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Civil society essential in democracy: Experts

Sumber: THEJAKARTAPOST.COM | Tgl terbit: Kamis, 08 Desember 2011

The active involvement of civil society is necessary to make a democracy a success, a workshop concluded.

The Habibie Centerâ??s Institute for Democracy and Human Rights chairwoman and a special adviser to Vice President Boediono, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, said that the active participation of civil society plays a key role in shaping democracy in a country.

â??Their involvement is necessary, without their participation democracy will just stop in the procedural phase,â? she said at a workshop on civil society participation and the role of social media in democracy held by the Foreign Ministry prior to the fourth Bali Democracy Forum (BDF).

She said in Indonesia, civil society had existed even before the country gained its independence.

â??Religious groups like Nahdlatul Ulama [NU] and the Muhammadiyah, for example, have been able to perform one of the roles of civil society, that is advocacy, and influencing public policy,â? Dewi said.

She added that other groups demonstrate additional roles civil society could play by empowering society and providing social control over the government policies.

I Ketut Putra Erawan, the executive director at Udayana Universityâ??s Institute of Peace and Democracy, said the workshop on the participation of civil society in Indonesia today had been quite significant, as could be seen from the attendance of many watchdog organizations.

â??The birth of the ICW [Indonesian Corruption Watch] and Kontras [human rights watchdog] are the examples of the publicâ??s active involvement and their monitoring function has been a contribution to democracy.â?

Unfortunately, Ketut said, their involvement had yet to deliver optimal results to democracy in Indonesia as there was still a lack of coordination among institutions working in the same fields.

President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono will open the fourth BDF on Thursday, co-chairing the forum with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. Eight state leaders and 22 ministers from 39 countries and 41 observers from various fields are expected to attend.

This yearâ??s forum will feature the theme of â??Enhancing Democratic Participation in a Changing World: Responding to Democratic Voicesâ?.

Dewi said that being inspired by revolutions in the Middle East where citizens harnessed the power of social media to topple authoritarian regimes, the forum expected to be able to inspire countries to be more open to their citizensâ?? opinion.

â??I think the current momentum says to those regimes that if they cannot transform themselves peacefully, in accordance to what people want, they will eventually be toppled by other parties,â? she said.

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