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Civil Society participation in the governance of the country is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania. This right is also entrenched in different laws and policies of the country.
Good Governance entails governing by listening to the views of the majority of the people. This means on one hand that people are able to elect and remove representatives. On the other hand it means that marginalized groups of a country like the Maasai will get the chance of articulating their problems and speak up for their rights.
The Constitution can only be of value if people feel they own it and if other branches of government are fair and open to all citizens.
Public participation forms the basis of representative democracy and good governance. This means that every citizen has the right to take part in deciding how the country should be governed. It entails the constitutional right to be involved in the making and implementation of laws and policies that affect their lives. Public participation can be direct or indirect through elected representatives in Parliament or Local Government.
Law as a Tool for Civil Society Participation
Civil Society is an important player in public participation. The highest law of the country, the Constitution, provides that every person has the freedom to associate and to form or join associations or organizations. This means that participation of civil society organizations in public affairs is a constitutional right.
How Civil Society Participates in the Development of Laws and Policies
Civil Society Organizations can participate in the development of laws and policies by doing the following:
Providing civic education to citizens in various matters such as human rights and citizens’ duties
Lobbying decision makers at all levels to influence decisions on law and budget
Putting pressure on the government to change unpopular laws
Carrying out research on legal and budgetary process and other issues of great public interest
Securing citizens’ rights through court actions
The Role of Civil Society
What is Civil Society?
Civil Society refers to associations/groups of individuals/individual citizens who represent different sectors of the society in exclusion of and independent from the Government’s control. Civil Society includes local and international NGOs, academic institutions, workers unions, private sector, religious groups, etc.
Civil society has constitutional powers to raise issues to be considered in policies for example for adopting laws. Civil Society can effectively do this if it involves a broader sector of the community through public debates, seminars, public meetings and awareness rising about certain issues.
The Major elements of Democracy
The Tanzanian Development Vision
Governance is an instrument of promoting development, equity, unity and peace. Improving governance is a multi-faceted task that needs the participation of the people. A Strategy to fight corruption and improve governance should be adopted considering the following:
Adopting strategies to build integrity. This should be done by promoting accountability and transparency. One strategy is to make arrangements for education for example through integrity workshops.
Putting in place policies and strategies for capacity building in the public sector, civil society, media, parliament and other agencies. Local people know their problems best and are best placed to judge what they need, what is possible to achieve and how it can best be achieved.
Local actors must therefore have greater space for driving the process of reform; that is what we call Empowerment of the people.
Empowerment – The process by which women and men achieve skills, confidence and support to determine their own lives and make their own choices. It is the state in which people have access to resources and opportunities to control their own future.