Democracy and holding to account

From The St Helena Human Rights Action Plan 2012-2015, p29. From Catherine Turner.

7.1 Introduction

In an environment where there are no party politics and therefore there is no official opposition, Civil Society groups (Charities, NGOs, interest groups) have a major role to play in maintaining a democracy. Without their role in challenging decisions, creating awareness of need and providing a voice for those that have difficulty being heard, government decisions would not be rigorously challenged. It is therefore necessary for Civil Society groups to be well organised, well informed and mandated by their constituents. They must also be actively engaged with and consulted by government.

Our research has shown that some Civil Society groups felt that they were adequately consulted on issues which obviously affected them. For example during the building of the disabled toilet, the Disabled Aid Society was involved from the planning stage. But on other issues they are not consulted.

The other key area of concern raised is the lack of groups to represent some of the vulnerable members of our society. There are no trade unions or work based associations, no children’s charity, no victim support, no women’s groups or rape/domestic violence crisis support. This was seen as being due to

  • Lack of resources (human & financial).
  • Lack of knowledge (how to be an effective group).
  • Concern about “sticking your head above the parapet”.

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