Democratic states have proven successful in building stable societies with competitive economies and functioning public service systems. Compared to autocratic states, democratic systems are also less prone to conflict. This is the reason why support for young democracies has been high on the agenda of international development partners since the 1990s, when democratization processes succeeded in many countries. In the beginning, the focus lay primarily on assisting in the creation of a legal framework and of democratic institutions. However, once institutions are set up, the challenge of filling democratic structures with life remains. Changing behaviour and attitudes of both state and non-state actors constitutes a difficult task. The state has duties vis-à-vis its citizens and should be held accountable by its citizens. But citizens also have to be aware of their rights and duties as well. In expressing their interests towards the state and by actively taking part in decision-making processes, citizens contribute to building prospering, dynamic, and internationally competitive economies.
GFA concept and services
GFA conceives civil society as comprised of all groups that join forces to advocate their rights and interests in a public sphere. The starting point in promoting democracy and civil participation is that all measures should contribute to improving the well-being of the people. GFA has been involved in a variety of projects supporting civil society. Services include mapping studies that assess relevant civil society stakeholders in specific fields such as water, education, human rights, land rights etc., and at different levels of development and need of support. These assessments often pave the way for capacity building measures or campaigns to enhance knowledge on rights and duties. The objective is to strengthen non-state actors and to turn them into respected dialogue partners whose voice is heard and considered in planning and monitoring the implementation process of strategies at all levels. An important issue in this context is training civil society actors such as parliamentarians to read and understand budgets and follow up on budget performance in the public sphere.