Civil society groups vital to decision making – UN alliance tells Qatar forum

May 6, 2011

The common thread of helping others is gaining momentum and helping put the concept of alliance of civilisations higher on the global agenda, participants said at the pre-forum for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) in Qatar.

Organised by the Qatar Committee for the Alliance of Civilisations, the Doha pre-forum was to serve as a precursor ahead of the fourth annual forum of the UNAOC, expected to take place in Qatar in December.

Speaking at a plenary session, “What’s next? Engaging civil society in the agenda for the 4th forum”, panel speakers said that civil society organisations (CSOs) were now recognised as a fundamental part of policy-making, just as others urged real, on-the-ground actions, Qatari daily Gulf Times reported on Thursday.

“One of the things we are interested in is how to progressively identify targets and progressively measure them,” Marc Scheuer, UNAOC Secretariat director, said. “UNAOC wants to continue working with CSOs and encourage their involvement in shaping up the agenda,” he said.

According to Fethi Mansouri, chair of Deakin University’ Migration and Intercultural Research, CSO was, not long ago, a contested notion, but has now achieved a better status.

Fundamental part of policy making

“CSOs are now recognised as fundamental part of policy-making, including governmental, and it’s no longer acceptable to pay lip-service to civil society,” he said. However, he warned that the shift had created a vacuum.

“With the withdrawal of state in bridging cultures, the civil society has not been able to advocate or deliver and operate services,” he said.

On regional organisations, the academician said the newly-formed CSOs, “particularly those post-revolution”, continued to require tools, resources and access to like-minded organisations, where expertise can be shared.

“But we have instances where the regional governments are transferring the jobs to CSOs … as they give more value for money,” he said, quoted by the daily.


South Africa-based Educating for Reconciliation at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation programme director, Fanie Du Toit said any relation between CSOs and UNAOC should be based on accountability.

“Relationships that are not accountable will not last. They are simply promiscuous. For that reason, accountability between UNAOC and CSOs is fundamental,” Toit said.

Real action

Greg Ramm, director of Global Programmes for UK-based Save the Children, also emphasised that the UNAOC was grappling with a course of direction, while urging that discussion be taken to the next level of real action.

“We have to move from ‘if’ and ‘how’ to real substance,” Ramm said. “The trick is to recognise that reduction of conflict will lead to development and development will lead to reduction in conflict.”



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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