[ALAC] Who Makes Up Civil Society
carlton.samuels at gmail.com
Mon Oct 5 16:13:43 UTC 2015
My friend Antonio Medina Gomez of Colombia has it right. You measure first
Civil society organisations work to advance the public interest in one or
other thing, be it internet users, people who are handicapped, people who
suffer from spousal abuse, people who dance to embrace culture, national
literacy, whatever. The objective is what matters most.
This discussion is a great example of how the intersection of history and
culture impact our concepts of democracy, governance and congruent
Save and except the faith-based ones, Caribbean public interest
organisations do not restrict association based on where you live, your
politics or what you like to eat. Our first impulse is to include, not to
exclude. In our tradition, it is the results that matter most. Therefore so
long all subscribe to the common ideals and submit to the same discipline,
membership is yours to take.
The fact is Caribbean peoples are not as suspicious of their governments.
We have a long standing democratic tradition and change governments with
regularity, for the most part uneventfully; every 4 - 5 years. Political
debates are full and frank. And yes, we sometimes elect crooks. But we
never ever elect fools.
Our governments are absolutely dependent on people from all areas of life
to fully participate in their governance. So they expect people, including
those connected to civil society organisations, to serve on public boards
for government-owned or funded entities such as school management boards,
boards of libraries, even publicly-owned for-profit companies. We are not
compensated. All this is considered a contribution to national development
In certain cases, our laws sometimes declare how certain civil society
organisations must be co-opted to serve in certain areas of national
Two examples from Jamaica. The Heart Foundation is a public interest
organisation dedicated to providing information on heart disease and its
prevention to our citizens. The Chairman of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica
is a banker.
The Council of Voluntary Social Services is an umbrella organisation that
coordinate the work of the voluntary sector in helping the poor and
disadvantaged live better lives. Membership runs the gamut from the United
Way thru youth groups like Boys & Girls clubs to retired citizens clubs to
organised groups in the Diaspora with their pet causes. It is funded
partially from the public purse and the Chair is a retired school teacher.
You could check Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada or Antigua
and you see the same referrals.
That is our Caribbean reality. And any definition that begins with
exclusion automatically disadvantage us.
Carlton A Samuels
*Strategy, Planning, Governance, Assessment & Turnaround*
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