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INCORE: Policy and Evaluation: LILP

Civil Society in Transition and the Role of Civic Forums

On the 31st May 2001 LILP held a workshop on civil society in Renshaw's Hotel, Belfast. The question of civil society in transition was identified as one of particular importance in a 'post-conflict' context. When conflict 'ends' so does the reason for being for many civil society groups, indeed their very existence may come under question. The workshop was divided into two sessions:

The stream also facilitated an exchange visit to the Scottish Civic Forum in Edinburgh, and a publication summarising the main questions and challenges that arose during the project.

Civil Society in Transition: The South African Experience

Panellists included:

  • Eldred de Klerk, Community Development Council, Belfast, formerly of CCR, South Africa
  • Roelf Meyer, Civil Society Initiative, South Africa
  • Brandon Hamber, Democratic Dialogue and Research Associate at Queens, Belfast, formerly of CSVR, South Africa (Chair)

The many groups which make up civil society play active and diverse roles which include: mobilising people, providing an enabling environment, facilitating dialogue, transforming the state, providing social services, and facilitating a context for good governance. It was pointed out that these contradictory roles become apparent in times of transition, as the challenge becomes to supplement government, not oppose it.The questions faced by civil society, as the peace process progresses are both diverse and complex. For example civil society must redefine itself, in terms of its role and its relationship to governance. Practical problems, include the loss of civil leaders to government and international jobs, and a decrease in available funding as international players focus their attentions elsewhere.For an outline of the major challenges and questions that arose during the LILP stream please see the Occasonal Paper on Civil Society and the Role of Civic Forums.

The Role of Civic Forums

Panellists included:

  • Akuila Yabaki, Executive Director, Citizens Constitutional Forum, Fiji
  • Chris Gibson, Chairperson, Civic Forum for Northern Ireland, Belfast
  • Kate Fearon, Political Advisor, Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, Belfast (Chair)

The Citizen's Constitutional Forum (CCF) in Fiji has, for six years, operated in a difficult political environment. Defining its role in terms of education and creating a multicultural society, it has recently become involved in the constitutional review process. The CCF is not linked to government and is an NGO with charitable status. The Northern Irish Civic Forum enjoys a very different structure to its Fijian counterpart, coming into being as part of the Good Friday Agreement, it is essentially linked to government. Its sixty members aim to give a voice to everyone thus fostering compromise. Despite differences, both speakers defined the overarching function of their forums as providing a context or vision for good governance.

For an outline of the major challenges and questions that arose during the LILP stream please see the Occasional Paper by Cheyanne Church and Anna Visser, Civil Society and Role of Civic Forums.

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Friday, 19-Mar-2010 15:50
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