Your Excellency, The Ghana Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Platform on the Sustainable Development Goals extend our greetings to you and commend your governments’ effort in the fight against the scourge of corona virus, flattening the curve of the spread and in addressing the numerous socio-economic impacts on Ghanaian society.
We are particularly pleased with some of the policy measures adopted in the wake of the outbreak which ultimately aimed to alleviate the burden of the pandemic on the poor and the most vulnerable among us.
These actions echo the “Leave No One behind” principle in pursuit of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and resonates with the best that is in us as Ghanaians.
While a section of the society was unable to participate and benefit in the pandemic relief programme due to preventable glitches in the course of implementation, the majority recognizes the leadership of your government and the complementary support of civil society groups in mitigating the effect of the pandemic on the marginalized groups in the society. Our efforts in mobilizing funds locally from within civil society actors was borne from our firm conviction that, overcoming COVID-19 was equally our fight as much as it was the responsibility of Government.
Your Excellency, the effects of COVID-19 on all sectors of society have been palpable—even the civil society sector has not been spared. The pandemic has proven to have the propensity to worsen the sustainability of civil society which has been threatened by diverse factors over the years including— dwindled external donor funding, shrinking civic space and disenabling legislative environment for smooth civic operations and engagement.
As sector workers, we are aware of the power of civil society and its central role in deepening democratic governance, promoting human rights, social justice and gender equality, strengthening public institutions and influencing policymaking processes, and in providing basic social services to the poor and vulnerable at the very grassroots.
Thus, the necessity to continue in these roles amidst the ravaging pandemic and its untold effects on global (and indeed Ghanaian) economy calls for a thorough reflection of the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda(GBA), which currently places civil society sector at the backburner of its core goal and aspirations.
Your Excellency, In December 2019, civil society actors (in a meeting) commended the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda for its aspirations to build a wealthy, inclusive, sustainable, empowered and resilient (WISER) Ghana, and for its intentionality to align all available aid with national developmental priorities.
We believe that, if effectively implemented, the GBA agenda will, in addition to promoting the sovereignty of the state, rebrand and reposition Ghana as a relevant and equal partner in global development arena.
We acknowledge the ability of GBA to inspire the creativity and innovation critical to diversify our economy and lift many of our citizens out of poverty.
Therefore, in re-establishing our commitment and trust to the workability of the GBA agenda, the Ghana CSOs Platform on SDGs and our strategic partners, wish to draw the attention of Your Excellency to some gaps that could jeopardize the overall aspirations of the agenda if unaddressed effectively and immediately; The role of CSOs in the GBA agenda should be clarified.
As a key sector player involved in the process of national development, it comes to us as surprising, that, a Strategic Policy that seeks to break away from the norm of “business as usual” to instill a new set of values and attitudes in the Ghanaian populace will fail to clearly define an entry point for CSOs that have over the years exhibited capacity and shown potential through campaigns, advocacy and sensitization efforts, aimed at exactly that.
We need not mention the role of STAR Ghana, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition, and RTI Coalition Ghana among many others to various causes that align in principle to what the GBA stands for. There is the need to emphasize explicitly the role of the youth, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and other vulnerable groups in the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda.
In the spirit of “Leaving no one Behind” and to fully actualize the spirit of the GBA agenda, the CSO front believes the days where the poor and vulnerable, Persons with Disabilities and the youth are considered as recipients or beneficiaries of programmes and policies are in the past.
Our own experiences in engaging with vulnerable people have shown their potential to innovate once capacity is built. We are therefore convinced the GBA agenda should clearly (and rightfully) identify the youth and these vulnerable groups as partners and key implementing stakeholders and not anything else aside that. In doing so, we recommend a clear definition in terms of an entry point and role for these groups.
The policy should focus on the larger informal economy that has the potential to significantly boost the economic growth of Ghana towards self-reliance.
The lessons of COVID-19 have reenforced the belief that self-reliance indeed is the way to go. It is pleasing to acknowledge that, many of the projects being implemented by your government under the GBA agenda seek to make the country self-dependent and self-reliant.
The immediate implications of this on our informal economy, which has variously been quoted to employ about 70-80 percent of our population, could be profound. The language of the Charter is top heavy on the Macro Economy as opposed to the Micro Economy where the informal economy finds manifestation.
Perhaps, this could be one such norm that the GBA agenda can break from and in doing so, clearly stipulate in a coordinated manner, how the GBA agenda will focus on the informal economy. Empower state institutions to function efficiently and independently without political interference.
Not only is this the ethical thing to do, it is the only way to legitimize the huge expenses that Government makes in the payment of compensations (i.e., wages, salaries, allowances, and pensions) to workers of these institutions. We believe that, every government expenditure should be an investment with certain returns.
With this mindset, it is our express belief that, having an efficient, effective, well organized and well-functioning government sector is essential to the success of the GBA agenda. Let’s change from the attitude of political interference. We acknowledge the steps your government has taken in this direction. However, we believe there is more room for improvement.
In relation to the GBA, there is the need to emphasize Pan-African values as part of the core values of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
The potential of The African Continental Free Trade Area should be explored in the GBA agenda.
Your Excellency, the above recommendations were informed by our keen observation of the GBA agenda which has neither comprehensively defined the concept of ‘aid’ nor clarified on the type of aid referred.
This agenda as it stands threatens the financial sustainability and survivability of the sector, especially because Ghana is still at the early stage of cultivating a local giving culture and philanthropy for social justice institutions—and other groups within civil society sector.
Additionally, the role of CSOs in the GBA agenda seems opaque and unclearly articulated, thus, leaving actors in a conundrum on uncertainty and closes opportunities to engage in an open dialogue—on the place of civil society in the GBA agenda.
In conclusion, civil society reiterates its commitment to the national development agenda and will continue to inform, sensitize, capacitate and mobilize citizens to engage with the various processes and pathways that the Government of Ghana puts in place in our march towards a progressive, inclusive, just, self-reliant and well-resourced society. This is part of our collective effort to be active “citizens and not spectators”. We therefore call on your good office to revisit the GBA agenda through the dedicated secretariat and proactive civil society engagement.
Your Excellency, whilst we look forward to your kind acknowledgement and response, please accept the assurances of our highest esteem.
The National Secretariat Ghana Civil Society Organizations on the Sustainable Development Goals In Partnership with: West Africa Civil Society Institute – WACSI