Freshly excerpted (mostly) from NGO-pulse Issue 358. Charmaine Smith attended the Goedgedacht Forum for Social Reflection dialogue. She is the communication and knowledge manager of the Children’s Institute, UCT. A comprehensive report and presentations are available at www.goedgedachtforum.co.za
Dr Borainne raised the alarm over civil society’s “diminishing role as watchdog” due to the tough economic climate. He reflected on especially the plight of advocacy organisations while, generally, he believed that ‘many organisations are in serious trouble’. Advocacy organisations are disappearing faster than the rest and that especially funds for networking were no longer forthcoming.
The need for civil society–state collaboration alongside civil society’s watchdog role and the impact on this role by the state acting as a funder of nonprofit services are making it a complicated relationship that is often characterised by conflict. Inherent reasons for this conflict include:
- competition for money due to overseas funding being channeled through the state;
- civil society’s exposure of inadequacies of the state, which leads to antagonism;
- competition for recognition between nonprofits and organs of the state; and
- government’s perceived moves to regulate (silence?) the sector with restrictive legislation.