The significance of Civil Society in Development Cooperation with Namibia

The significance and meaning of 'civil society' vary across diverse historical, political and scholarly contexts. In Namibia as well, we do not find a clear self-definition among civil society groups. This applies even more to largely invisible movements that may make their appearance as a surprise and have little formalised structure or none at all. International attention is attracted mainly by legally formalised, comparatively wll organised groups. These are Non-Governmental Organisations which dispose of a reasonably clear agenda and concept of action. Many of these del with democratic and human rights issues as well as with ecological and health problems. Besides these, there are a number of social organisations mainly on a local or regional level, but also church bodies and initiatives of ethnic groupings, mainly in the field of charity. In their work and based largely on self-organisation, these are to be seen as part of the civil society sector.  Daneben existieren zahlreiche andere soziale Verbände und Aktivitäten, gerade auf lokaler und regionaler Ebene, aber auch in kirchlichen Zusammenhängen oder ethnischen Gruppierungen, die vornehmlich karitative Dienstleistungen anbieten, in ihrer Arbeit und selbstorganisatorischen Wirkungsweise aber durchaus dem zivilgesellschaftlichen Sektor zuzurechnen sind. Similarly, there are cultural bodies such as German school societies and self-organised museums.
ABI has conducted, under the auspices of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), a study on civil society in Namibia. This research has reviewed the broad and manifold range of civil society organisations and demonstrated the connection of this field with social mobilisation processes. It was found that grassroots movements that in early 2014, made themselves heard in protest against government policy have been active also during the following year. This is seen in a sustained campaign around the question of land reform which has been of central importance since independence in 1990.  Activists now demand more determined government action than before.
One main finding of the project concerns Namibia's status as a 'upper middle income country', marked by extreme social inequality. This means that the need for social projects remains enormous, while external resources to support such work are becoming scantier. This raises the issue of alternative ways of financing, along with questions about the willingness of more well-to-do social strata in Namibia to commit themselves also across the boundaries of cultural belonging that remain of considerable importance to date.

Supporting Institution: BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development)

External Project Partners: 
Klie, Prof. Dr. Thomas, Ev. Fachhochschule Freiburg