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Civil Society, IGO, and Governance in Sierra Leone:
Introduction: Civil Society and Governance Civil Society is defined in several contexts, although the mainstream definition refers to the groups and associations that occupy a position between the household, state, and the private sector. These include, amongst other non-governmental groups, such others as trade unions, business associations, faith groups, trade associations, recreational groups, and think tanks.i According to the Institute of Governance, governance is “the process whereby societies or organizations make their important decisions, determine who has voice, who is engaged in the process and how account is rendered.”ii Civil society in Sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as a tool against the ever-ending struggle that citizens continue to face under corrupt and insatiable leaders. Civil Society plays a very important role in the influence of governance. Civil society can influence each of the policy-making processes, which includes setting the policy agenda, formulating the policy, implementing the policy, and monitoring and evaluation. The policy process in developing countries is negatively influenced by the consequential outcomes of bad governance, including corruption, lack of transparency and accountability.
Case Study: Civil Society, IGO and Governance in Sierra Leone Sierra Leone is a small country off the Atlantic coast of West Africa with approximately five million people. Like many other developing countries in Africa, Sierra Leone has experienced poverty at the highest level, and has ranked at the fluctuating levels as the poorest and second poorest nation in the United Nations human development index for the last several years. The country also has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world and a high illiteracy level compared to all other nations. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone was involved in a brutal civil war that devastated the economy, political, and social structure of the country. Though some researchers have stated that the cause of the war was due to diamonds, which is the country’s largest export, others argue that the political system was the primary cause of the war in Sierra Leone. Since post-independence in April 1961, and post-conflict after 2001, public administration in Sierra Leone has declined in demonstrating the principles and values of good governance. The emergence of this as a motivating factor to more devastation and further conflicts has instigated a growing materialization of a strong civil society and increased influence from IGOs in Sierra Leone. Civil society, IGOs and the government are the three most important components of the development or decline of governance in Sierra Leone. The role and purpose of civil society in Sierra Leone is one that has been revived and damaged at different times in the country’s history. Civil society played a primary role during the push for de-colonization, by mobilizing, using evidence-based action, and for the most part, directly engaging the colonial government at that time. Due to the general consensus at that time, as every Sierra Leonean strived to gain independence,
civil society’s meaning was one of conviction, and even though diverse groups and associations rose out of the populace, there was a collective vision that each Sierra Leonean aspired for. This all changed when the country gained its independence and civil society as it was before, began to witness its demise. The meaning and purpose of civil society in Sierra Leone changed from collective bargaining among the citizens who all strongly advocated for independence, to more defined assorted purposes based not on a general need, but on the premises of ethnicity, status, and political fixation. The cause for this shift was the rapid transition from dependency to responsibility, without a defined plan that would accommodate the ethnically and traditionally diversity of the people. Sierra Leone was unlike any other West African country, in the sense that the nation was divided into a colony and a protectorate, whereas the colonial settlers were westernized and well-educated black settlers from Europe and America, while the protectorate included the traditional and native Africans in the country. This diversity formed a growing rift between the settlers and the protectorates, and though they managed to form a collective union to achieve independence, the British in the process had done much damage in instilling an attitude of inferiority within the protectorate and emphasizing the “civilized” educated settlers. When Sierra Leone finally gained its independence, the role of civil society itself changed rapidly. This is due to the fact that with independence, brought responsibility and roles of nation-actors. The Creole settlers felt that their role in this post-independence nation was to inherit the responsibility of managing the nation, due to their belief in their intellectual superiority and value system, which they deemed as fundamentals of a strong public administration. The protectorate on the other hand, saw it differently, and approached public administration with traditional [in the historical
sense] point of views, based on each of the value systems of the major ethnic groups. The role of civil society had shifted from a direct goal of achieving independence, to the role of responsibility to govern. The purpose of civil society had also shifted from gaining political freedom, to acquiring power. The development of public administration in Sierra Leone was in sync with the development of this new type of civil society, which was ethnically diverse, socially diverse, and differed in beliefs of who was responsible to govern. A short time after the announcement of the first presidential election winner, there were several coups and an overthrown government, which was heavily due to ethnic diversity among tribal based political parties. Between 1961 and 1991, there were over 4 coups, several riots, and shifts to one-party rule and back to multi-party rule. The line between civil society and public administration in Sierra Leone had been blurred, without a defined direction, purpose, and objectives that accommodated the diversity of ethnic provinces and regions, governance in Sierra Leone became a mere “me for me” and “you for you”. The process had started with a pre-independence collective civil society force, to a post-independence traditional and ethnically diverse civil society forces, which resulted in the creation of a public administration that was neither representative of the general needs of the people, nor were adequate efforts invested in ensuring good governance principles such as accountability and transparency, because each major ethnic group developed their own belief that responsibility to govern the nation was vested on their ethnic group, respectively. This led to increased marginalization, as corruption in public administration became an all time high. This led to bad governance and a weak public administration. Some of the resulting outcomes included increase in poverty, marginalization, lack of government spending on roads and educational institutions, and
increased nepotism in the hiring of public administrators. The final outcome of this was another emerging of a new type of civil society force. This civil society force, tired of the suffering and socio-political problems caused by the public administration, formed a collective insurgent force with a new meaning and purpose, which was to end that system of public administration and create a new and better type of governance system. This evolved into an eleven-year civil war that killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced thousands, as well as the military coup and overthrow of the then government of Sierra Leone. In 2001 the war was officially over with the intervening of outside military reinforcement such as the United Nations Peacekeeping force, and the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group. Although the war was over, and the government had been re-instated, there was one drastic change in post-conflict Sierra Leone. This was the decline of civil society, and the emergence of IGOs in Sierra Leone’s public administration sphere.
Emergence of IGO and decline of Civil Society: PRSP, TRC and Governance in Sierra Leone James McCormick 1in the Polity Journal identified three roles which International Organizations or namely Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) play in International politics. These include 1) International organizations as instruments of national policy 2) International organizations as systemic modifiers of state behavior 3) International organizations as autonomous international actors2.
Alternate Approaches to Evaluating International Organizations: Some Research Directions, by James M. McCormick Polity. 1982 Northeastern Political Science Association
This is evident in the direct roles major IGOs play in public administration and State politics in Sierra Leone. In this case, the focus will include the two major IGOs in Sierra Leone, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The IMF is an international organization of 185 countries that was established to promote “international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, economic growth, and among other things, financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payment adjustments.”3 The World Bank comprises of five organizations, which include the international bank for reconstruction and development (IDA), international development association (IDC), international finance corporation (IFC), multilateral investment guarantee agency (MIGA), and the international center for the settlement of investment disputes (ICID). Sierra Leone became a member of both IGOs in 1962, a year after independence, however both institutions have not been key actors in the country’s development until the civil war, when the country’s economy plunged to the bottom of the United Nation’s human development index. As stated earlier, reaching up to the war, civil society in Sierra Leone had played several roles in shaping governance in Sierra Leone. However, after the civil War, civil society became less relevant, as government became more powerful, and an emergence of a strongly influential IGO phase became evident. As the role of civil society shifted from collective bargaining to responsibility, then to frustration, which finally led to war and the debasement of the civil society, public administration turned to IGOs, primarily the World Bank and IMF, for direction.
Alternate Approaches to Evaluating International Organizations: Some Research Directions, by James M. McCormick Polity. 1982 Northeastern Political Science Association 3 http://imf.org/external/about.htm
The role of IGOs in Sierra Leone has proved to be more powerful in shaping governance in Sierra Leone, than civil society in the past. This is evident in the comparison of two key initiatives launched by both actors in partnership with the government in post-conflict Sierra Leone. These include the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC), which was a civil society initiative, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), which is an initiative of the World Bank and IMF. According to the World Bank, PRSPs: “…Describes a country’s macroeconomic, structural, and social policies and programs to promote growth and reduce poverty, as well as associated external financial needs…. PRSPs are prepared by governments through a participatory process that involves civil society and development partners, including the World Bank and the…IMF” The Sierra Leone government in partnership with the IMF and World Bank’s IDA completed the country’s PRSP in February 2005. The PRSP included three pillars that provided a framework for sustainable development in post-conflict Sierra Leone. These included 1) good governance, security and peace building, 2) pro-poor sustainable growth for food security and job creation, and 3) human development. In the aspect of governance, which is the first pillar of the PRSP, the document promoted anti-corruption efforts and effective management of public resources, including natural resources. In this regard, the government in partnership with the IDA and IMF launched the National AntiCorruption Strategy (NACS). The purpose of this policy document was for good governance, institutional reform, and the eradication of corruption in Sierra Leone. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) that was established by the government carries out
the objectives of the NACS. The ACC has carried out several initiatives in collaboration with the World Bank to this end, such as the National Action Planning Workshop, which involved 130 participants who engaged in strategic decisions to develop means and ways to combat corruption and improve governance.4 The second objective stated by the PRSP is to reduce inequities in the delivery of public services through decentralization. The National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) primarily carried out this effort, which supports the government’s decentralization strategies and help rebuild local governance structures. NaCSA has taken several initiatives to this end, such as the Community Development Program which seeks to enable community participation in the design, implementation, management, evaluation, and maintenance of NaCSA projects. Though the PRSP lists very effective strategies in fighting corruption, improving governance, reducing poverty, and fostering sustainable development in Sierra Leone, it has been interpreted differently by civil society and the government. As evident from the vast resources that the government has invested in, to implement the strategies of the PRSP, the civil society however, has extensively denounced the effort of the PRSP. This is due to three primary reasons 1) is the skeptism that civil society has in the intentions of IGOs in Sierra Leone, 2) local communities have demonstrated their dissatisfaction in the delivery of the PRSP, and 3) there were no direct participation of civil society in the development of the PRSP. In regard to the first reason, increased skeptism of the intentions of IGOs, in not only Sierra Leone, but in developing countries in general have become increasingly widespread due to the growing pattern of bad governance demonstrated within institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. This has called for global advocacy for reforms in both institutions. It is also widely believed that these
institutions in particular are western-driven entities that impose restrictions on nations and impose flawed policies on the governments of developing countries in order to exploit the nation’s resources. In regard to the second reason why the PRSP has been widely unaccepted by civil society, is the extensive reporting from local communities that the vast number of initiatives launched by the government on the basis of the PRSP, has been ineffective and inefficient to the growing needs of the people. This is due to the growing notion of bad governance and corruption within the government itself, with large amount of funding for these initiatives unaccounted for by the government agencies, lack of transparency in the implementation of these initiatives, and lack of monitoring groups to hold the government accountable for successes and failures of the PRSP. Finally in regard to the third reason, local civil society groups, representing all factions of society including women, youth, children, and the poor have demonstrated the failure in including their participation in developing these PRSP strategies that directly affect them. The Youth for example, represented by civil society groups such as the Center for Coordination of Youth Activities, Young Leaders – Sierra Leone, have held several conferences and workshops for youth engagement in the development process. In these events, a wide consensus was reached by majority of the youth delegates who voiced their distress in being marginalized from the PRSP process, particularly in the poverty reduction and employment aspect, as youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is one of the highest and widely recognized problems facing the nation. However, the Government has demonstrated its approval of the PRSP despite these acts of dissatisfaction from civil society, and the relationship and influence of the World Bank and IMF has increased to a level of dependency on these IGOs by the Sierra Leone Government.
The TRC was developed under a partnership of the Sierra Leone government, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), victims of the war, and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which consisted primarily of leading members in the country’s civil society. The TRC was set up to investigate the causes leading up to the war, provide introspection on the war, and provide recommendations for prevention and stability for the future. Among the issues covered in the TRC, governance was one of the most important. According to the TRC, bad governance played a primary role in the leading to the war. Areas on governance covered by the TRC included separation of powers, decentralization, public participation in democratic processes, independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, and the existence and effective operation of oversight bodies and institutions of accountability. The TRC reported that starting from independence, separation of powers had been defunct, and checks and balances of the parliament and executive branch were ineffective with several unconstitutional actions by the executive branch went unchallenged by the parliament. This in effect, developed a powerful executive branch that was largely unaccountable, unconstitutional, and without transparency. In regard to decentralization of political power and delivery of public services, the TRC reported that decentralized councils that were created by government for the purpose of decentralization contained several weaknesses. The primary weakness was that these councils were not entrenched into the constitution and therefore based their existence and accountability to the central government rather than public local constituencies for which they served. Mass participation according to the TRC, was negatively influenced by the political dominance of two major parties (All Peoples Congress APC, and the Sierra Leone Peoples Party SLPP). These two parties used
regionalism and undemocratic strategies to negatively influence the electoral process, by developing the already diversity of ethnic tribes and promoting this diversity as the fundamentals for electing governments. Ethnic groups dominated these two parties, with the APC being primarily natives of the Temne ethnic group and the SLPP consisting of the Mende ethnic group. This resulted in unfair and un-free electoral processes, dominated by intimidation and tribal politics in Sierra Leone. The TRC found that the rule of Law was based solely on the grounds of ethnicity, whereas different laws were applied to different regions and ethnic groups, rather than the common law of the land. The TRC concluded that governance in Sierra Leone had been totally defunct from the beginning of its independence due to lack of accountability and transparency, ineffectiveness in the separation of powers, and the absence of a sound rule of law. The most critical aspect of the TRC report was the list of recommendations listed at the conclusion of its report, that were directed at the government and stakeholders, in implementing for sustainable stability in socio-political Sierra Leone. Among its recommendations, the TRC called for anti-corruption initiatives, improvement on the democratic participation of youth and women, amending of corruption laws to have corruption cases tried independently, and the adoption of constitutional principles of national security5. Though the TRC has been widely accepted by civil society and nonprofit organizations such as Amnesty International, Campaign for Good Governance, Center for Democracy and Human Rights, and the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the government has intentionally continued to ignore the TRC recommendations.
Presentation by Mohamed Suma Programme Director, Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme TRC Recommendations and the PBC Agenda in Sierra Leone
Conclusion The role of civil society and IGOs in shaping governance in Sierra Leone has been visible and theoretically evident. Civil society’s role has been transformed several times in its endeavor to shape governance in Sierra Leone. However, due to foreign imposed factors such as colonialization, the natural development of civil society, which included among other things, defining a general purpose, devising a plan, and fostering progress through influence of public administration, were in the end ineffective, untrustworthy, and insignificant. This was also largely due to the cultural, ethnic and social diversity of the people, who, based on their tradition belief systems, developed different purposes and meanings of the role of governance, public administration, and responsibility in Sierra Leone. With the absence of civil society, the foundation of any society, public administration turned towards intergovernmental organizations such as the World Bank and IMF for direction in implementing the objectives and principles of good governance. The lesson learned is that without collaboration between civil society, which is indeed the voice of the people, and public administration, there are three possibilities: 1) the possibility of the development of an ineffective and misrepresented system of governance, 2) the pursuit for definition and direction of national composition will be outsourced to foreign entities rather than local constituents who are direct participants and recipients of state objectives, and 3) the misconception of power, responsibility, and role in society is inevitable. Based on the research conducted for this paper and an analysis of these issues, recommendations for progress includes 1) greater participation of local communities in the development of programs and initiatives which directly affect them, 2) civil society groups must conduct an introspective study in past failures and
collectively define a general purpose, objectives, and role in the development process, 3) tighter working relationship must be developed between government, civil society, and IGOs, and 4) the fundamentals of good governance which include accountability, transparency, democratic principles, and acceptance of a rule of law should evident in all aspects of society. References:
Is There a Civil Society in Africa?, by John Mw Makumbe. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 74, 2. 305-317 (1998). Alternate Approaches to Evaluating International Organizations: Some Research Directions, by James M. McCormick Polity. 1982 Northeastern Political Science Association Republic of Sierra Leone: Joint IDA-IMF staff advisory note on the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. World Bank. Report No. 31775-SL. April 13, 2005 Witness to Truth: Report of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Vol 3B. 2004. Retrieved from www.trcsierraleone.org Executive Summary: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. Retrieved from www.sierraleonenetwork.org
“Civil Society and Development” Civil Society Team. DFID, February 2006 Edgar, Marshall, and Bassett (August 2006). Partnerships: Putting Good Governance Principles in Practice. Institute on Governance.
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