Volunteerism Governments must inspire people to participate in dev't - Rawlings

Former President Rawlings says development should be a shared responsibility.

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President Rawlings and other delegates at the launch event play

President Rawlings and other delegates at the launch event

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Ghana’s former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings has called on governments and political leadership to inspire and embolden the people to participate in development-oriented roles that benefit the state.

Development, the former President stated, should be a shared responsibility and not handed down to the people.

In a statement delivered at the launch of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) ‘State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015’ in Nairobi, Kenya on Friday, President Rawlings said:

“Self-actualisation means the people must feel they have played a role in the process right from its conception – that free will to sacrifice for a common goal and for a common agenda, leading to a shared sense of accomplishment.”

The former President who served as an Eminent Person for Volunteerism in 2001 said, “Leadership by its actions and body language should empower and embolden the people into action. Leaders should not take away the liberating effect of action.

“Whether at the level of a small village or a nation, it is leadership that inspires others to make the choice to get involved. But it must be leadership by example. Those of us in power should never feel intimidated by the power of the people. Political, traditional and other social leaders should rather feel legitimately empowered by a strong, bold people. Development will thrive if we work together and are strong together. Let’s not derive our strength and power from their weakness.

“Governments must create the conditions for people to see volunteerism as an investment in their local and global communities, and as an investment towards a sustainable world for themselves and descendants.

“My message to governments is that you can’t govern effectively and develop a country without harnessing the expertise and energy that you find in the wider populace, and volunteers are the people to help you do this,” President Rawlings said.

Flt Lt Rawlings expressed concern about the “disturbing loss of the spirit of volunteerism or sense of self-help” in Ghana. He attributed it to “the air of cynicism, born of difficult economic times and constant allegations of corruption and inefficiency in governance, including government agencies and departments.

“It was disheartening to note that that days after the disaster and massive floods, debris was still strewn across several parts of the city, as the citizenry expected government to take charge of the huge recovery process with little sense of individual moral responsibility or urgency.

Former President Rawlings recalled the massive spirit of volunteerism that existed during the early days of the revolution. He said: “During my tenure as Head of State under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), we had an avalanche of crises pouring in at once.

The economy was on the verge of collapse, with government revenue dwindling from 20 per cent of GDP in 1970 to 5 per cent by 1982, inflation was running at 200 per cent, while Ghana’s chief export, cocoa production, had fallen drastically, along with diamonds, gold, and timber.

The struggle for basic necessities had also fractured citizens’ involvement in decision-making processes regarding their governance.

“This, coupled with massive corruption, called “kalabule” in local parlance, had eaten at the soul of Ghanaian society, creating a charged air and an inevitable atmosphere for an explosion. “Out of that explosion was also reborn a massive spirit of volunteerism and a spirit of self-help.

It was no surprise when students and workers translated their anger into productive action to resolve pressing challenges. Unprompted, thousands of students in early 1982 voluntarily left their classrooms to carry cocoa to the ports for export, from the farms in the hinterland where the crop was in danger of being left to rot.

A record haulage was transported to the ports by the renewed sense of volunteerism and sense of purpose exhibited by the students and members of the communities, who regularly supported the students with food and a place to sleep.

“The students deeply understood the value of their citizenship, and acted with an infectious passion that galvanised the entire nation toward community service. I joined them often, including salvaging sacks of cocoa from a derailed train in Eastern Ghana. Six months later, the students returned to their campuses with a commitment to serve causes larger than themselves.

“I saw that we would never improve social and economic conditions in Ghana without the systematic involvement at the grass roots of local community groups, and volunteer organisations.”

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