Enhanced Citizen Participation in the Implementation of Lesotho National Reforms

Priority Setting Workshop for Special Interest Groups

June 14, 2022
UNDP Lesotho Resident Representative

UNDP Lesotho Resident Representative, Ms. Betty Wabunoha

Photo: UNDP

I am delighted to join you today as we sustain this conversation on building the Lesotho that we want through the National Reforms journey. Keeping focus on the principle of inclusion, consultation and listening to all voices including women, youth, people with disabilities, the elderly and other marginalised groups this priority setting workshop remains true to the call for enhancing citizen participation in the implementation of Lesotho’s National Reforms.

My special recognition goes to the Government of Lesotho, in particular the Ministry of Law and Justice for staying focused and ensuring the 11th Constitutional Amendment Bill is tabled in Parliament. The Delegation of the European Union to the Kingdom of Lesotho, for your continual financial and technical support in the national reforms sector which has been key in ensuring greater results are achieved in this initiative.

Permit me to reminisce John Locke’s take on the social contract, laid out in his 1689 work, Two Treatise of Government. He assures that any government has to be consented to by the people it has jurisdiction over and gives people the right to check their government if it steps out of line. Therefore, governments exist only by the consent of the people in order to protect basic rights and promote the common good of society. I make the point to remind ourselves that Locke’s ideas are still fundamentally important, as they opened doors of political debate and helped guide and shape future governments. Locke’s emphasis on the issue of consent is important for our meeting today as it acts as a catalyst for us to consider alternatives.

Lock’s position reinforces the presupposition that Civil society infuses prevailing wisdom into the community. I am alive to the clear distinction between Civil Society Organisations and Faith Based Organisation. For my remarks, however, allow me to use the term Civil Society to mean Churches and other faith-based organizations, Online groups and social media communities, Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other nonprofits, Unions and other collective-bargaining groups, Innovators, entrepreneurs and activists, Cooperatives and collectives and Grassroots organizations. If permitted to do so, then I will state that Civil society is the ecosystem that influences social change outside of the family, market or government. It is the space where we act for the common good and aims to connect excluded or marginalized people with groups that can mobilize support to help.

At various points throughout history, civil society has taken on the role of leading great movements of change, including civil rights, gender equality and other parity movements. May I add that, Civil society is at its best when people at all levels of society adopt an idea. Over time, this fosters changes in power structures and infuses the new prevailing wisdom into family, society, courts and businesses.

From the time I arrived in Lesotho-mid 2019, I have witnessed tremendous socio-economic and political changes in the Kingdom of Lesotho – changes for the better. These changes have been partly shaped by world events (eg the COVID 19), internal struggles, creative energy, technological and economic advances. In all these changes, the civil society has provided a way to engage productively in this process—to keep tabs on new developments and partner with other organizations working for the common good. This being the case, I feel,  it is critical for the civil society to identify and define their specific role in the reforms implementation process.

During the dialogue process, the Civil society took a central role in facilitating in-district consultations that generated the contents for reforms. On the other hand the faith-based organisations under the auspices of Christian Council of Lesotho remained the moral authority, arbiter and mediator to generate consensus among the political and social leadership of this country. Throughout this period, the lessons learned and international best practices, there appears to be at least three pillars that will remain a central role for Civil Society to enhance citizen participation in the implementation of the national reforms.

First, sustaining social accountability. Civil society will need to weave skills and abilities to hold government, corporations, faith-based and other organizations accountable for their actions or inactions, omission or commissions. Social accountability prizes transparency and honesty and makes sure everyone — from government officials to local school children — follows the same rules.

Second, empowering communities. Civil society and faith based organizations will need to give voice to the disorganized, voiceless segments of Society. This shall be inter alia, raising awareness of social, political and economic issues and advocate for implementation of the reforms as well as, empowering local communities to develop new programs to meet their own needs in line with the opportunities opened by the reforms.

Third, ensuring good democratic governance prevails. Going forward, civil society should continue working hand-in-hand with the government, striving to develop policy and implement new strategies. Beyond that, civil society should build social capital by providing a way for participants to build relationships and make connections based on their values, behaviors and beliefs.

For the Civil society to continue with the tradition of advocating for social, political and economic change, this workshop provides an opportunity for us to think through strategic and innovative avenues of getting involved in change opportunity presented by the national reforms. For example, implementation of the reforms will require Experts to undertake studies, research and to develop deep knowledge in the seven thematic areas. Single organisations, groups or consortium of organizations, and in those capacities shall straddle work across thematic sectors —serving as research councils, consultants and members of think tanks. In addition to providing knowledge, they may train, advocate for reforms, teach or build new reforms networks in their areas of expertise.

As Ambassadors, Civil society and faith-based organisations shall be a liaison to the Basotho, functioning as a voice for under-represented communities. And, as Innovators you shall be energized by the idea of developing new solutions to intractable social issues raised by the national reforms process. Part of your role is to serve as Lesotho’s idea incubator, keeping faith for causes that may take a long time to resolve. You may work on practical solutions  or devote your creative energy to technology, such as creating a new social media platform for national reforms.

I find it appropriate to reiterate that Locke not only crafted a unique take on the social contract, focusing on consent, but he answered every question or doubt imaginable to support it, which further proves legitimacy for citizen engagement in policy processes. In response to the overwhelming call of social contract, I believe Civil Society provides a solid normative and empirical argument on how the government began with the reforms journey and how it should remain committed to serve the Basotho.

This is now the time to translate the policies into action. We would like to see all key stakeholders participating and influencing peace and reforms talks, and able to facilitate communication between formal actors. We therefore all need to work together; and ensure that no group is left behind, as we build and create a prosperous and peaceful nation.

I wish you well as you engage further. May you have very productive, innovative, open, inclusive and diverse discussions, that go beyond ‘business as usual’, as we all work to build a Lesotho that the Basotho want.





" Civil society is at its best when people at all levels of society adopt an idea. Over time, this fosters changes in power structures and infuses the new prevailing wisdom into family, society, courts and businesses."
UNDP Lesotho Resident Representative, Betty Wabunoha