Ghanaian-born British diplomat, Paul Boateng has urged Ghanaians to be active citizens in other to ensure a faster developmental pace. He defined an active citizen as one whose individual actions contribute significantly towards the betterment of the wider society.
Delivering this year's Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg memorial lectures of the University of Ghana, Rt. Hon. Paul Boateng who is Britain's High Commissioner to South Africa said the spirit of active citizenship “ignites self reliance, interdependence and action.”
“One of such active citizens was Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey whose individual drive and passion for education made him embark on massive campaigns which eventually led to the establishment of Achimota School and subsequently the University of Ghana.”
The Memorial Lecture was instituted to commemorate the contributions of Dr. J. K. Aggrey, Alex G. Fraser and Governor Gordon Guggisberg to the founding of Achimota College and the advancement of education, particularly higher education in Ghana.
Mr. Boateng asked Ghanaians to reignite the spirit of active citizenship which moved these three eminent persons to do so much for Ghana.
Speaking on the role of civil society in development, Mr. Boateng said the state and statutory bodies cannot by themselves achieve the aspirations of the wider populace. He told his audience that for the politicians to deliver and meet the aspirations of those whose mandate they hold, they need the active participation of the people.
According to him, civil society in all its forms is therefore a vital player in taking us forward as a nation. Using the efforts of the Jubilee Campaign as an example, Mr. Boateng said debt relief to Africa and some poverty stricken countries was not at the pleasure of the British government but rather as a result of the continuous pressure by the group.
“Civil society groups add significant value to government. In all issues, they've brought great contributions to the table. The jubilee campaign made our government realize the wisdom in debt forgiveness so that funds for debt servicing can be used for pro-poor activities. Undoubtedly, this benefits all of us.”
Mr. Boateng, who is a former British Cabinet Minister, admonished governments in both the developing and the developed world not to be suspicious of civil society organizations because they exist for the good of society.
He asked governments to rather celebrate the spirit of volunteerism, which is exhibited in civil society and not stifle it through scrupulous means. He explained further that accepting civil society is very necessary because the top-down approach does not work, and calls for consultation and dialogue between governments and civil society.
The British diplomat acknowledged the achievements of the civil society in Africa, making particular mention of its role in conflict resolution in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Another shining example he said, is the role of civil society in the restoration of Ghana to democratic rule in the early 1990's.
The Rt. Hon Paul Boateng is a distinguished British politician of Ghanaian descent. He is the son of Mr. Kwaku Boateng, a Minister of State in the first Republic of Ghana, and Mrs. Eleanor Boateng, a former deputy headmistress of Ghana International School.
He has served three consecutive terms as the Labour Party MP for Brent South and held several positions in government.