Jay Naidoo’s “10 Commandments” for civil society to build a better world


by Jay Naidoo on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 12:01pm.

I spent the last 3 days at the Civicus World Assembly in Montreal talking to representatives of grassroots movements from around the world. It was a fascinating insight into the interconnectedness of our struggles around the world for human rights, social justice, human dignity and freedom. Events of North Africa have given people hope that meaningful change will take place and that fear of predatory elites and dictators is coming to an end.These are the lessons I take away.

1. People are on the move. They have had enough of broken promises. They do not trust the global and national leadership to solve their problems. They see powerful vested interests who caused the economic and enviromental crisis and propped up dictatorial regimes still in the driving seat while hunger, unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption are rising.

2. Civil society leadership need to connect to its base of people on the streets and to build accountability from the ground upwards. Civil society leaders must get out of their offices and build coalitions that promote inter-sectoral struggles on the ground. We cannot remain in silos.

3. Civil society must define its development vision and programmes. We must provide innovative solutions. What is our proposals on the ‘green economy’? What is the ‘just transition’ we must ensure to a more enviromentally sound economy in the world?

4. Social media provide important tools for us to build solidarity and share knowledge and information. However, organised people remain the core of any change and transformation.

5. Democratic debate, dissent and the freedom of assembly and association are fundamental human rights that must be fought for and defended. There are too many political leaders who believe they have some divine right to rule us.

6. Our engagement with multilateral forums and institutions must be based on a demand to be at the main table and have a right to all information. We cannot legitimise forums that seek to co-opt us and pay lip service to our demands.

7.We must debate the gaps in ensuring democratic governance, accountability and transparency even when we have won freedom and live in multi-party democracies. Independent public institutions and constitutions on their own are not sufficient. A robust and vibrant civil society is key.

8.We need to democratise markets and put the needs of people at the centre stage. While we need the struggles to be led by people in the developing countries and their organisations we also see (because of the economic crisis) an increasingly convergence in the jobs crisis and the impact of social cuts in expenditure in the North and South.

9. Civil society needs to redefine aid effectiveness in terms of the development impact on people on the ground and not the mountains of paper reports that donors want. We need to build our programmes in such a way that weans our struggles off donor support.

10. Building campaigns based on people-to-people solidarity globally is key to us changing the world and ensuring the human rights of people are won and that there is accountability from the global leadership and that transformation of the global governance takes place.


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