1. IN ANGOLA
Bernard Duchène, a member of the Spiritain order, has lived in Angola for more than thirty years. .
His main objective is to strengthen civil society.
You can meet him in an interview made during his last visit to Paris in June 2009
Sur Dailymotion, la vidéo : B. Duchène et la société civile en Angola
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR ANGOLAN CIVIL SOCIETY
by Bernard Duchène
Generated by various organizations, the project for a National Conference of Civil Society emerged in 2007. Members of Civil Society designed this conference as a response to the need to promote dialogue and exchange experience between several different civil society organizations.
At the same time, the Conference contributed to an increased coordination and dialogue between these CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) on the one hand and with the state, donors and other social actors, on the other.
Proponents of this initiative thought the time had come for the FONGA (Forum of Angolan NGOs) to act as the driving force of this process. And, in fact, the first National Conference of Civil Society was organized by the Forum. It was held on 6th, 7th and 8th November 2007 in the Auditorium of the Catholic University of Angola in Luanda, with the theme: "Building Unity in Diversity".
During the preparation of the first National Conference in 17 provinces, all except the Kwanza Norte - see map below - there were meetings of representatives of NGOs, associations, unions, churches and the government. During these meetings, the concerns and needs of each province were identified. And the candidates for attending the National Conference were elected.
Among the concerns presented at the National Conference were the following points:
The role and functions of Civil Society Organisations with the private sector and the government;
The diversity of its member organizations and their interests;
The different kinds of joint activities related to public affairs.
These themes were incorporated into the agenda of the Conference which attracted 150 participants: delegates from the provinces, officers of various national and international organizations, representatives of the government and international donors.
This Conference was not prepared by the FONGA, which, due to its lack of experience in this kind of organizing, was criticized in the Expanded Coordination Group, and ultimately withdrew entirely from the process of the National Civil Society Conferences. During the second quarter of 2008 the Coordination Group was expanded to include the provinces and not only the NGOs but also the basic community organizations (BCOs), Trade Unions, faith-based organizations and other associations.
These preparations were centred round three topics:
1. How to bring about an effective collaboration amongst Civil Society Organizations to establish the Coordination Group for the Provinces.
2. Establishing ways to facilitate information sharing.
3. Encouraging dialogue with governmental bodies and local administration entities.
The great advantage of organizing these civil society conferences is that they provide the legal opportunity for the man in the street to express himself and realize the importance of debating with others how to improve society.
Prior to the first Civil Society National Conference, there were conferences in each province. This time, for the third national conference, in addition to the provincial conference in each province, there were municipal conferences (four or more in each province).
The team coordinating the preparation of the National Conference in 2009 used Internet to contact the provincial conferences so that everyone was aware of the topics discussed, the difficulties encountered and the enthusiasm generated by each provincial or municipal conference. As a result, a culture of debate and criticism has begun to develope.
As to my role in these programmes: In 2008 I was approached to organize the Kwanza Norte Civil Society Conference because I am chairman of an association called the Joint Commission of Human Rights of Kwanza Norte, founded in 1999 and recognized in the State Gazette since April 2009. We have a committee in each municipality of the Province.
We seek to build a wide platform for debate and discussion throughout the country: Creating spaces for dialogue and debate, for example in our province, by appealing to the provincial government to submit its town planning projects for our city Ndalatando and for the budget of this province.
As another example, in Benguela, every Thursday there is a debate centered round issues of national interest. The debate is relayed by internet and sent to the coordinators who prepare each civil society provincial conference.
Bernard Duchêne, Spiritain Order
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