11.04.2005 Politics

Participatory democracy is not limited to elections only - NCCE

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Accra, April 11, GNA - The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) on Monday said participatory democracy should not be limited to elections alone but should be inspired through acquisition of knowledge, skills and the development of the necessary civic dispositions to enable the citizenry to participate effectively.

Mr Laary Bimi, NCCE Chairman, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that the international community and development activists had recognised effective local governance as an important catalyst for broadening participatory democracy, generate good governance and accelerate poverty reduction.

He said consequently, the Commission had decided to focus on civic education programmes and activities on institutions of State such as the District Assemblies, Parliament, the Judiciary, Council of State, Public Services, Security Services, Chieftaincy Institutions, Political Parties and other identifiable groups during the Fifth Constitution Week celebration and beyond.

Mr Bimi explained that the Fifth Constitutional Week celebration, scheduled for April 28 to May 4, on the general theme: "Reducing Poverty Through Citizens' Participation in Local Government," was dedicated to broadening the principles of participatory democracy.

The NCCE Chairman said: "A decentralized system of governance will more likely achieve poverty reduction through community participation in policy formulation, project implementation and social auditing than the classical centralized system of governance."

Ghanaians, therefore, needed to consider and understand the relationship between participatory democracy and decentralisation, which was a two-way communication mechanism with the overall goal of achieving results to enhance the livelihood of the citizenry, Mr Bimi said. He said Ghana's poverty reduction efforts should depend on developing a governance paradigm that made government accessible, responsive and accountable at the local level.

Mr Bimi said lack of understanding of the operational mechanism of local government systems, low level of participation of women, the vulnerable and the poor, low resource mobilization of the local government units had hindered the effective growth of local government structures.

He also spoke about the blurred roles and responsibilities between District Assembly Members, the Zonal and Unit Committees and the District Chief Executives and the inability of local authorities to initiate and implement policies and programmes, without the countervailing supervisions of the Central Government.

Mr Bimi, therefore, called for public participation in activities of the Constitution Week celebration saying this would offer the platform for grassroots participatory democracy and to ensure that the public was well informed on their civic responsibilities.

The programme would start with media briefing, reading of civic messages in Churches, Mosques, shrines and educational institutions. There would be lectures, adult education in six local languages on television. These would be replicated at the community level. 11 April 2005

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