. Therefore, understanding this process as Parnini, (2006) argues, the concept of civil society can be functional and strengthened, with the main aim of enhancing the relationship between citizens and the state, the formulation and execution of public policy and the institutional setting of the society.
It should be argued that enhancing the relationship between state and civil society cannot be achieved in a fortnight; it takes time, requires patience, hardworking and committed members with inspiring leaders. We remain hopeful that perhaps it can work out, but in reality it is not easy, not even in most developed and democratic countries. From time to time, it has been witnessed where state is collaborating with civil society in many areas especially in service delivery for instance in provision of health services, education among many others from the time IMF and World Bank introduced SAPs because civil society has since then provided safety net and absorbed the shock that emanated. However, this relationship becomes strained from the moment civil society organisations try to step in areas advocacy especially when they start to claim for political space, though it varies from country to country . The state becomes curious about the motives since some civil society organisations groom political leaders or even sometimes civil society organisations themselves turn into political parties.
3.3 The relationship between State and CSO
On the basis of the aforesaid definitions, civil society is independent from the state and there is no justification whatsoever to believe that in their relationship, civil society can play or even substitute the state especially in roles/functions (Parnini 2006, Mojmir et al, 2004, Fisher 2003, Kane 2001).
In reference to the above arguments different scholars have argued differently, some indicate that the state has to provide conducive atmosphere for the operation of civil society to thrive, but this, however, should not be digested wholesomely because some civil society organizations have thrived amidst threats from the government, if anything some civil societies depending on the situation in a given country become stronger when the government is repressive because just like Wui and Lopez (1997) argue, united CSOs have strengths to resist any repressive government. What we should understand also is that the relationship between state and civil society depends on the political culture of a country. Moreover, the way civil societies relate with state in western world is different from the way it is in developing world since like earlier noted, civil society has great links with democracy. Meaning that, western democratic countries have better organized civil societies when compared to authoritative regimes in third world countries where the relationship between government and civil societies is hardly cordial. But at the same time not all democratic states have vibrant civil society, for instance the case of Japan as well as Spain and like it was earlier observed civil society is repressed in developed and democratic western countries just the way it is in developing and undemocratic countries especially the advocacy organisations Furthermore, it is imperative to observe that is seldom for the civil society to be totally independent from the state, there are some aspects when civil society organizations have links with government and market which is inevitable ( World Bank, 2006)
The relationship between state and civil society is one of vital aspects for democracy. As Walzer in Greenwood and Clive (1998:1) put it “only a democratic state can create a democratic civil society; only a democratic civil society can sustain a democratic state.” He further argues that in Western world, the principles of democratic life and the quality of their public policy outputs base on the expression of interests by civil society and spread of information to and from public democratic structures.
To a great extent most scholars would agree with Walzer's argument above because the genesis of civil society which is Europe particularly in Germany, France and Britain was linked to prevention of the possible emergence of dictatorial elements hence to foster democracy. Without doubt civil liberty, social equality were realized, however, we remain skeptic because this trend backfired as Hyden (1995) one of principle authorities on civil society together with Keane (2001) contend that in Germany the trust in autonomous civil society was reversed in favor of the government accomplishments. The state was believed to be the provider, defender, guardian, punisher and educator.
In his writing, Parnini (2006), asserts that while civil society should be independent from the state, its independence is seldom complete. It is from little or limited independence that civil society pins the state and discuss with it through opposition or cooperation/collaboration to achieve its goals. The above argument is susceptible to challenges because in democratic world, civil societies are completely autonomous from the state because they normally have enough resources and their principles as well as objectives are well adhered to, however this can perhaps be possible in third world countries where some civil society organisations are sub-contracted by government to carry out certain projects, meaning that these organisations rely on handouts from the government hence being considered as not completely independent from the state as Parnini argues above. What do we learn from such scenario? It means that by the fact that civil society is not independent as it should be, renders it ineffective in dealing with matters of good governance, the agenda of good governance is seized or hijacked; that is, civil society cannot plan its actions independently from state and in this case the boundaries between state and civil are porous. It also means that the state has an upper hand in controlling the initiatives of civil society.
In some cases the connection between a members in a civil society and the state and those who stand for the state is both touching, ethical and cognitive, if individuals like their country and they are grateful to the state institutions and also have strong feelings and support to the different actors in public services, then most likely will be cordial relationship between state and civil society based on collaboration instead of tension and conflicts (Mojmír et al., 2004). It is worth mentioning that at times we have to appreciate what the government does, but appreciation should not be equated with collaboration, and like it was earlier noted, it depends on the political culture in a country. For instance if security institutions in a country have a culture of torturing opposition from political parties or civil society organisations, citizens can hardly appreciate no matter what the government does for them.
The study conducted by Kasfir (1998) revealed that the usefulness or essence of new civil society organisations for forming and upholding democracy in Africa has been exaggerated. The study further stressed that supporters of conventional concept of civil society maintain that it is possible for new and independent, interest-specific and rule respecting organisations to liberalize dictatorial governments and maintain democratic governance. The study also observed that because of inconsistent nature of many civil societies in Africa, the responsibility of creating robust civil society organisations which can remove dictatorial governments can instead lead to pathetic situations. It could be true that new or up-coming civil society organisations have exerted more pressure on transition to democracy especially in third world but this should not be exaggerated because there are many new up-coming NGOs owned by elites aiming at getting funding from donors under the guise of working to empower local communities. Sometimes they are referred to as “brief case” organisations.
In addition to that, a study conducted by Fisher (2003) indicate that relationship between state and civil society sometimes in long run assist in deciding if the country will support or weaken accommodating efforts. The study further indicated that distinctiveness of political culture has historical background that affects the relationship between state and civil society. An example here is South Africa where by much as there was proliferation of civil society, considerable relationship between state and civil society could not be possible as long as apartheid continued. It can be true that political culture shapes the relationship between state and civil society and for the case of South Africa, the relationship was so tense because the oppression by the state was intolerable though some scholars argue that civil societies that were formed by whites seem to have collaborative relationship with state than black civil societies which had a conflictual relationship with the state.
In his study Aiding Democracy Abroad, Carothers (2003) indicated that in transitional governments, civil society programmes at local and national levels try to find a way of exchanging ideas with government institutions and they take the relationship between state and civil society organisations to be of partners rather than opponents. The study further disclosed that as time goes by, civil society programmes will get better though they will not have enough capacity to bring positive change on the complete civil society in any country. It is imperative for us to first understand the circumstances under which CSOs can collaborate with the state and in which areas, because in some developing countries the state tends to collaborate with CSOs in areas like service delivery but repress them when it comes to issues of politics. And again the scenario of state and civil society being partners is unlikely in dictatorial governments or even in one party governments and on that note the relationship between civil society organisations can partly depend on the political system in a particular country.
A report done by Muhumuza (2010) disclosed that the collaboration between state and civil society organisations in championing development in aid-dependent countries are greatly elucidated by New Policy Agenda which emphasizes less state intervention and boost the role of civil society. It is revealed that this collaboration is impeded by conflicting interests, suspicion and competition for aid as well as approaches used. The collaboration between state and CSOs could further be held back due to the fact that state's aim has always been to co-opt these organisations since some CSOs are dependent on state or donor handouts; moreover they lack grassroot support and linkages. The study concluded that for collaboration between state and CSOs to achieve tangible gains in poverty reduction and other developmental issues, there is a need to set up a framework to spell out terms and purposes of collaboration to do away with conflicts and misunderstandings. What we should be reminded of is that such bottlenecks towards collaboration between state and CSOs for instance suspicion and competition for aid should not be a threat especially if CSOs have vigorous socio-economic base at grassroots level, however, it is inevitable for developing countries to resist aid from donors. Therefore donor funding can be an impediment itself to the collaboration between state and civil society organisations. Muhumuza stressed the need for setting up a framework which will enable state and CSOs work in harmony but he does not indicate who should make the framework. How can they make a reasonable framework when they are suspicious of each other, when the state's aim is to co-opt CSOs.
Another study done by Chirwa and Mumba (2008) revealed that the participation of civil society in important national policy processes in Zambia has taken varied forms and has been received with mixed feelings by the state. Civil society umbrella organizations and consultation forums of umbrella organizations have particularly been important actors in agenda setting of national policy processes. Networks of Non-Governmental Organizations operating in thematic areas have responded positively to the invitations by the state to contribute to national policy processes. The study further revealed that where civil society has seized space opened up by the state to participate in national policy processes, it has often been regarded as a partner in public provision of services by the state. A case in point is the participation of civil society in the formulation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Beyond the formulation of the PRSP, civil society has been invited by government to participate through the SAGs in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the PRSP and the Transitional National Development Plan. Civil society organizations were also involved in the formulation of the Fifth National Development Plan and the Vision 2030.
The way civil society relates with the government in third world is different from the way it is in the developed world. Fisher, (2003) argues that voluntary organisations appeared in 19th century in USA and later on emphasized service provision to be a right rather than a privilege. It is further noted that civil society in Latin America are constantly independent from the state than the way it is in Africa and Asia. In Latin America, much as the governments always wanted to control NGOs, it was always difficult because civil society was strong and vocal. He further notes that even before the spread of NGOs in Latin America, political systems were broad and heterogeneous with constant demands from the middle class.
Worth to note is that much as there were dictatorial regimes that emerged in Brazil, Chile and Argentina in 1960s and 1970s, still civil societies were ‘curving out political space' which political parties did not have. In Asia, state-civil society relationship was determined by the government and its agencies regardless of the ties with the government. However, in recent years, some governments in Asia have on a great note recognized the advantages of cooperatives to the extent that registration procedures have become easier. In Africa, state-civil society relationship is difficult to assess. However, much as in the dictatorial regimes were repressing NGOs; it was relatively fair in single party regimes for example in Kenya and Zimbabwe where service-provider NGOS were accepted though with some restrictions on NGOs promoting empowerment (ibid). It can be observed that in Africa civil society sector was able to come up at the time when some countries adopted multi-party systems and perhaps due to the conditionality from World Bank and IMF.
3.4 Actors of civil society
There has been debates about exclusiveness and inclusiveness about actors of civil society. A study conducted by World Bank (2006) explains how different centuries experienced this especially in Western Europe. For instance in early 18th and part of 19th century's actors of civil society were economic and academic elites who were fighting for the human rights and political space. New actors in civil society like churches, farmers, social movements became prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries replacing the economic and political elites who were recognized in the 18th century. Then the third wave of actors came in at around 1960s which included women movements, student associations, peace and ecology movements. It can be observed that dynamics in the societies prompted continuous inclusion and exclusion of actors because what was demanded from the state by actors in 18th century could have been different in 20th century and as the wave of democratization kept on sweeping the whole of biggest parts of Europe and America, people continued to demand for their rights, thus as the activities and demands increased so did the actors as well.
Today, there is explosion of different terms used to describe the non-state actors. Since actors of civil society are many, in order to understand them, some scholars classify them so that we can grasp how they exist, operate and what they contribute and Kaldor (2003), indicated that there are social movements, NGOs, nationalist and religious groups, social organisations, umbrella organisations and some scholars also include political parties as actors of civil society; they are illustrated below.
First, there are social movements whose mission is emancipation of the poor and the excluded. Their activities mainly are protests, and demonstrations. Their social composition includes activists, committed individuals and students. During recent decades, there have been social movements resulting from championing women rights, child rights, human rights, environmental rights among others (Kaldor, 2003). Such movements facilitate collective voices of the people who cannot be heard and these are women, children, and the disabled among others on one hand and movements for protests for instance against poor government policies, protests against dams, factories or even mines and protests against displacement. It should known that these social movements sometimes they rise and fall and their success hinges on their potential to mobilise members right from the grassroots level and perhaps it could be upon the way they articulate or present their protests to the authorities.
Another set of actors is NGOs which are voluntary organisations and normally they participate in very many tasks which are not necessarily those that fall under advocacy or service provision but there are organisations which are self help or even mutual support groups. There are also neighbourhood organisations which include village councils, local associations and clubs. Those which are in advocacy deal in lobbying, mobilization and in campaigning in various issues (Tandon and Mohanty, 2003). Unlike social movements which are mainly dealing in protests and demonstrations, NGOs particularly in advocacy deal in pro-democratic roles. For instance they provide a driving force for proper government performance and hold government accountable and responsible to the citizens while those which are in service provision deal in relief and emergencies, micro-credit services, health care services, training to mention but a few. Another difference between these actors could be that where as organsations in advocacy deal with issues of democracy and human rights at national and international levels, self-help organisations usually bring citizens together to protect their common public good at local level.
Another set of actors is social organisations whose mission is to protect and promote members' interests and their activities but also involved in service provision and lobbying. Social composition of this type of civil society actor includes workers, farmers and employers, trade unions, doctors and lawyers (Salamon et al., 2004). It can be observed that this set of actors is almost similar to NGOs in terms of goals only that they represent specific or particular sectors of society and their goals seem to be rather concrete representing the interests of the members. Furthermore, it is seldom for these social organisations to receive funding from outside but rather they depend on the resources of the members who form them since they have large membership base.
Other actors of civil society include national and religious groups. These are described in category of nationalists and religious. Their mission is empowerment of nationalsts and religious groups. Their activities include: mobilization through media, religious and cultural organisations. Social composition of this category is mainly newly urbanized associations and peasants whose links are of tightly organized cells and charismatic leadership and are sometimes depicted as neo-traditional groups (Kaldor, 2003). This class of actors seem to have features of social movement that was earlier observed but the difference is that nationalist movements are made up of middle class based in urban centers and for them, as Kaldor mentioned earlier, they mobilise using media like television, videos and radios to reach out to the masses up-country an approach that is rarely used by actors earlier mentioned before.
Another set of actors of civil society is political parties. This is one of the aspects which have rendered the concept of civil ambiguous because some scholars believe that political parties fall under civil society while others disagree with the argument. For instance Carothers, (2000) indicates that actors of civil society also include political parties. It can be argued that some scholars have debated a lot on whether political parties should be part of political parties. For instance Kiiza et al (2008) observe that political parties should not be part of civil society because they always aim at getting power from the government hence they can be regarded to be part of state actors but not civil society actors. From this argument, one can note that the debates on who are actors and who are not should perhaps aim at finding out the underlying goals of all actors that claim to belong to civil society.
In a study done by Kaldor (2003), it indicated that there have been many suggestions on the ‘structured voice' for civil society actors. It also indicated that what is important is not the medium or forum for the dialogue but instead the culture and political seriousness or dedication to the dialogues and in many cases there is tendency of neglecting of radical groups to be included in dialogues. There are several debates recently about whether there is a proper and recognized structure of actors of civil society and the study revealed that there is always a dilemma of who to include in the dialogue but the study concluded that civil society associations should always make a decision and choose whom they want to represent them. This is very true to a very great extent because excluding some actors means that there is a possibility of missing out important ideas and opinion or input from them. In such cases it is vital to bring everyone on board in order to maximize the benefits from myriad inputs otherwise it leads us to ask ourselves who is the good actor/contributor to the dialogues and who is not and how do we determine the best actor or worst. This is because some actors like association of black smiths, association of witch doctors are marginalized because they are considered as archaic and too informal and their input to the dialogues is neglected.
3.5 Functions of civil society
There has been an increase in the number of civil society organisations and large number of them operating on international as well as on national levels playing great role in service delivery and in public policy making. Their characters and roles differ greatly depending on country to country, capacity, quality and impact (Ntungwe, 2001). This brings us to the argument by Facing History and Ourselves FHO (2010) an organisation linking communities to morals and values who stress that much as many scholars contest on the definition of civil society, they agree that it encompasses institutions like labour unions, community groups, religious organisations non-profit organisations and media and these institutions or groups play various roles in helping citizens not only sensitization on voting but also shaping the culture, economics and politics of the country.
The above roles do not differ from what International NGO Training and Research Centre INTRAC (2008) an umbrella organisation of CSOs which stressed that civil societies propagate the ideas of democracy to the last person at grass root level as well as defending the minority against the majority rule hence representing every member from the smallest groups to national level movements. It is also noted in their report that it is always hard to have democracy at national level if at local level citizens have no idea about how democracy works; therefore, it is civil society that builds culture of democracy through civic and associational life. For the purposes of comparing the above functions, it is observed that they both tend to explain that civil society is critical to fostering democratic culture which is the key aspect and original goal of liberalists. Therefore it is worth noting that civil society not only performs the function of associational life but also educates or sensitizes citizens the art of participation and cultivate sense of care and concern for others.
In order to achieve honesty, transparency and accountability in government and in market sector, civil society has to be always on look out and in doing so, they alert the media in case of any malpractices and injustices Rosenblum and Post (2002). This is not far from what Parnini, (2006) argument that civil societies are very much recognized for advancing anti-corruption proposals which in some cases are not supported by political parties. This is true because too often, some civil society organisations resist unconvincing bills that are passed by legislators and instead promote the rights of vulnerable groups that have no platform of airing out their views. It is therefore commendable to note that civil societies are always driven by the desire to work for the citizens centering on ideas but not prestige, money or even power. The above functions are similar to what Hearn, (2000) was pointing out that; civil society becomes pivotal through giving support to the citizens when the government continues with inequalities that perpetuate the suffering of the citizens. In such instances, civil society rise up and condemns government's behavior and calms the situation. The similarity in these functions by different authors above is that they all portray civil society as a watch dog which challenges the state and ensure that societal norms offer guidelines for the exercise of state power. It seems more likely that this particular role threatens state monopoly of power and it is the reason why sometimes states become repressive.
A community networked with others is always healthy and good for the members, Overseas Development Institute ODI (2008) stressed that civil society organisations have been at forefront of playing the role of building the communities by developing networks and above all they build horizontal structures between people which is very much important in forming social capital and building links between individuals from different institutions, clubs, groups and associations. Through this interaction between individuals and institutions, it can be observed that people are able to solve problems that are normally faced in societies. Furthermore, the plurality of these associations enhances them to come together to check the state power. It is from this point of view that some scholars like Tocqueville stated that “the science of association is the mother of sciences”
There are instances when crisis is brought by changes in social conditions and interests, Gerometta et al., (2005) notes that civil society assumes the role of making changes and amend the state's position and vision in order to suit all citizens. What should be remembered also is that civil society is influential in ensuring political accountability further than party politics and most often have monitored the conduct of elites on various occasions. Civil society further takes the initiative to remind political leaders that having decision making authority is only absolute if they live up to their responsibilities to the people they represent. This function of civil society is related to what a report by NORAD (2002) that indicates that advocacy organisations have greatly influenced the state to accept positions supporting citizenry and at the same time follow regulations that enhance free and fair political debates and decisions. Both functions above tend to contend that when individuals come together in associations or in assemblage, it becomes relatively easy for them to balance and condense the tensions between individuals and state thereby becoming a sort of filter or a sieve between citizens and government.
Civil society organisations have provided a base upon where leaders are recruited, trained and oriented into democratic leadership and values. This has often been happening in most multi-party democracies (Goetz, 1998). Her assertion is well supported by NORAD, (2002) where it observed that civil societies are schools of democracy where democratic principles and values like tolerance of diversity and pluralism, mutual acceptance and the will to compromise as well as trust and cooperation are instilled to the members of the society. It is imperative to note that civil society has been a breeding ground for some leaders who ascend to the ladders of political leadership. Most often we have seen leaders of civil society joining political parties and eventually sometimes end up becoming members of parliament. So, what Goetz and NORAD are trying to portray is that it is through civil society that skills of leadership are acquired and nurtured or cultivated.
Civil society and particularly advocacy organisations have been an important source of specialist community expertise which the government has frequently relied on. Specialists in matters regarding to communities have often been identified within particular civil society organisations dealing in advocacy programmes not forgetting that these advocacy organisations promote strong, effective and open democracy (Rosenblum and Post (2002). This is almost similar to what INTRAC (2008) argues that civil society is the main source of ideas and provides socio-economic solutions in many communities by creating and promoting alternatives via collective action and at the same time. I would agree with the above arguments because civil society actors especially Community Based Organisations as the name suggests are always at the last point of the society, that is, at grassroots meaning that they are always aware of the situations, problems, solutions of the community members. Since the government is sometimes unable to reach to all people down to the last point, it is always wise to seek assistance or consult civil society organisations especially advocacy organisations. It is from this point of view that Rosenblum, Post and INTRAC came out to argue that civil society not only provides expertise on matters of community to government but also is a source of ideas and solutions.
Adherence to the values as well as acceptance of rules of liberal democracy have always been fostered by the civil society (Hearn, 2000). One would concur with above argument because this is perhaps why donor groups have been supportive to civil society because it is where seeds of democracy are propagated to the citizens. It becomes evident that donor groups become hopeful because they believe that it is through civil society
Cite This Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below: