Islamabad - A renewed social contract between the state and society is shaping up slowly in Pakistan which needs to be strengthened by engaging civil society and addressing the social economic needs of the communities across Pakistan. This was the consensus of a roundtable meeting held at a local hotel under the auspices of Oxfam Novib yesterday where prominent personalities from all walks of life including academia, civil society organisations, private sector, government ministries, and media deliberated on empowering societies for improved governance.

The roundtable helped Oxfam Novib and its implementing partners get strategic direction on its work around peace building to work together with others to address key driving factors of local issues and contribute to lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. Opening the discussion, Program Manager at Oxfam Novib, Lubna Javaid said that empowering citizens and civil society to engage with government departments for the provision of basic services on the one hand, and by strengthening the ability of the local communities to understand and identify local causes of conflict on the other is paying dividends.

Guest speakers were of the view that a lot has been achieved during the first phase of ‘Citizen First’ and still a lot more needs to be done to sustain the gains the program teams have achieved in 15 districts across three provinces of Pakistan. They hoped that Oxfam Novib would continue such programs in collaboration with Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs to empower and enlighten the society for betterment of all stakeholders.

Javeria Afzal, Associate Country Director of Oxfam Novib, lauded the role of implementing partners during the first three years of Citizen First project. She said that Oxfam believes in capacity building of local communities and of the implementing partners to address inequalities through dialogues, consultations and effective engagement between citizens and government representatives at various levels

Considering the expertise and knowledge, a panel of experts belonging to different backgrounds were invited to discuss the current context of peace building and its dynamics in Pakistan and share their expert opinion about possible programme areas to work under Oxfam’s umbrella.

Besides this, a sizeable number of individuals belonging to international/national NGOs, activists from community, media representatives and implementing partners actively participated in the open discussions.  

Citizens First is a 4 year project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Oxfam Novib and its seven local implementing partners have been implementing the project in 15 districts across three provinces of Pakistan. The project aims to renew and strengthen the social contract between the state and the society and contributes positively to enable improved trust and engagement between citizens and government departments towards good governance. By motivating and empowering citizens through mobilized civil society and active engagement, the project proposes to solicit positive response from concerned governments with a rights-based approach.

A main thrust of the project is to strengthen the demand side for good governance through enhancing civil society capacity for evidence?based advocacy to be utilized for constructive engagement with government. This includes capacity support for research, budget and policy analysis, formulation of alternative budget and policy recommendations, and advocacy planning.