The national Think Tank Mauritius Society Renewal was launched on Friday 3rd March at the University of Mauritius in a room packed with people from different walks of life, across generations. This perhaps testifies to the fact that Mauritians are conscious of the urgent need for renewal. Coupled to this consciousness, there is a growing realisation that if governance is left in the hands of the politicians alone, the nation’s aspirations and legitimate expectations may not be met.
The 2017 World Development Report ‘Governance and the Law’ attempts to explain why carefully crafted policies are frequently not adopted let alone implemented. It also asks the questions why when they are adopted and implemented, they often fail to generate outcomes which are desired by the population. The report also notes that the 3 Cs paradigm: Commitment, Cooperation and Coordination are essential to the effectiveness of policies and central to governance. It clearly calls out the fact that addressing the challenges faced by today’s developing countries requires rethinking and redesigning the governance process. It is to such governance processes that the ‘voices of renewal’ speak to.
As the dust settles after the 49th independence anniversary celebrations, these voices come out in the open as a precursor to a New Mauritius @50+ as we prepare to celebrate half a century of independence. While we all recognise how Mauritius has ably defied the apocalyptic pronouncements of analysts like Meade, Titmuss and Naipaul and made great strides on development: we must also accept the fact that the situation is pretty chaotic at the moment.
The young people’s contributions speak to the current malaise. They are worried about their futures and express their concerns. They are part of the ‘Renewal Consciousness’. Many of them are aware that a meaningful democratic life depends largely on being part of the governance process. This does not only mean voting every 5 years (often with the consequences) that we are all too familiar with but rather think, question, interrogate those who represent us as well as reject what they propose to us and protest if it is not in the best interests of the nation.
The ‘Voices of Renewal’ are preceded by 3 main texts - that of President Cassam Uteem, Roukaya Kasenally and Manisha Dookhony’s. President Uteem’s full paper (available on the facebook page of MSR) opens with a reference to Dr Ambedkar’s idea of a ‘public conscience’ and why it is important not to be indifferent. Citizen’s engagement is a reflection of people saying ‘No to indifference’.
President Uteem also draws on certain good practices from Senegal, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda to highlight the awakening of African citizenry and their various actions to bring about change and transformation. Innovative technologies infusing policy-shaping and change are central to revitalisation and renewal. Roukaya Kasenally’s piece showcases Ghana as a wonderful example of citizens’ activism and citizen democracy working for renewal while Manisha Dookhony draws our attention to the necessity of a new kind of leadership for the renewal of Mauritius.
The questions that therefore arise include: can we bring the citizens of Mauritius to mobilise, to claim for their rights while exercising their obligations? The voices that MSR brings to you here capture the beginnings of some new forms of citizen engagement but first to President Uteem’s thoughts.