The African Union (AU) High Representative for Silencing the Guns, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has emphasized the need to harness the potential of active citizenship as a transformative tool for economic recovery and development.
He stressed that active citizenship action can be an effective tool by freedom fighters to push boundaries and force leaders to implement policies and make investments that benefit the general public.
“Reflecting on our history and the pressing challenges we face today; I want to emphasize a crucial factor that has consistently played a significant role in how Ghanaians have not only confronted challenges but have also triumphed over them. That factor, the same one that led us to gain independence from colonial rule and restore democracy and the rule of law, is active citizenship,” he said.
In light of the unprecedented challenges faced by societies worldwide, he said there is a critical need to harness the transformative potential of active citizenship for economic recovery. The concept of active citizenship goes beyond mere participation in public affairs; it encompasses collective actions that empower individuals and communities to effect meaningful change.
“We must acknowledge that an array of challenges still confront, including poverty, inequality, governance deficit, natural resources mismanagement, climate change, and an unequal international system. It is amidst these challenges that we must grasp the transformative potential of active citizenship,” Dr Chambas added.
He made these remarks on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Star Ghana Foundation (SGF) on the topic: “Empowering citizens, enriching nation building: fostering active citizenship for sustainable development in Ghana”.
Chairperson of the Governing Council, SGF, Dr. Esther Ofei-Aboagye, reiterated that active citizenship has proven to be an essential catalyst for economic revival, especially in times of crisis.
This active involvement fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, creating a stronger social fabric and enabling resilient economic recovery, she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of societies and economies worldwide and that as governments scramble to restore stability, it is clear that passive governance alone is insufficient. “Active citizenship serves as a bridge between policy-makers, organizations, and individuals, unlocking innovative solutions and empowering communities to rebuild and flourish in the face of adversity,” she added.
Legal practitioner and convener, Democracy Hub, Oliver Barker-Vormawor, also opined that to capitalize on the transformative potential of active citizenship, governments and organizations must prioritise the creation of enabling environments. This entails investing in civic education, ensuring access to information, and providing platforms for citizen involvement.
Historical Account of Active Citizenship
Dr. Ibn Chambas highlighted the role of John Mensah Sarbah, the first Ghanaian to be called to the English Bar, and seven others famously called “The Faithful Eight” who demonstrated active citizenship in the founding of Mfantsipim School, the first secondary school in Ghana.
“The courage of Sargent Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe, and Private Nii Odartey Lamptey, who led the march of ex-servicemen to protest discrimination against ex-servicemen and paid the ultimate prize of their lives, were stellar examples of active citizens,” Dr. Ibn Chambers, said.