Civil society-UNDP forum elects new executive
The Civil Society Consultative Forum, a partner of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has elected a new executive in Bo City. Formerly known as the CSO-UNDP forum, the new executive is led by Mr Victor Lansana Koroma as Chair, Mr Usif S. Mansaray as Secretary, Ms Aminata Kamara as Treasurer, Ms Fatmata Mansaray as Financial Secretary and Mr Sao Lamin as Public Relations Officer. Those elected are expected to man the affairs of the Forum for the next two years.
The newly elected Chair, Mr. Koroma said that the elections mark a milestone in civil society work in Sierra Leone and added to a cheering crowd: “our role as civil society is to defend the poor and the weak. Since the end of the war in our country, democracy, civil and political rights have taken root. What we need now is to deepen economic, social and cultural rights for the poor and marginalised.”
“We cannot call on the state to account when we in civil society are not accountable”, said Mr Nana Busia, UNDP Senior Legal Advisor and Project Manager for Access to Justice at the meeting. “Accountability starts now.”
The election itself was preceded by several meetings in all the regions to inform the civil society organisations (CSOs) on the election process, procedures and guidelines. This information was also broadcast by local radio stations in all regions throughout the country. On election day, the Electoral Commission presented a report of the electoral Code of Conduct and names of eligible voters.
The election of the new members was attended by the Paramount Chief of Kakua Chiefdom, Prince Lappia Boima, Deputy Mayor of Bo, Mr Joe Pyne, the Resident Minister South, Honourable Musa Tarawally, and Chief Police Superintendent Kabbia. Forum Secretary, Mr.Usif Mansaray said “...representation on behalf of the poor and marginalised by civil society is weak and uncoordinated in Sierra Leone. Rights and social justice for the poor are often not realized”.
The Consultative Forum emerged following various consultations between CSOs and the UNDP. According to Mr Nana Busia, it responded to a need for an institutionalised and informed discussion to take place between CSOs and UNDP, and as a vital mechanism to enable UNDP to build relationships with civil society.
Over 120 organizations working in human rights and development meet on a monthly basis to discuss and evaluate governance and development issues, update members on ongoing work and discuss issues relating to human rights, justice, and rule of law in the Sierra Leone.
The Forum has been a critical force in sustaining national interest on issues of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and the advancement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Sierra Leone. In March this year, it issued a statement condemning the unacceptable levels new SGBV incidents in Sierra Leone, especially involving child victims. The Forum has also elicited immense interest and support from grassroots organisations across the country, representing all the 14 districts in Sierra Leone which were present to participate in the elections.
UNDP Access to Justice Programme Officer, Elvis Enoh-Tanyi said “We hope that with the trainings received so far, the Forum will begin to ask critical questions regarding rights to health, housing and so on...”
People’s access to justice in Sierra Leone remains a critical building block of democratic society and to the consolidation of peace in post-conflict society. In its activities, UNDP is focusing its response to strengthening a weak and poorly resourced justice system, addressing gender inequality and violence against women.