Role of civil societies
Civil society has long engaged in social movements which often transform into political movements. Civil society’s traditional role has been outside the Government. To serve as voice of reason or a voice of dissent, to serve as society’s conscience or as a reminder of ethics and moderation, civil society has not been known to shy away from political advocacy or political agitation for social change. However, one finds today in some developing countries an increased presence of civil society leaders in Government. One also finds representation of civil society members in direct politics as in the green movement in some developed northern countries. In recent times, we find civil society leaders being appointed by Governments in the World, particularly South East Asia, to key positions in the governments and even in the cabinet. More recently we also find civil society leaders participating in the electoral process as candidates in senatorial election in Thailand. The critical questions to ask further would be:
What would civil society leaders hope to achieve as politicians?
Could civil society leaders achieve their goals better as “insiders” or “outsiders” of the political arena?
There are obviously no quick and easy, clear cut and definitive answers to the above questions. As socio political, cultural and economic systems vary so much, contextual differences preclude generalizations when addressing these issues. Ideally, politics should not be divorced from our lives. To be actively engaged in politics at different levels should make a stronger society. At the very least, it is helpful to have politicians who represent civil society in the true sense.
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