Mozambican civil society’s place in a changing global context – reflections on a CIVICUS consultation in Maputo

In late May I took the lead in organising a consultation in Maputo , Mozambique, with representatives of Mozambican civil society to get their valuable input into the process of defining CIVICUS’ new Strategic Directions.  With the proactive assistance of CIVICUS Board Member Marta Cumbi, we were able to get quality feedback from participants.

Although for the majority of those present it was the first time that they heard of CIVICUS and its work as a global civil society alliance, people could immediately relate to CIVICUS’ mission to strengthen citizen participation around the world, as in Mozambique it was clear there is a great need for CIVICUS to assist CSOs in this regard. Indeed throughout the consultation I heard repeated complaints made of how the government has largely contributed to creating a disenabling environment for civil society. Participants spoke of the many restrictive laws that have been imposed on civil society, stigmatising it and hampering its ability to protest freely without fear of political repercussions.

In the conversation it was also discussed that Mozambique had experienced what participants called their own Mozambican version of the Arab Spring, in September 2010. Rising prices in water, energy and most importantly, bread, highly affected the most marginalised people, those living under conditions of poverty. Young and poor people were the out in the streets mobilising against the government, to which the lack of participation of trade unions and local CSOs served as a counterpoint. So, in this sense, a failure of local organised civil society could be seen. Given that it would seem to fall clearly within CSOs’ mandates to represent the interests of the marginalised in this situation, the resulting lack of appropriate action surely provokes questions about whose interests organised civil society really works for, and suggests that they need to re-evaluate their missions and visions to ensure that they do justice to strengthening the voices of the marginalised in Mozambique.

Another issue brought up frequently by participants was the fact that Mozambican civil society as a collective is currently highly uncoordinated. The lack of a national CSO platform was greatly felt by many participants.  This suggests that one immediate follow up for CIVICUS could be to open and facilitate more spaces for continued dialogue, with other Mozambican CSOs, or indeed Lusophone actors in particular from further afield.

The general feeling of participants was very positive regarding the opportunity offered by CIVICUS to consult on their views, such that they asked for more and continued engagements building on this one. Personally, after playing an active role in organising and facilitating this meeting, and learning of the huge spirit of perseverance that Mozambican civil society draws on to confront their local problems, I know that this will be the start of many more future engagements.

Natalie Akstein, Convening Officer, CIVICUS 

Natalie Akstein

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2 comments on “Mozambican civil society’s place in a changing global context – reflections on a CIVICUS consultation in Maputo

  1. Steven Earl Salmony on said:

    If we agree to “think globally”, it becomes evident that riveting attention on GROWTH could be a grave mistake because we are denying how economic and population growth in the communities in which we live cannot continue as it has until now. Each village’s resources are being dissipated, each town’s environment degraded and every city’s fitness as place for our children to inhabit is being threatened. To proclaim something like, ‘the meat of any community plan for the future is, of course, growth’ fails to acknowledge that many villages, towns and cities are already ‘built out’, and also ‘filled in’ with people. If the quality of life we enjoy now is to be maintained for the children, then limits on economic and population growth will have to be set. By so doing, we choose to “act locally” and sustainably.

    More economic and population growth are no longer sustainable in many too many places on the surface of Earth because biological constraints and physical limitations are immutably imposed upon ever increasing human consumption, production and population activities of people in many communities where most of us reside. Inasmuch as the Earth is finite with frangible environs, there comes a point at which GROWTH is unsustainable. There is much work to done locally. But that effort cannot reasonably begin without sensibly limiting economic and population growth.

    To quote another source, “We face a wide-open opportunity to break with the old ways of doing the town’s business…..” That is a true statement. But the necessary “break with the old ways” of continous economic and population growth is not what is occurring. There is a call for a break with the old ways, but the required changes in behavior are not what is being proposed as we plan for the future. What is being proposed and continues to occur is more of the same, old business-as-usual overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, the very activities that appear to be growing unsustainbly. More business-as-usual could soon become patently unsustainable, both locally and globally. A finite planet with the size, composition and environs of the Earth and a community with the boundaries, limited resources and wondrous climate of villages, towns and cities where we live may not be able to sustain much longer the economic and population growth that is occurring on our watch. Perhaps necessary changes away from UNSUSTAINABLE GROWTH and toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

    Think globally while there is still time and act locally before it is too late for human action to make any difference in the clear and presently dangerous course of unfolding human-induced ecological events, both in our planetary home and in our villages, towns and cities.

  2. Dorothee on said:

    Hi Steven,

    In relation to your comment, you should check this link out:

    https://www.civicus.org/en/what-we-do/cross-cutting-projects/rio-20/civicus-on-rio-20/957-rio20-the-future-we-dont-want-sign-the-petition

    Do you agree to what it says?