We are pleased that Professor Göran Hydén and the Expert Group for Aid Analysis raise issues of democracy in Africa. Unfortunately, we see several errors in the analysis of how we can promote democracy. It writes the Africa groups in a commentary on Göran Hydén's guest column.
We welcome the report "Democracy in African Governance: Seeing and Doing it Differently" and the EBA's hope that it can help us in civil society in our and our partner organizations' work to promote democracy and human rights in Africa. We think it is important that this is highlighted and we are pleased that one of the conclusions in the report is that it is incredibly important to take local contexts into account. With that said, we have some comments on what is highlighted in chronicle written by Göran Hydén.
We read: “The ownership and division of the land still follow pre-colonial principles. Instead of merging small farms into larger units, the trend is in the opposite direction: a division into ever smaller components. The result is an unsustainable development which, among other things, constitutes a reason for fleeing the countryside. "
Switching to large-scale and conventional agriculture is not the way we should go. We in northern Europe should rather learn from small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and their agro-ecological farming techniques. Not least to cope with and counteract future environmental and climate disasters. In addition, agricultural methods that include traditional and local knowledge can, among other things, contribute to increased food security, conservation of biodiversity, control of desertification and land degradation.
In Africa, female small-scale farmers produce as much as 90 percent of the continent's food and contribute about half of the global food supply. 100-150 million people could be lifted out of hunger if women were given the opportunity to have equal access to land. They are thus the rights of women farmers who should be strengthened for sustainable development. Feel free to read more in our report that you will find here.
"In this environment, politics works differently than in Europe and our own approach is not always the best guide. Of course, there is a hearing for this in civil society, but the support for its organizations sharpens relations with the African governments. "Governments in some countries react negatively and interpret democratization as a threat", writes Göran Hydén.
Although the policy works differently in many ways, we see - in the countries in which we have partner organizations - that it also works the same way in many ways. There is a strong aspiration for the right to liberty and the right to self-determination, and the absence of oppression. The aspiration of the population is the same here as there. We take it for granted that we can choose for ourselves. We think that the columnist also thinks this, but we want to point this out as we do not think it is clear enough.
Furthermore, the report author writes: "Foreign investors remain outside and therefore have no influence on how the public sphere is shaped".
People we work with testify to the opposite. Countries in southern Africa are hard hit by large-scale investments that use natural resources and exploit labor. Investments are driven by market forces that often run counter to the will of the population - which often have no influence but are forced to adapt to the interests of companies. There are countless examples of forced relocations and environmental degradation affecting local people.
As long as investment interests take precedence over the environment and human rights, the influence of companies should be limited rather than strengthened. Local communities should be consulted and have the right to say no when the establishment of large-scale business activities comes into question, this protected by laws in, for example, Mozambique's land law. International trade rules and agreements must also be adapted to give priority to the environment and human rights over investment rights. Therefore, binding rules and mechanisms for business and human rights that protect people and the environment are needed, while investment protection agreements should be reviewed.
One of Göran Hydén's conclusions is the importance of understanding ownership and giving ownership greater weight, we completely agree with that. It is important to let civil society in the countries themselves define what works best for them, therefore non-earmarked core support is the way to go. We believe in strong support for local civil society on the ground. We have come to the conclusion that the best way to enable such a change is to provide core support to organizations that are striving for a political change in a democratic direction.
At the same time, it is important that these movements are not thwarted by investments that benefit the economic interests of business countries, but not necessarily local social, economic and environmental developments. The prerequisite for a strong democracy is that there should be room for all opinions - and room for people to participate in the political process.
We hope you agree with us, Göran.
Answer from Göran Hydén
Best African group activists!
Thanks for your valuable post! I share your view on the importance of small-scale and when I recommend that donors invest in funds, it is precisely to give African institutions an opportunity to grow on their own terms. I understand the importance of basic support for civil society organizations, but in my opinion it can be regulated within the framework of what I propose or in other ways. The important thing is that they are given the opportunity to take their own responsibility to the greatest extent possible and in competition for public funds through the funds proposed can contribute to development at both local and national level. This is a sustainable way of strengthening the demanding role of civil society and achieving a better balance in the countries' political exercise of power. I think we are moving at the same wavelength.
/ Göran Hydén