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Citizens and Governance Civil Society in the New Millennium
Citizens and Governance Civil Society in the New Millennium
Citizens and Governance: Civil Society in the New Millennium - National Summary Report from Mauritius 19 December 2000 MAURITIUS Country Profile The republic of Mauritius includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, St. Brandon and Agalega. The Island of Mauritius (1865 sq. km.) lies in the South West Indian Ocean. It has a population of 1,112,636. GNP per capita is US $ 3,777. Life expectancy for male is 67 years and females 74.5. School enrolment is 100% Selection of respondents: Citizens: 7 women and 13 men Citizen leaders: 4 women and 4 men Interlocutors: 4 people Co-analysts: 1 woman 3 men What is a good society? Most citizens maintain that Mauritius is a good society compared to many other societies because there is economic progress, basic needs are met, crime is low and the country is safe, politically. The citizen leaders support the views of the citizens. They add though that the country has got well- educated people and that tourism brings in resources, which enable the state to maintain development. They underline that there is unity in the country. To what extent does a good society exist today in Mauritius? About 20% of the respondents indicate that Mauritius is not a good society. They analyse it in terms of problems and constraints affecting the community. These they highlight as the exorbitant prices of food commodities, growing materialism and the lack of respect for elders. The respondents note that there is unemployment, lack of civic education, weakening of the family and lack of leisure facilities. They bemoan the fact that the education system is irrelevant (too much academic and limited practical work). The citizens say that the society is changing rapidly and with the change, there is an increase in alcohol intake, drug abuse, child labour, racism and lack of freedom of the press. They also mention that the state of physical security is deteriorating. Citizens, mostly women, describe their perception of a good society as one where there is peace and harmony, economic prosperity and employment for all. Citizen leaders say that in a good society, there is respect, caring and honesty, good environment, transparency and accountability, low inflation, good governance, less stress and reasonable taxation. Other values mentioned include integrity, work ethics and timely adaptation to change. Roles of different sectors in creating a good society According to respondents, in a good society, the state should provide employment, maintain a high standard of living and promote good governance and stability. It should construct roads, clinics and ensure that there is law and order. The citizens and their leaders note that the state should provide facilities for sports and leisure, attract investors and ensure that all children go to school. It should create a good economic environment, ensure that there is security, extend services to most vulnerable and underprivileged groups, and fight corruption and abuse of power. Some assert that currently the state is not playing its role satisfactorily because of corruption and self- interests of the bureaucrats. Citizens role The respondents say that in a good society, citizens' roles should include organising themselves into associations for collective action and forming political parties. Citizens should respect cultural diversity. Respondents indicate that they want to see citizens promote a harmonious, peaceful and patriotic society. They want to see the citizens taking care of the environment. All the respondents say that in a good society, the politicians do not manipulate the citizens. According to respondents, the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is perceived as that of helping the poor. Citizen leaders go a step further and note that NGOs should be government watchdogs, they groom potential leaders for the country and undertake actions in areas where government is unable to intervene. Respondents maintain that NGOs are playing their role in society although one person indicates that he does not know much about NGOs. Many of the respondents insist that there are no obstacles that stop NGOs from doing their work save for one person who says that lack of resources and technical expertise, fear of government, and poor organisational structure are major constraints for NGOs. Private sector Respondents say that the private sector provides goods to society and in the process creates employment. They, however, note that the private sector is not fulfilling its role as it operates on the principles of maximum profit. They want the sector to invest in social amenities and augment government efforts in building hospitals and schools. Trade Unions Respondents describe the role of trade unions as that of protecting the workers and fighting for their rights. They point out that the role is not always executed because of weak leadership and because members do not support their trade unions for fear of a backlash. Factors limiting the playing of such roles The factors that prevent citizens from playing their roles more effectively are cited as corruption in the corridors of power, lack of basic necessities, poor communication skills infrastructure and poor management systems. They identify the following other obstacles and difficulties: inadequate knowledge and education, fear of criticism and harassment, women's role not appreciated and lack of information. Enabling factors Respondents list the factors that would enable them to play their role effectively as follows: ensuring that basic rights are entrenched and upheld, an intense capacity building exercise to enable citizens engage in public debate, involving citizens in building democratic institutions and good governance practices. Citizens should be provided with the right education and the right information. 'People cannot participate if they do not know what the result of their participation will be' says an interlocutor. The respondents stress the importance of a strong leadership, creation of a framework that allows for meaningful participation, equal opportunity and access to resources, good networking skills Among NGOs, and development of information technology. What lies behind the voices? The main economic activities for Mauritius are agriculture (sugar cane) tourism and textiles. The Mauritius economy is changing from being agricultural based to manufacturing. The change has been positive in the sense that new jobs are being created. The number of women entering the labour force has also increased. There are however, obstacles for women as this means that they have to combine their reproductive and productive roles with little help from their men-folk. Besides women are found in repetitive work with no career prospects. There are sex disparities at management and decision making levels. Only 17% of top managers are women and only 8% parliamentarians are women. Mauritius has a well-established system of welfare services. Social aid pension is available to needy families although inadequate. There are problems in Mauritius like in other countries but generally respondents perceive it as a good society. Implications • Citizens should be involved in the planning process at all levels so that they can define their needs and other concerns. Citizens' participation should not stop at planning but should include participation in the implementation process to enable them benefit from the projects and programmes being undertaken. • Empowerment of women and of minority groups should be taken seriously as part of the political agenda. • In order for all citizens to participate fully, there is need to eliminate all forms discriminatory practices that affect their dignity and access to public resources and to give them relevant information. • The state should guarantee the rights of all citizens and should not trample on their freedom, abuse their rights, deny them their entitlements under any circumstances or discriminate on grounds of gender, race, social status or physical ability. • The state should enhance the security status of the citizens through recruitment of efficient and a well-trained police force. • The state should continue creating an enabling environment for the private sector and NGOs and view them as partners in the development process. • The state should be used as a guarantor of good governance practices. It should operate an open, transparent, accountable, political and economic system that enables its citizens to have the full knowledge, access to information, resources and that allow participation of all citizens at all levels. • Poverty and corruption should not be allowed. Citizens should be allowed to use institutions without fear and humiliation. • The education system and curriculum should be restructured to reflect the changed needs and requirements of society. A good society is based on sound education.
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