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Civil Society, Laws, Public Policies And Impact – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Civil Society, Laws, Public Policies and Impact

Session Report
Divyansh Dwivedi

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two-Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Civil Society, Laws, Public Policies and Impact” was held on the 3rd of July, 2023 by Dr Kaustuv K Bandyopadhyay, Director of Society for Participatory Research in Asia, based in New Delhi, and PRIA International Academy.

His main area of focus was to let participants know about the role of civil society in inclusive development and democratic governance, trajectories and future. He then talked about PRIA to let participants know about how the organisation works. 

EXPANDING THE TERM- CIVIL SOCIETY

Sir initiated the session by letting the participants be aware of the expansion of Civil Society’s definition which is not only limited to philanthropic deeds but also takes in record an association of people working with a non-political, non-economic, and with collaboration and cooperation with the state. It is not an exclusive domain of the state but acts as two sides of the same coin. He then addressed the types of Civil Society that exist, and are relentlessly working for mobilization, and development of innovations. There are different types of Civil Society that function in India: 

  • Traditional Associations
  • Religious Associations
  • Social Movements
  • Self Help Groups
  • Membership Associations
  • Intermediary Associations

All these associations have been working for decades, and have faced various issues while trying to solve the problems that persist. Social Movements, Peaceful Protests, Awareness Campaigns, Advocacy, and Networking, are some tools that have been used by Civil Societies to hinder the probability of arising problems and reach the end goal. However, sometimes, these solutions often result in worsening the shape of peace and distorting the structure that is laid down. 

Environmental Groups, Dalit Groups, and Minority Groups work for a niche class of people, and the major problem they face is the difference between the governance of the state, and accountability of the state while recognising the works of these groups. The difference in them sometimes results in peaceful protests turning into violent protests. 

The question that persists to exist is, how the bureaucrats who are also the representatives of the State, can get aware of the ground realities when they won’t hold themselves accountable for trusting the information that has been passed on by the societies that are tirelessly working at the ground level and are aware of the ground reality. Mr. Bandyopadhyay further told that there lies a difference between NGOs and Civil Societies. The latter is a very broad term as compared with the former.

CIVIL SOCIETY- CHALLENGES, TASKS, AND FUTURE

Mr. Bandyopadhyay further added that civil society has played a major role in promoting and scaling up innovations in participatory development practices. It has been decades since Civil Societies have been indulged in areas of development like, forestry management, water management, and sanitation that have also been tickled by the government. Its ability to produce innovations by collaborating with the government gives a boost towards a better future. The state has also replenished its sources and has allowed Civil Societies to bring in much-needed innovations. However, despite all of this, there are various challenges faced by Civil Society. 

  • Recognition and Repression
  • Curtailing Voices of Civil Society
  • Diminishing Resources
  • Loopholes in Collaboration between Civil Society and Government

These challenges have been often addressed by organizations, self-help groups, communities, and many more. However, we do not see an end solution that can be proven as being effective in tackling these challenges. 

Though Civil Societies have been working for political and economic empowerment through mobilization and awareness, challenges still exist, Mr Bandyopadhyay added. Further, he told, that civil societies have been working as a tool for awakening the public about the schemes, policies, and programs launched by the government. They have also been promoting economic empowerment by supporting farmers, workers, labours etc. Political empowerment has been another aspect of them by participating in the local decision-making process like gender, sexuality, and addressing the commons. 

It is true, that awareness will only be limited to paper, and will not reach the ground level if Civil Society does not step in. Telling Adivasis their rights, both forest rights and living rights is an example of working of Civil Society at the ground level. The contribution of Civil Society towards policy discourses on public good, and how policies can be shaped to accelerate access to public goods and make it effective has been a major boost.

He concluded the session by telling about the future tasks that Civil Societies need to address

  • Advancing and Protecting democratic space for Civil Society.
  • Strengthening coalition between Government and Civil Society. 
  • Mobilizing fresh resources for Civil Society.

It is no doubt, that there are certain loopholes that need to be filled, but addressing them, and working towards eliminating the challenges would end in effective and efficient results.

Acknowledgement: Divyansh Dwivedi is Visiting Researcher at IMPRI.

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