Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Civil Movements’ Good Governance

What are the good governance qualities of Community Based Organizations (CBO) in my home Sri Lanka, or Civil Society Organizations (CSO) internationally, or People’s Movement (PM), here in Thailand?  Volunteerism for the people engaged in movements and organizations is a way of life that gives them joy, happiness and contentment.  For these volunteers, volunteerism is more connected to personal spiritual aspiration.

I would like to share with you some learnings from lectures, experiences from my peace fellows, my own peace work, and observations following our field study in Ubon Ratchathani where the Urban Poor Community People’s Movement have been solving the social and economic problems of the society.  They are addressing and handling issues like micro credit schemes, environmental issues, children and youth issues, public and social issues, etc.  There has been a land ownership problem for the communities and they have been trying their best to solve the problem as group.  It’s an ongoing process.  Without any major funding they are running their society by their own capital.

1. Accountability and Transparency

The good governance elements of accountability and transparency are very important aspects for civil movements and organizations.  They are adopted and put into practice by movements and organizations as self-regulatory mechanisms.  The well governed movements are more people driven than organizations driven.  They work with hundreds and thousands of people who have such strong convictions and high ideals that they think of it as a moral duty to serve the community and share their human, monetary, and material resources for the benefit of the oppressed and marginalized.  Much more than the monetary and material offerings that can be present, they help the poor and those who may feel powerless when they share an invaluable set of spiritual values which can’t be measured by any metaphor.  They were deeply motivated by their altruistic desire to make a difference in the lives of people who are often forgotten and looked down upon in society.  These organizations and movements facilitate the services they were offering to the communities.  The people who are associated with the movements embrace and share a vision centered around selflessness as opposed to self-centeredness.  The most salient feature that is deeply embedded in the good governance of the movement is a deep sense of maturity that is strongly inspired by the wisdom found in the hearts and minds of the people they serve from the grassroots level to the national level.  The simple and unsophisticated legal frameworks adopted by these movements are meant to facilitate the smooth functioning of services rather than to control the work or the people engaged in such services.

2. Consensus-oriented Decision-making and Participation

The movements and organizations have adopted strong participatory approaches to obtain the active participation of people involved in their work at different levels of their organizations.  The constitution of the executive body to take all policy decisions deemed necessary for the good working of the organization.  The governance of the movement was highly democratic and participatory in nature.  Their meetings amplified the voice of collective dialogue and constructive discourse which honour the expression of diverse views and opinions.  Almost all the decisions are adopted through a unanimous vote and resolutions are adopted after extensive discussion and debate carried out in a peaceful manner.  The people’s participation in the decision-making processes transcends ethnic, religious, linguistic, social and gender barriers and represents all levels of the organization.  It is inspiring to observe that records of the people’s movements include minutes, progress reports, agendas and external audit reports which are all maintained by them.

I always believe in civil society organizations.  I would like to share one of the experiences with the people’s movement which I have been working with.  Through program awareness targeting their goals, duties, and strategic planning, they influence local and senior politicians who have become more supportive as a result.  I found that was a major achievement.  Other successful initiatives led by local civil society organizations have met socio-economic, cultural integration, and post war education needs.

Antony Suthan, Sri Lanka
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2015 Session


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