Brazil in Africa07.05.2013 11:45
Seminar Deborah Brautigam24.05.2012 10:36
Cooperating with China in Africa24.05.2012 10:34
The importance of civil society engagement
The main challenge is how to increase the positive impact of these trade, investment and aid relations, or reduce their possible negative impact. The impact is economic, social, environmental and political. Civil society organisations have an important role to play, but there are many challenges:
The challenges for civil society in Africa
There has been little involvement of African civil society so far. High government officials and businessmen almost exclusively dominate the relationships between emerging powers and African countries. Therefore there is relatively little awareness and knowledge on the role of emerging powers. The challenge of engagement with emerging powers seems almost overwhelming. The speed and magnitude of change are staggering.
Of course, civil society in Africa needs to be disaggregated to the level of countries and sectors. There will be specific challenges for each sector and country and there will be many different voices and opinions. A union of textile workers in Tanzania will have a different opinion from a farmers union in Zambia. There is a real need for broadening the civil society engagement and bringing new voices and perspectives in.
The challenges for civil society in Emerging Powers
The civil societies of the emerging powers are weakly developed (China), strongly developed (India and Brazil) or somewhere in between (South Africa). There is very little awareness and knowledge about the implications of their countries engagement with low-income countries. As an illustration a skech of the situation in India:
Civil society in India is domestically strong but is not focussed internationally. When Indian civil society organisations participate in global campaigns they look at the impact on India. Generally civil society in India is happy about the global rise of India. They appreciate the new respect for India as an emerging power in global affairs.
Indian civil society organisations criticize the current economic growth model for not being inclusive enough. They advocate bringing those groups in that have been left out by the economic system. Furthermore there is little room in India for a critical debate among civil society organisations about the implications of India’s global strategy for Africa. When perceived as being too critical the organisations will be shamed as unpatriotic or worse criminalised as subversive.
It will take considerable time for civil society in emerging powers to develop a vision and strategy on the role of their home country in the world and the implications for Africa. It will compete for limited time and resources with their ‘traditional’ priorities of working on domestic problems of poverty, social injustice and lack of sustainability. Being too critical for government and therefore criminalised is a real risk for all civil society actors in emerging powers.
The challenges for civil society in Europe
The knowledge base of European development organisations (and to a lesser extent environmental organisations) is weakly developed. Although many people in the organisations are aware of the increasing importance of emerging powers, they have difficulty in relating it to their work. It seems to be too far away, too different and too big to handle.
Increased knowledge on emerging powers is an essential element of the repositioning of civil society actors, which want to go beyond the classical aid paradigm. In the Dutch context, the WWR report ‘Less Pretension, More Ambition’ emphasizes the role of civil society in the management of globalisation and international public goods. Emerging powers are crucial in the management of cross-border interdependencies.