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23.11.2004 Health

Jobs, education, health, sanitation dominate candidates' debates

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Accra, Nov. 23, GNA - Youth unemployment, education, health care and public sanitation are emerging as the most important issues being raised by the electorate during grassroots debates by parliamentary candidates across the country.

Ghana Civic Unions, one of several organisations carrying out the debates, said the unions were also asking candidates to go on record with a description of how they would work with civil society if they won a seat in Parliament.

A statement in Accra on Tuesday by Government Accountability Improved Trust Programme (GAIT), an nongovernmental organisation (NGO) facilitating the debate of Ghana Civic Unions, said 10 of such debates had been organised between November 14 and November 19 and 20 more were expected by November 27.

It said between 400 and 700 people attended each of the debates, which had been recorded on audio and videotape to help the unions remind successful candidates of commitments made during the debates.

Civic Unions are district-based networks of civil society organisations that advocate the interest of their members and communities to local government and public utility service providers. The Civic Unions, such as associations of market women, butchers and traders also educate and inform citizens on important local issues. The format includes five to six questions, developed in advance through consultation with community leaders and posed to each candidate by the Unions.

The statement said at Agona Swedru the Unions asked the audience to submit written questions on the spot. These were then sorted out for main themes and posed to the candidates.

"The debates give candidates an opportunity to express their views and give voters the opportunity to learn where candidates stand on issues that impact on their lives," Kenneth Botwe, Chairman of the Upper Denkyira Association of Civil Society Organisations, said. "Civic Unions also view the debates as starting points for building relationships between future Members of Parliament and their constituents," he said.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) through GAIT, local civil society partners and volunteers are supporting the debates. USAID assistance includes the development of debate training materials, organisation and conduct of debates and training of civic unions in effective debate procedures and promotion. 23 Nov. 04

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