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Publication Details

Chitonge, Horman (2006) The Role of Civil Society in New Approaches to Development. Centre for Civil Society  Colloquium on the Economy, Society and Nature: 1-20.


Civil Society1 has always contributed to the development theory and practice. However, the contribution that civil society makes to the development discourse is largely determined by the predominant development theory of the time. This paper explores the role that civil society has played in different development approaches focusing on the opportunities that the rights based approach presents. The paper argues that the rights based approach presents great opportunities for civil society to influence both the development policy and decisions, not only at the national level, but also at the international level.2 Unlike in the earlier approaches to development where the role of civil society was seen as taking care of the victims of failed development and natural disasters such as drought, famine, floods, wars, the rights based provides avenues through which civil society can participate meaningfully in the development process. International human rights norms such as participation, accountability, transparency, empowerment, equality and nondiscrimination create avenues through which civil society can influence development policy, decisions and outcome.

In order to situate the argument in its context, the first part of the paper gives a brief overview of the four major approaches to development prior to the rights bases approach. The second part identifies the major innovations in the rights-based model. Drawing from the two parts, the third part illustrate how the innovations in the rights based approach can translate into opportunities for civil society to influence development theory and practice.

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