This paper examines the assumed role of civil society in the new policy agenda of ‘good governance’ promoted by bilateral and multilateral agencies. According to donors, civil society – often represented by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) – can play a substantial role in the enhancement of development and the promotion of democracy. Through governance arrangements that are characterised by a limited role of the state and a flexible combination of governmental, private and civil actors, NGOs are predicted as missionaries to advance stagnated development and to consolidate youthful democracies (Van Rooy 1998).
In the development field, civil society organisations (CSOs) are expected to reach the poor, improve equity, compensate for waning state services and help generate economic growth (Edwards and Hulme 1996; Van Rooy 1998). In the field of democracy, civil society allegedly fosters democratic values through the involvement of CSOs in micro-reform policies. The claim here is that the policy dialogue that integrates actors from NGOs, competitive business and local government can delineate solutions for public services provision, and enhance an effective partnership and pluralistic decision-making that is conceived of as a precondition of democratic structure (Brinkerhoff 2003).
This paper bases its arguments primarily on a review of literature, and uses theories in relation to the role of civil society in development and democracy. It draws upon the theory of social origin of non-profit organisations, the theory of social capital and the theory of two publics in
Africa – how the colonial background in Africa created two publics, the civic public and the primordial public – to raise concerns regarding the current policy trends of governance.
Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development , 2010. , 4 p.154-160 p.