Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Malawi and government are failing Malawians in terms of active participation in governance, says Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).
The failure is due to lack of enhanced relations between government and CSOs and proper coordination of activities on both sides, according to CCJP research findings.
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) agrees with CCJPâ€™s findings, saying CSOs have not created much impact on policy influence and dialogue as most of the interventions are not evidence based due to capacity and resource constraints.
CCJP has since sought money from Tilitonse Funds, whose donors are DfID, Irish Aid and Norwegian Embassy, to implement a one-year programme called Enhanced Citizen Participation for Accountable and Responsive Governance in Malawi to run up to March 2013.
CCJP says the linkages between government and CSOs in terms of policy dialogue and conflict resolution are poor. Government is also faulted for having no structure for regular interface with CSOs.
â€œIn particular, they [linkages] are not institutionalised and are dependent on the goodwill of those who hold political power,â€ reads CCJPâ€™s report dated March 2012.
The report, signed by CCJPâ€™s national secretary Chris Chisoni, takes a swipe at CSOs, saying they are unable to make their findings accessible, digestible and timely for policy discussions.
Reads the report: â€œAlthough there has been a regime change due to the sudden death of president Bingu Wa Mutharika and the operational environment for CSOs has suddenly improved, the key problems identified above persist. The new political environment presents a window of opportunity to begin a process of institutionalising government-CSO relations so that the relations are less dependent on the goodwill of ruling politicians and the question of CSO legitimacy is effectively addressed for the long term.â€
Chisoni said on Thursday that the analysis was compiled between 2010 and the first half of 2012 when relations between government and CSOs were poor. He said during that time, CSOs were also working in isolation and despite the change of government, such problems persist.
â€œWe want CSOs to speak with one voice and not just one or two CSOs sitting in the office and making statements for all CSOs,â€ said Chisoni.
HRCC chairperson Undule Mwakasungula on Tuesday said the issues raised by CCJPâ€™s were correct and added that government was also to blame.
â€œIssues ofÂ coordination are a challenge. That does not only apply to CSOs alone, but government as well,â€ said Mwakasungula.
Government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu was reportedly outside the country and he did not respond to our e-mailed questionnaire.