The Delicate Art of Working with Governments
In an ideal world, everyone should be able to rely on their governments to provide a fair and just society for them to live in. This is what we mean when we talk about governments as ‘duty bearers’ – it’s supposed to be their duty to protect and uphold the human rights of their citizens.
But in our far-from-perfect world, no government in history is yet to fulfill this ideal. That’s where civil society comes in: providing an outsider’s perspective and representing a range of concerns and voices, NGOs, activists and other grassroots organisations have two main roles to play when working with governments. The first is to work alongside governments: to support them to deliver services to their citizens; build their capacity in certain areas; and develop accountability mechanisms for their citizens. The second is to hold them to account: to call them out when they are failing to fulfill their legal duty for their citizens’ rights; and to advocate for them to take up their responsibilities for human rights and environmental justice without discrimination or pandering to special interests.