“The Parliament of Namibia is excited to be hosting the EPDN experts on our premises,” said Hon Professor Peter Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly at the launch of the Enhancing Participatory Democracy in Namibia (EPDN) programme on 02 June 2021.
The five-year programme which is funded by the European Union with a total of 6 million EURO (more than N$ 90 million), is a partnership between the government and the union. It is aimed at enhancing engagement between the Parliament, Government bodies and Civil Society Organisations in Namibia, to actively participate in policy and programme implementation within their different capacities. The project is also designed to enhance the internal capacities of civil society organizations while establishing and promoting networks and linkages among them.
The event was attended by policymakers, EU delegates and Civil society organizations, and sparked ideas on how to respond to the socio-economic challenges and development priorities in Namibia; how to strengthen governance institutions and practices for enhancing citizens’ participation; and to facilitate participation and partnerships among stakeholders to ensure buy-in and commitment to national development.
On behalf of the European Union, Ms Sinikka Antila, Head of EU Delegation to Namibia encouraged a mindset which helps civil society and government to see each other as complementary partners. She stated that “only through real participatory democracy, we will be able to translate all the relevant development plans and programmes into action and turn printed words into action.”
Maxi Louis from the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) sector said that the EPDN is an opportunity to build on existing partnerships with the parliament and meaningfully engage on CBNRM issues in a structured and impactful manner. She mentioned that some of the previous engagement platforms such as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources and the Conservation Caucus model helped to solve some of the issues faced by the communities and could have impacted the natural resource bases.
Mutual learning and sharing of information and acting in one accord are important prerequisites for a powerful civil society that wants its voice to be heard. Hon. Peter Katjavivi, therefore, asked development partners “to stand together, side-by-side with policymakers in taking their work closer to the people and bringing the people closer to the parliament”. He urged that discussions should be well informed and reflect the needs of the people on the ground. He shared his reflections on a Parliamentary CBNRM learning tour that happened in 2010 “I remember when we had a field trip to conservancies, we had stimulating discussions with communities about issues such as Human-Wildlife conflict and natural resources management. It was an eye opener, which turned out to be the most rewarding experience for me”.
The CSOs are still eager to share their programs and engage with the parliament on various national strategies and want to continue playing the role of being the bridge between Parliament and CBOs, especially in rural areas.