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CSOs must lead Ghana Beyond Aid agenda — Dutch ambassador

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
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• Participants at the event, arrowed is the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Ron Strikker

The Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Ron Strikker, has said that the ‘Ghana beyond aid’ agenda is not only a Ghanaian agenda but one for the whole of Africa.

Subsequently, he charged civil society organisations (CSOs) to help in that direction, since they operate as the interface between the state, the citizens and the markets.

He said CSOs were the voice of citizens at the local, national and international levels and could help make governments more accountable to the citizens and increase their legitimacy.

In doing so, he noted, they contributed to greater social cohesion, stronger and more open democracies, secure better responses to challenges, enable favourable business climates, reduce inequality and advance opportunities for all and improve efficient service delivery.

He noted that many countries, including Ghana, had gone through substantial social development and economic growth over the past decades, such that the traditional development cooperation had changed from aid to trade. 

The focus, he said, was on helping to bring about strong economic development through the promotion of investment, including foreign investment and trade, with a central role for the private sector and entrepreneurship. 

“The policy of aid to trade falls in the Ghana beyond aid agenda. The focus and the emphasis are on taking your own responsibility and standing on your own feet. Through these trades, we can create sustainable businesses, address climate change, migration and social inclusion,” he stated at the second Voice for Change Partnership Programme (V4C) learning event in Accra. 

Mr Strikker indicated that worldwide, many people had been excluded from the benefits of economic growth due to issues of their gender, religion, sexuality, ethnicity and others.

He said in Ghana, like others, the average income of the top 10 per cent of society was almost 10 times as much as the average of the lowest 10 per cent, saying that the state needed to have the means to intervene. 

“It needs to have the money and not only the policy; more taxation, better taxation, fair taxation, domestic resource mobilisation because in the end when Ghana wants to finance things for which to get the support, it needs its own financial means. You can only get it when you take it out of the economy,” he said. 

Role of CSOs

Mr Strikker noted that although the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups remained the central task of the state, interest groups, including CSOs, had played and continued to play an equally important role in the protection of such rights. 

Dutch policy intervention 

To enable CSOs to effectively voice alternative views in the dynamic and often complex context, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently funds 25 strategic partnerships and more than 1,300 CSOs in some 65 countries, including Ghana.

In 2016, some 1,464 advocacy efforts were carried out, focusing on themes such as water, food security, the environment, health, equality between men and women, among others. 

V4C

The V4C partnership programme is an evidence-based advocacy programme being implemented by the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, in partnership with the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). 

The aim of the five-year programme is to strengthen CSOs to advocate an enabling environment in which governments and businesses provide affordable services for low-income segments. 

Studies show that 78 per cent of Ghanaians have no access to clean cooking technologies and fuels, only 15 per cent have access to sustainable sanitation facilities, many children and women of reproductive ages are malnourished, with 23 per cent stunted and 13 per cent underweight. 

Despite the deplorable nutrition statistics, 40-60 per cent of edible food produced is lost to post-harvest losses. 

The Country Director of SNV, Mr Harm Duker, said those statistics pointed to a greater need to reverse the trend. 

“As SNV, together with our partner CSOs, we remain resolute in our commitment and are available to serve in any way that addresses the aforementioned needs. We wish to see our policy-making bodies take the lead in the identification of the strategic gaps our collaborative efforts need to cover to inject further effectiveness into the project through targeted support,” he said.

 Mr Duker stated that although the project was not designed to facilitate direct service delivery in the field, the ingenuity the CSOs had led to the dissemination of over 50,000 clean cooking systems in some districts.