Africa Needs `Civil Society' as Defence against Tyranny ; CHRISTMAS APPEAL: Oxfam Backs Uganda Pressure Groups in Campaign to Win Rights for Women and Poor
Vallely, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
HERE IS an interesting "between seasonal festivities" exercise. Make a list of all the groups and organisations you have links to. It will be far bigger than you might imagine.
Start with the family and work from there: the school, parent- teacher association or board of governors. Or begin at work and include professional associations or trade unions. Add politics: a mainstream party, a pressure group - such as Amnesty International or Friends of the Earth.
Then there are churches, youth and sports clubs, arts groups, local charities and more. Edmund Burke called them the "little platoons" of society - the organisations that interpose themselves between the individual and the state. Modern sociologists call them the institutions of "civil society" and say they provide the glue that holds society together. They also act as a natural brake on tyrannical behaviour by governments - there are too many organisations with vested interests who will protest about unfair changes.
When people in the West talk of "underdeveloped" countries, it is the basics they have in mind. Africans need clean water, more food and better health care. They also need a reliable income, the ability to borrow to invest, a sounder overall economy - things we know are more difficult to provide.
But what requires a greater leap of imagination is to see that for Africa to develop properly it must nurture "civil society" bodies to act as natural checks and balances on government.
All three charities in The Independent's "Hope for Africa" Christmas appeal insist that, for real development to take place, local …
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Publication information: Article title: Africa Needs `Civil Society' as Defence against Tyranny ; CHRISTMAS APPEAL: Oxfam Backs Uganda Pressure Groups in Campaign to Win Rights for Women and Poor. Contributors: Vallely, Paul - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 31, 2002. Page number: 5. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.