By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Civil society organizations are of the opinion that the time has come for them and the government to work closely together and in harmony towards developing the country and alleviating the increasing suffering of citizens. This strong plea was made on Thursday during a speech by Samson Ndeikwila on behalf of some 20 NGOs that took part in an intensive leadership training programme over the past two months. The training programme was conducted by the Fund for Local Cooperation of the embassy of Finland. “Gone should be the days when the government regarded civil society organizations as part of opposition politics. No sustainable and people-centered development is possible without the active participation of civil society organizations. Excluding them from any initiative translates into excluding the grassroots communities from such initiatives,” said Ndeikwila at the certification of the participants at the official residence of the Finnish ambassador. According to Ndeikwila, true leaders are those who are guided by the wisdom and aspirations of their own people. “Therefore, the time has come for Namibia to develop a culture of open dialogue among the ordinary citizens themselves so that they can solve local problems using local resources, human and material. This will give them self-confidence, dignity and courage to engage their leaders in open and constructive dialogue about the future of the country,” he said. He urged the government to fairly allocate a percentage of the national budget to the work of civil society organizations, channeled through a national NGO umbrella body. “Such an allocation will open the door for the business community and private citizens to support the work of the civil society organizations in the country. This in itself will also motivate foreign funding partners to support Namibian civil society organizations, bilaterally and multilaterally,” he said, expressing the hope that NANGOF (Namibia Non-Governmental Organisations Forum) be strengthened by such a government gesture. At the same occasion, former minister and parliamentarian, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, encouraged the leadership programme participants to take on challenges head on and urged them to be worthy leaders in their respective social and cultural upliftment spheres. “As you know by now, if one is not educated these days, one will not be able to compete in the labour market, which needs qualified people with qualified skills in a particular field. As newly acknowledged leaders, you have to look after the interests of those that you are leading,” Ya Toivo advised. The retired national hero further warned that leaders in high positions are required to lead by example. “Do not only think of having luxury cars and big houses like so and so and start pocketing public money, thinking you will get away with it. Work hard for your money and do not take short cuts. Be humble and always aware of your origins and treat others in the same way you expect others to treat yourselves,” Ya Toivo concluded. More then 20 participants officially received certificates at the event from the Finnish ChargÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© d’ Affaires, Seija Kinni-Huttunen.