Eliminate tension between state and civil society, say faith leaders

Accra, GHANA, 05 OCTOBER 2018 (F2A) – Tension between public sector and civil society has been identified as a key limitation to advocacy efforts. This has slowed down progress on legal and policy reforms on the African continent. The limitations were identified during a presentation made, on the role of CSOs in Advocacy, during Africa Regional CSO Consultations to review progress made after five years of the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD+5), and twenty five years after International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+25).

Ensuing discussions in plenary outlined that most states and regional governments perceive civil society as adversaries rather than development partners. “Even within the civil society, there is tension,” added Pastor Doris Mufara from Zimbabwe. “The church and the rest do not see eye to eye because of different perceptions as a result of belief systems and convictions,” said Pastor Mufara. “The way forward should not be to change belief systems, but to get all concerned to read, understand and appreciate the data on the ground.  Messages therefore needed to be formulated that would get the church interested in listening,” the cleric offered.

An outcome statement of the pre-conference called on African Union Member States to promote health, dignity and equality of all persons. “We call on member states to prioritize and adequately finance universal access to comprehensive, quality and integrated health services including sexual and reproductive health services. This requires that countries meet the previously recommended 15 percent of GDP expenditure for health as per Abuja declaration and on the provisions for expenditure on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) as per the 2016-2030 revised Maputo Plan of Action,” the statement reads in part.

Faith to Action Network was represented at the consultations by Pastor Doris Mufara and Mrs. Aba Oppong. Their e contributions, regarding Dignity and Equality in the Outcome Statement calls on member states to “address the unique needs of persons with disabilities, disadvantaged, marginalized, underserved and key populations with regard to their rights to health, nutrition, mental health for all and education at all levels.” The outcome document was later shared with Ministers across Africa Union (AU) Member States for further review, dialogue and assent. Read the full outcome statement here.

Champions from the faith community also raised the challenge of limited capacity to understand technical documentation as a limitation to their advocacy efforts. “Sometimes the technical documentation is made available just before discussions making it difficult to understand what it means and therefore our contribution is minimized,” Pastor Mufara added.

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