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THEME: COVID-19 Crisis - A Clarion Call for Civic Activism and Protecting Citizens’ Voice in the Reforms Process

1.0 Context

The COVID-19 is a global monster that affects all development aspects of our lives. It has added another challenge to the already existing world challenges ranging from weak governance, wars, terrorism, unemployment, poverty, and effects of climate change. The COVID-19 has become hegemonial showcase of the superpowers on the other hand and small states on the other. Superpowers had unliterally imposed travel ban to some members of SADC because of existence of COVID-19. The Europe and America trajectory does not project global unity and combination efforts towards the fight against this global pandemic. The COVID-19 should not by any means be part of global politics and display of hegemonic tendencies but rather an opportunity for uniting the world for the common good of every global citizen. It is world clarion call for global solidarity for humanity.

The climate change is currently being identified as one of the key factors that negatively affects productivity of food security at local, regional and global level. This further results in the spikes in food prices and other essential commodities that are important for human life. Agriculture is severely affected because it is dependent on climate and changes in the frequency and severity of droughts pose human challenge. Because of the climate change, the world leadership is challenged to make decisive decisions and come up with policies that are geared towards climate adaptation and mitigation as to reduce its impact. The world citizens are looking for climate smart decisions today not tomorrow as one of the ways to contribute to the reduction of poverty, undernutrition, unemployment, and conflicts. The current political commitments on climate adaptation and mitigation by the world leadership leaves a lot to desire, they are more of rhetoric expressions.

African continent continues to experience the impact of political and religious intolerance as evidenced by the conflict and terrorism acts these had occupied the agenda of African Union Peace and Security Council to the extent that its resources are moved towards military operations at the expense of development. It is a fact that no development would take place in any state where there is political tensions and wars, but all these are human caused rather than epidemical. This continent has potential but requires the visionary leadership that can tolerate diversity of her inhabitants when designing and implementing socio-economic political programmes.

As Africa should be preoccupied by looking for means of sustainable development and global peace, there remains unresolved global challenges which world leadership fails to resolve for various reasons. Noticeable, wars, terrorism, conflicts, and tensions are dominant in the Middle East and African continents. These are visible in some of African states such as in Somalia, Mali, Ethiopia, Uganda, DRC, Nigeria just to mention a few. These wars, terrorism and political tensions continue to push inhabitants of the affected nations out of their homes and force them to migrate from the war zones to more peaceful environments. On the other hand, these otherwise peaceful environments find themselves challenged, having to share their already scarce means of livelihood with the conflict pushed migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons. These wars, terrorism, conflicts, and tensions continue to shift the focus of the whole world and Africa specifically and deplete resources that could have been earmarked for development.

Currently there exist escalating violent conflicts in the SADC region as evidenced by the terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. The fact that there are various causes for these challenges, ranging from political, economic, religious, and other reasons, make them complex and any effort towards addressing them should also address their multifaceted causes and their manifestation. It is a fact that the influx of refugees has affected the solidarity efforts of stable states towards unstable ones. The question of Cabo Delgado does not only pose a greater threat to Mozambicans but to all SADC citizens. It has potential to cause sufficient harm to SADC citizens as evidenced by the loss of lives and property, economic loss, and environmental damage. The declining socio-economic -political focus is now on the deployed SADC contingency in Mozambique, and this attracted resources that could have been deployed to other deserving development challenge.

Lesotho as a member of SADC embraced the politics of coalition government but lags in terms of ensuring parliamentary stability that always threatens government’s political stability. The other factor to note is the trend of intra party conflict and tensions that usually affect government stability. This was seen in 2015 government where the leading political party in ruling coalition split, and that action cause the collapse of such government. It was again experienced 2020 where the sitting Prime Minister was pushed out office by his political party. There is a need for all political players to focus on the reforms and enable key legislative and policy consideration to be developed before the coming 2022 general elections. It is expected that 2022 elections will be highly competitive in nature due to political landscape in Lesotho. The number of political parties has increased significantly.

A reflection on Lesotho’s socio-economic and political situations points to fact that she is faced with many challenges ranging from pervasive poverty, low life expectancy, weak economic growth, and highly skewed wealth distribution. The existence of COVID-19 caused the economic shrinking economic due to decline SACU remittance and low business activities and the net effect is rife unemployment, poverty, gender-based violence and high crime as it is the case now.

The National Reform process under the leadership of National Reforms Authority (NRA) has not delivered much apart from the omnibus Bill. The challenge that civil society is faced with is how to protect citizens’ voice from NRA and Parliament. Civil society should always remember that protecting citizens’ voice is not an option but a mandate to fulfil. It is for this reason that NGO Week is needed as a platform for civil society to voice the concerns of the citizens for social justice including recommitting the sector to humanity and protection of citizens’ voice in the process of reforms. NGO Week provides the platform for greater participation by citizens and government officials.

2.0 Proposed Theme

The citizens’ voice is a key democratic dispensation, it affords them with an opportunity for self-govern and provision for conducive environment for development and respect for human rights.In the previous NGO Week, LCN deliberated different topics under the theme “Our Natural Resources, Democratic Space and Human Rights – Not Negotiable.” In relating to current environment and in strive to remain relevant, the civil society organisations must remain loyal to the people they are serving, and this theme demonstrates such strong commitment. It is within this context, key topics are proposed for the discussions during the 20th NGO Week in 2019 under this theme, COVIDI-19 – A Clarion Call for Citizen Activism and Protecting Citizens’ Voice in the Reforms Process. This theme is framed within the context of existence of COVID19, and we remain resilient to our call even in this trying time of socio-economic-political hardships of our time. Yes, it is indeed time to act and safe our motherland.

The NGO Week embraces the concepts of genuine dialogue and political participation. The social dialogue and civic space make up foundation of good governance. Therefore, in the absence of the evaluation of the previous dialogues, we remain strong to believe that NGO Week is a good platform for closing the gap between the local, national and the region.
  Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations - 2016   Web Master - Sesale Godfrey Masike