DECLARATION OF THE LIAISON UNIT OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS, SEYCHELLES (LUNGOS) IN COMPLIMENT TO THE DRAFT NATIONAL REPORT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES IN PREPARATION FOR THE 3rd INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES TO BE HELD IN APIA SAMOA, 2014.
Recognising that the role, contribution and position of civil society in the Republic of Seychelles have not been captured by the draft national report on Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS),
We hereby state that; multi-sectorial engagement and commitment of governments with civil society is vital to the promotion of sustainable development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The publication of SIDS-SIDS Success Stories: An innovative partnership in South-South Cooperation (2010) reinforced the importance of multi-sectorial engagement and commitment of governments with civil society. Positive gains made towards Climate Change Adaptation, Sustainable Development Education and Disaster Risk Management was partly due to civil society participation in the exchange of ideas, best practices and experiences.
The importance of civil society to development within SIDS was highlighted as far back as 2005 during the opening of the Civil Society Forum. It saw Mr Anwarul K. Chowdhury, in his capacity as Secretary- General of the International Meeting for the 10 year Review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS, stress the indispensability of civil society in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (1994). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also recognizes that engagement with civil society is important to ‘national ownership of development processes, democratic governance, and the quality and relevance of official development programmes’ (UNDP Engagement with Civil Society- http://www.undp.org).
In the Republic of Seychelles, the Liaison Unit of Non-Governmental Organisations, Seychelles (LUNGOS) speaks on behalf of over one hundred and fifty Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country. LUNGOS brings together CSOs through its eight thematic commissions Commissions. They include the Social and Health, Socio-Economic, Professional Organisations, Faith Based Organisations, Rights and Governance, Gender, Environment and Natural Resources and the Youth, Culture and Sports Commissions. The commissions’ far reaching and cross cutting cooperation allows for collective dialogue, collaboration and action of CSOs (www.civilsociety.sc). LUNGOS is currently undergoing a transformation to position itself as the national civil society platform. This project is being funded by the European Union (EU) and managed by the UNDP under the consultancy guidance of the Seychelles Institute of Management. The national platform aims to better represent the needs and aspirations of the citizens of Seychelles as denoted in Article 24 (1) (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles which states that citizens have the right “to take part in the conduct of public affairs…” [Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles, Revised Edition 1994, Seychellois Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Chapter III, Part I, Article 24 (1) (a)].
Engagement between state and non-state actors is primordial to the effective functioning of the national civil society platform and the realization of participation in policy decision making (Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Seychelles and Non-Governmental Organisations in Seychelles, 2009-2013). One key mode of partnership is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between LUNGOS (as the focal point of non-governmental organisations) and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports (as the focal point identified by Government representing NGO-Government relations) (Ibid). The MOU provides the opportunity for NGOs to participate in arenas of policy making especially through various committees which act as interfaces to Government on policy issues. Consequently this creates the opportunity for CSOs and NGOs to fulfill their roles in influencing inclusive policy making. Within the framework of SIDS, the partnership between NGOs, governments, intergovernmental organisations and agencies is a vital collaboration to the implementation of Agenda 21 of the Barbados Programme of Action (1994) [Report of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Declaration of Barbados, Part One, VII (1): 1994].
The Declaration of Barbados and the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of SIDS (1994) finds the role of people beneficial to the practice of sustainable development (Report of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Declaration of Barbados, Part One, #1). The contribution of human resources and cultural heritage proves more pertinent today due to the scarcity of both resources (Ibid). The President of the Republic of Seychelles has on many occasions emphasised a people centred development process, especially in the case where SIDS face restrictions of a general lack of human resource and human capital (State of the Nation Address 2013 of the Republic of the Seychelles-Sustainable Development). LUNGOS believes that SIDS should tap into all available human resource potential, and make use of the vast expertise within civil society organisations to compensate for the lack of human resource capabilities within our respective countries. Domestically, there has been an increase in partnering for projects of national significance; however, LUNGOS believes there should be more outsourcing of public services to the NGO sector.
It is acknowledged that civil society’s capability in soliciting national and international support is a vital method of promoting human resources development programmes through education, training and skills development (Report of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Declaration of Barbados, Human Resource Development, # 82: 1994). Bearing in mind, the enhanced vulnerability of SIDS to economic shocks and natural hazards in comparison to other countries and regions, governments should further strengthen its partnership with civil society (UNDP Capacity 21 Project, The Growing Vulnerability of Small Island Developing States: 2002).
LUNGOS, Mahe, Seychelles, June 2013