He said civil society organizations all over the world, especially in democratic countries, were the hook that pushed back on authoritarian leadership styles through advocacy, protest and sharing of professionally researched alternative ideas.
Speaking at the Civic Society Organisation workshop in Accra, Mr Mahama said, CSOs, occupied a place of pride in modern democracies due to the role actors in the civic space had played and continued to play in promoting socio-economic change and good governance.
“Government must aim to make a positive impact on the social and economic circumstances of the people they lead.
“However, that hardly happens without the usual push, shove and advocacy from civil society which has come to represent the conscience of our nation,” he said.
He added that intolerant governments had the tendency to be repressive, and recent events in Ghana offered ample evidence to support that observation.
“Repression takes away the ability of civil society to function effectively because it is an attack on freedoms that oil the machinery of civic engagement and democratic conduct,” he added.
Giving reasons to include CSOs in governmental policies, he said they held both the government and the market in check to prevent the abuse of human rights.
“As part of its moral duty the CSOs have played watchdog roles in ensuring that governments stay within the limit of good governance, and markets operate without exploitation of ordinary people,” he said.
He added that CSOs in Ghana had enhanced their relevance with capacities in terms of research and data analysis thereby serving as storehouses for alternative policy ideas.
He said civic engagements positively shaped policy processes by helping to inject fresh breath into policy delivery.
“Sharing of Ideas, perspectives and experiences from persons who otherwise are outside the official channels of policy-making also help to ensure good governance.
“Indeed, our countries rich in traditional civic activism can be harnessed continuously to improve the quality of governance,” he said.
He said the capacity of CSOs to demonstrate relentlessness and their readiness to promote good governance and equitable distribution of resources as well as efficient service delivery had never been in doubt and hoped the engagement would set in motion the process of regular issues-based engagements in the form of consultations, discussions and conversations that would provide useful feedback to shape policies.
The workshop which was on the theme, “The Ghana That We Want,” engaged Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in the country, to listen among others to their perspectives on the challenges and workable solutions for the governance deficits and economic challenges confronting the country.
The CSO outlined some challenges causing economic instability in the country including, corruption, unemployment, weak institutions, lack of political interference, waste and mismanagement, inequalities, constitutional challenges, economic mismanagement, over-centralization of decision-making and distribution of resources, delay in projects, uneven development, the size of government and the inclusion of CSOs in governmental issues.
However, the CSO advised the government to strengthen anti-corruption institutions, give power to Auditor General (AG), review the constitution, enforce the institutional code of ethics, decentralize government, sharing of resources should be based on needs not wants, protection of CSOs, prosecute corrupt individuals, enhance transparency and accountability, and to downsize Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to help fix the current economic crisis.
Mr Mahama in his closing remarks said, “an annual dialogue with CSOs must be institutionalized to aid in economic development.”