FCS at 15: Spinning the wheels of civil society in Tanzania

On November 24th this year, the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) celebrated its 15th anniversary. This is one and a half decades of dedicated work to provide funding and capacity building services to one of the most vibrant and very crucial social sectors in modern Tanzania - the civil society sector.

Foundation hosted a commemorative summit with theme “Spinning the wheels of civil society” at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC). This event brought together Foundation’s Development Partners (DPs), civil society organizations, local as well as international development stakeholders, the media and representatives from the Government led by a staunch stakeholder of the civil society and long-time friend of Foundation, Hon. Jenister Mhagama, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Policy, Parliament, Labour, Employment, Youth and People with Disability.

Hon. Jenister Mhagama represented the Guest of Honour, the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Mama Samia Suluhu.

The summit convened for a full day of themed keynote talks, policy reflections and plenary discussions looking at the role and contribution of Foundation and CSOs in the past 15 years of socio-economic development of Tanzania.

In her speech which was read by Minister Mhagama, the Guest of Honour commended the 15 years of cooperation between Foundation, the government, the civil society, development partners and other stakeholders on effecting positive changes to the lives of Tanzanians. “We are thankful and impressed by the Tzs 150 billion worth of grants issued to over 5,000 civil society organisations (CSOs) all over the nation. These have impacted the lives of thousands of Tanzanians. If it were an infrastructure project, it definitely would have been large scale”

She added that her government highly appreciate development partners’ assistance, particularly for their continued support to Foundation and the civil society sector in the country, and challenged CSOs to explore ways of working with the private sector through public-private-partnership (PPP) to sustain their operations and continue impacting the lives of more people.

The overall objective of this commemorative one day summit was to reflect on the role the civil society, and in particular Foundation, have played in supporting government’s efforts in achieving its goals and targets of bringing development to its people, especially the poor during the last 15 years, and on how to build upon these achievements for the coming years.

In his opening remarks, Foundation’s Executive Director Mr Francis Kiwanga revealed that the commemoration theme was aimed at reflecting the importance of the civil society sector in Tanzania’s national development. He reiterated appreciation towards development partner’s support in enabling Foundation to fund diverse projects in areas such as gender equality, children rights, land rights, awareness on HIV and AIDs, democracy deepening, citizens’ engagement and peace management.

The main events of the summit were in the form of participatory panel discussions and workshops in which respected analysts on social and development issues presented special topics of concern for Tanzania’s journey of development and the special role the CSOs have in this endeavour.

The panels and workshops involved discussion on a number of issues related to a broad range of relevant topics such as poverty alleviation, gender rights and relations, human rights, good governance, social justice, democracy and marginalization. These issues are not only of concern for Tanzania itself but also are on international agenda of development such as those in the UN2030 agenda for global development (SDGs) of which the civil society sector has a major role in their local realization.

In her speech on behalf of other development partners, the Swiss Ambassador to Tanzania, Her Excellence Madam Florence Tinguely Mattli lauded Foundation for recording notable achievements towards transforming the social and economic lives of poor Tanzanians through its support to the civil society. She says “Through your support to CSOs here, Tanzania has been recognized as having a vibrant and diverse civil society sector in Africa and around the world. We are confident that Foundation’s work is ensuring expanded democracy, improved accountability and realization of human rights of marginalized groups such as those of poor women, youth and the elderly”.

She added that “As Development Partners, we have therefore taken a step back and FCS – including its Board – is today a fully Tanzanian organization. However, we keep supporting Foundation’s mission and mandate as the organization continues to be the local grant making and CSOs strengthening pillar that Tanzania so much needs”

Throughout the discussions, the special relationship between the civil society sector with both the government and the corporate/private sector was tabled for discussion as an alternative source of sustainability for CSOs’ operations and the sector in general, which currently relies heavily on sole support from development partners. The summit agreed that these three parties need to work together in realising true socio-economic development and alleviating poverty for the masses.

 

The problems and challenges that Foundation and the civil society sector have experienced in the last 15 years are a stepping stone to more maturity for both the sector and Foundation. 

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