I am very pleased to have been invited to the second annual stakeholder forum hosted by the NGO Council to make a few remarks.
I am sure it has taken a lot of efforts to get all the delegates here this morning. I would like to congratulate the NGO Council to organize this event.
I have noted that the theme of this version of the forum is; "Leveraging Dialogue and Synergies for Transformative and Sustainable Development".
It is indeed an appropriate theme as it responds directly to one of the main reasons why we, at the EU, in partnership with the Government of Botswana, provided support to establish a programme for Empowerment of Non-State Actors in Botswana. The goal of this programme is to work towards enhancing meaningful dialogue between the government and civil society.
To achieve this goal the programme provided support to the functioning of the NGO Council to allow for effective implementation of the Council's mandate. I believe this forum we are witnessing today is in part a result of this support; it is one of the outcomes that have been expected since the NGO-Council was launched more than five years ago.
I would like commend your ministry for having supported the NGO Council during its initial period to help it find its footing. While it was necessary for a new organization with a delicate mandate to be accorded some incubation period we believe that the Council is mature enough and that it should play its role as the right forum to address some of the challenges facing the NGO sector, such as:
-capacity to perform their roles as independent development actors,
- the scarcity of funding or
- the need to improve their networking as well as their relations line ministries and local authorities.
The Government of Botswana expresses clearly in the national strategies such as the National Development Plan 11 and the National Vision 2036 its position on an empowered civil society sector.
Hon. Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is one of the many topics on which Botswana and the EU are in agreement. The EU believes that active civil society sector is important for citizens to engage in their own communities and support evolution of their societies. Government cannot do it alone – citizens have to take initiative and participate, civil society organisations can be a platform to do so. Civil society is also a corner stone to a well-functioning democracy.
The NSA programme is coming to an end next month. During its life time the programme has provided capacity building support to umbrella NGOs and grants to individual NGOs. To date a total of 51 grants worth over P 20 million have been issued to NGOs across the country. The grant schemes targeted subjects that are considered critical to the functioning of our societies such as Gender and Women Empowerment, Children, Education, Environment, just to mention a few. We will soon have an evaluation that will indicate to us the extent to which the progamme has reached its objectives.
The Botswana-EU collaboration will be looking at other opportunities to continue our support to local NSAs. Besides being recipients of grants, CSOs could benefit from strategic exchange of technical assistance and experiences from abroad. Furthermore the EU has other instruments that can be accessible to CSOs.
As an example, the European Instrument on Democracy and Human Rights has over the last four years issued grants to 7 NGOs with a value of more than P 11 million. This facility will continue to be available for Botswana CSOs in the foreseeable. I must mention here that the response to this facility by local NGOs to date has been very low.
Finally may I take this opportunity to encourage all players in the economy of Botswana; NGOs, Government and the private sector; to be accommodative of one another and to commit their resources to nurture the various dialogue platforms and synergies that may be result from this forum.
I Thank You!!!……KE A LEBOGA!!!....PULA!!!