On 30 April 2020, the West Africa Civil Society Organisation (WACSI) in collaboration with the Ghana CSO Platform on the SDGs organised a webinar to discuss the expediency of the Ghana Beyond Aid (GBA) vision in the wake of emergencies such as the new coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic vis-à-vis civil society’s readiness, resourcefulness, responsiveness and overall sustainability.
It is recognized that COVID-19 significantly threatens every facet of society, not just public health. Countries all over the world are grappling with macroeconomic instability, while private corporations and civil society organizations (CSOs) are facing an unprecedented resource crisis due to impacts of the pandemic. The anticipated global economic downturn in the wake of the pandemic will inevitably compound resource crisis for all sectors, especially the third sector which has not fully recovered from the 2008 economic crisis that led to a devastating reduction in traditional donor funding facilities.
As COVID-19 is fundamentally changing the world, including our domestic context – Ghana, it is imperative that we re-assess the relevance and adequacy of some national policies in responding to the pandemic and associated impacts. One such national policy that became worthy of a revisit in the context of the raging pandemic is the GBA agenda.
The joint WACSI-CSO Platform on SDGs webinar, therefore, allowed civil society to re-open conversation on the shortfalls of the GBA as earlier raised by CSO groups; re-evaluate the adequacy or otherwise of GBA in response to emergencies such as COVID-19. Further, it allowed for the assessment of the threats of GBA to civil society financial sustainability and response to national emergencies.
The webinar attracted insights from four distinguished panellists and CSO/INGO leaders — Mr George Osei-Akoto Bimpeh (Country Director – SEND Ghana); Ms Nana Asantewa Afadzinu (Executive Director – WACSI); Ms Ugonna Ukaigwe (Former National Coordinator – Ghana CSOs Platform on the SDGs) Ms Teiko Sabah (Head of Programmes – STAR Ghana Foundation) and; Mr Tijani Hamza (Country Director – Oxfam International Ghana) — and a cross-section of members of the CSOs Platform on SDGs and other civil society including the INGO community.
Panellists with participants proposed practical opportunities and recommendations to support the revision of the GBA Charter, promote collective ownership and realistic strategies to achieve the vision of the agenda, as well as ensure civil society sustainability.
The recommendations are outlined below:
- Civil society must make their voices heard on the shortfalls of the GBA and in a coordinated manner. This could involve the writing of open letters to the government and relevant ministries, the commissioning of an independent analysis of the GBA in the context of COVID-19 – and beyond – and use for advocacy for change.
- Civil society organisations must build alliances especially with local businesses and philanthropy, as well as work with existing partners to expand their influence in policymaking and governance.
- Civil society should consider its previous engagement strategies (for example, the government’s close collaboration with civil society on the SDGs) with the government that have worked and use the same approaches to engage.
- CSOs have an opportunity through the NGO Bill and the National Policy for Strategic Partnership to engage government and relevant ministries for inclusive policymaking and development.
- CSOs must hold each other accountable, but also support accountability and integrity within. They must also strengthen their credibility with their constituents. CSOs ability to mobilise local resources would suffer should we not take this seriously.
- CSOs must invest in technology and digital tools (with local resources) that would support civil society work, especially in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Civil society must invest in data gathering, curation, and knowledge management to better make case for the sector’s enormous – yet hardly noticed – contribution to socio-economic and human development.
The session concluded with a call to action for civil society as a matter of urgency:
- Re-open conversation on the GBA and advocate for the necessary changes;
- Write open letters to government and the relevant ministries on the shortfalls of the GBA, especially under COVID-19 and way forward and;
- Commission an independent study of the GBA in the context of COVID-19 – and beyond – and use analysis for advocacy.
The moderator, Mr Bimpeh, closed the meeting by thanking all panellists and participants for taking the time to be part of the discussions. He acknowledged that this was just the beginning of conversations for better and inclusive GBA and civil society sustainability.
For more information on the webinar, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org