The closing of the Mexico Civil Society Forum in preparation for the First High Level Forum

Published By UNNGOF |  August 11, 2014

Presented at the closing of the Mexico Civil Society Forum in preparation for the
First High Level Forum of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation
Secretaría de Relaciones (Ministry of Foreign Affairs ), Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City

14th April 2014

By: Richard Ssewakiryanga

Co- Chair – Civil Society Partnership for Development Effective (CPDE)
Executive Director – Uganda National NGO Forum
Plot 25, Muyenga Tank Hill Rd, Kabalagala
P. O. Box 4636, Kampala, Uganda
Office: +256 312 260 373/ 414 510 272

Ladies and Gentlemen – we have spent this day, listening to each other, challenging each other and asking ourselves if indeed the 24 hours, and more – which some of us travelled to come to Mexico was worthwhile.  The first thing that every traveler struggles with is jetlag.  Jetlag sometimes keeps you awake and sometimes makes you sleepy in times when you should be awake.  I have therefore decided to title these closing remarks – it is time to wake up – because many of us are indeed still jetlagged.

Colleagues – it is time to wake up because the world is changing rapidly.  Nature is attacking us with a ferocity that we have never seen before.  Thirty nine days ago a plane disappeared and we still look for it, a bad earth quake hit Nicaragua and even stopped our key note speaker.  Yesterday a bomb hit in the Nigerian City of Lagos and 71 people died, a little known disaster in Uganda swallowed 108 people in a capsized boat in the west of the country.  Ladies and Gentlemen – the world is changing and it is time to wake up.

It is also time to wake up – because development cooperation is being rewritten.  Poverty is no longer a preserve of poor countries but also a reality in rich and middle income countries.  What this implies is that we should be thinking about people, communities and societies differently.  Inequality the way we know it should be something that we all fight and fight ferociously.  To be part of a world where the richest one percent control 90 per cent of the world in unacceptable and should be fought.  Ladies and Gentlemen it is time to wake up.

It is also time to wake up because as civil society we are tired of living in the world of empty promises.  The MDGs were agreed one and a half decades ago and we now do not think we shall see all of them achieved in our life time. Yet the MDGs for all we know were supposed to be the minimum that a country could achieve.  But today we hear leader in the global south celebrating achievement of MDGs – as if achieving the bare minimum is success! On the other side we see, women still dying in child birth.  In Uganda the statistics stand at 16 women die every day.  Children are still going to school and not learning and hence access has not led to learning. All these realities require us to wake up – because if we do not wake up, our world will become a death trap for mothers and a hopeless society for the young children who go through school and learn nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to wake up because democratic ownership still remains a façade – a façade because governments are still not listening to all voices.  While we agreed in Busan that ownership of development must originate from a broader political and social space other than just central government – many governments are still acting as if they are the alpha and omega of development. Ladies and gentlemen – it is time to wake up and take back our development!

Ladies and gentlemen – we have spoken since morning about the enabling environment for civil society.  But today in many countries new laws are being developed that constrain civil society and make it next to impossible for them to operate as actors.  In some countries an NGO needs to register every year, in others they have to fundraise up to seventy five percent of their resources within the country to be called NGOs.  Leaders of NGOs are being blamed for failures of government, named traitors and working for foreign interests and indeed pitying them against the citizens who are their raison d’être.

As we come to the end of this CSO Forum that has in many ways prepared us for the next two days of the High Level Forum, our eyes have to stay firmly fixed on the ultimate reason we are here.  We are here because there are citizens across the world that need to be rescued from the jaws of poverty, of disease, of unequal development, of environmental injustice and flawed and fallacious aid system.  We need to therefore enter the next two days with the resolve to engage, a can-do attitude and a dose of optimism that whatever the conditions of this world, when citizen take control and take back their world the will change the course of today and tomorrow.

I thank you for listening!