EFFECTIVENESS OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS IN ADVOCATING CHANGE IN THE SOCIETY

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play an increasing important role in governance and development around the world. In many countries, CSOs have become important actors in the delivery of social services and the implementation of other national development programmes to complement what States sometimes fail to provide to their citizens (Ulanga, 2009).

First, CSOs act at a local and national level. They provide a certain amount of services to the population, public authorities and even businesses. In several countries, they play a key role in the fulfillment of social, cultural and welfare services, be it as a separate self-financed organization or in cooperation with national governments and local public authorities. They are thus involved in public missions and public services which are facing new challenges and may experience tremendous changes in the future. To a great extent, the development CSOs and their relationship to the state on governance issues has been a reflection of the prevailing socio-economic and political environment (Kiondo, 2004).

According to Diamond (1999), a vibrant civil society is sine qua non to the sustenance of any nation‘s development. Studies have shown that the role of civil society groups is vital in the political, social and economic development of African countries.

Before independence, there was a dominance of about 51 religious organizations, labour, linguistic and ethnic organizations and dance clubs. However, several studies reveal that even those few organizations which sometime during the struggle for independence were vocal and autonomous were later on when the country went into single party banned while others were decentralized and fall under the control of the state. For example, the Ruvuma Development Association was banned in 1969 because the regional authorities saw its autonomy and emphasis on democracy as a threat (LHRC, 2011).

In the late 1980s and 1990s Kiondo (2004) says that, Nigeria underwent major social economic and political transformation. In the economic sphere, it moved from a centralized economic system to economic liberalization while in the political sphere the country moved from a single party system to multiparty system. This new orientation created a space for voluntary action in the form of civic associations. As such in the 1980s and 1990s Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented growth of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

While some CSOs are doing notable work in the area of advocating the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women and children, other CSOs deal with good governance and poverty reduction strategies (Civicus, 2008). For instance in Nigeria, political parties and a number of other CSOs have been providing opposition to the ruling political party that has wielded the reins of power since independence in 1961. Close to the times of general elections, which are held once after every five years, several CSOs get involved in raising voters’ awareness on election matters, and during elections, they help in the monitoring of electoral process. The economic reform programmes have also been an area of interest of CSOs, some of which have been actively involved in ensuring that the benefits of economic reforms reach people at the grassroots level, through such initiatives as public expenditure tracking (PETS) (Civicus, 2011).

For over two decades now, the process of globalization has been influencing the socioeconomic environment in countries. While globalization provides new opportunities for economic development to countries through trade liberalization, foreign direct investment, capital flows, information exchange and technological transfer, it has meant increased deprivation for those nations which have been unable to adjust to the new requirements of global society. Thus, on one hand while we witness rapid economic growth and prosperity in some regions, there are more than a billion people who continue to live in poverty with purchasing power of less than a dollar a day. In the poorest countries, about one fifth of the children die in the first year of their birth, nearly half of those who survive are malnourished and a significant proportion of the population does not have access to clear water, sanitation, basic health services and education.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

While many of the civil society organizations in the country strive to influence the government and policy makers on various issues of people’s interest, the government continues to mistrust them and even misunderstand their roles. Many CSOs express concerns that although the government has changed its attitude towards the private sector as a partner in development process, it has not changed its attitude towards Civil Society Organizations (Ingelstam and Karlstedt, 2007).

Although several studies have contributed towards exploring the key problems facing CSOs in Nigeria, most of them have not examined the effectiveness of these CSOs in advocating change in the society. It is this reason which has inspired the researcher into carrying out an analytical examination of the effectiveness of civil society organizations (specifically Nigeria Labor congress) in advocating change in the society.

While trying to fulfill these functions, governments all over the world, have pursued policies that were generally considered to be unpopular, insensitive and inimical to public interest. Some governments have also taken certain actions which inadvertently trampled on the rights and liberties of the people. Yet other government policies have been similarly adjudged as environmentally unfriendly. Some government policies may sometimes unleash momentary hardships onto the people and this goes uncontested in reality. But considered on the whole, the long term benefits society may derive from such very policies, sometimes, could be beyond measure.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The general objective of this study is to examine the effectiveness of civil society organizations in advocating change in the society, a case study of Nigeria Labor Congress. The specific objectives of this study include the following:

1. To find out the perception of the Nigeria Labor Congress on the necessity of advocating change in the society.

2. To ascertain the areas Nigeria Labor Congress has been successful in advocating change in society.

3. To assess the mechanisms used by Nigeria Labor Congress in advocating change in society.

4. To examine the factors limiting Nigeria Labor Congress in advocating change in society.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The relevant research questions related t this study include the following:

1. What is the perception of the Nigeria Labor Congress on the necessity of advocating change in the society?

2. What are the areas Nigeria Labor Congress has been successful in advocating change in society?

3. What are the mechanisms used by Nigeria Labor Congress in advocating change in society?

4. What are the factors limiting Nigeria Labor Congress in advocating change in society?