By Catherine Sasman
The USAID yesterday marked its 13-year involvement with the Namibian Government and civil organisations in building democracy and governance capacity as the programme comes to an end.
The aim of the democracy and governance programme has been to increase the frequency, effectiveness and quality of the dialogue between Namibians and their elected representatives around policy and legislative decision-making, said Monica Koep from USAID.
“Over the years, the programme has evolved and the focus has shifted from providing the necessary democratic tools to Parliament and the people, towards empowering Namibians to use and apply those interactive tools in more appropriate and effective ways,” Koep said.
From 1995 to 2004, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted a legislative strengthening programme for the Namibian Parliament in line with Parliament’s own institutional roadmap for development, the ‘Agenda for Change’.
Concurrently, through the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NiD), organisational development and advocacy training was provided to community-based organisations.
As a result of this work, 48 formal petitions and recommendations were made to the Government on issues ranging from improved community-police relationships, gender-relevant legislation, exposure of corruption in local authorities and increased health care for HIV/AIDS affected persons.
In the process, said Koep, a strong network of civic groups was created that continues to collaborate across regions and sectors.
“Overall, the aim of the programme has been to contribute to the process of democratic transformation in Namibia, helping to establish and maintain a culture of rigorous, public, issue-based debate, engender tolerance for difference, and cultivate an understanding of pluralism and appreciation of diversity,” Koep said.
US Ambassador to Namibia, Dennise Mathieu, said USAID has over 17 years contributed over US$250 million to support Namibian efforts to improve basic education, small and medium enterprise (SME) development, community-based natural resource management, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention, care and treatment, and democracy and governance.
She said the US would remain committed to the continued development of democratic institutions and practices.
“Continued progress on democracy and governance will reinforce the effectiveness and durability of our significant investments in health care, economic development and education,” Mathieu said.
One of the flagship projects sponsored by the USAID is the zero-tolerance for corruption campaign spearheaded by the NiD.
Director of the NiD, Theunis Keulder, said since 2006 thousands of Government and private institutions, including schools and other grassroots educational programmes, have been conducted under this project.
The anti-corruption website has so far received 174?