OSAKA — Governments and nongovernmental organizations in Africa have been building better relations by increasing their mutual knowledge and understanding, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, the first lady of Ghana, said at an international symposium held here Friday.Addressing about 150 participants in the NGOs’ Visions and Proposals for African Development symposium, Rawlings, who also serves as president of the 31st December Women’s Movement, an NGO formed in her country in 1983, gave a keynote speech based on her 20 years of experiences with NGO activities.Rawlings said many women in Ghana have organized in her group to change their circumstances through various activities, including production of handmade crafts, construction of educational institutions for children and adults, clinics and food processing firms. “The 31st December Women’s Movement is empowering women all around. These progressive measures have been made possible by the step-by-step pursuit of realistic social economic policies,” she said.Although the relationship between governments and NGOs, including her group, encounters difficulties “because of mutual suspicion, poor communication and bureaucratic lapses,” the two sectors can build mutual trust and facilitate regular dialogue and help resolve problems quickly, said Rawlings, who was awarded an honorary doctorate in social sciences from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1995.To support public activities, the government must give people better incentives, including efficient marketing, by stabilizing financial systems, reducing waste, corruption and inefficiency, and utilizing international assistance, she said.The symposium, organized by the Africa Society of Japan and the Africa Society of Kansai, is in advance of the second Tokyo International Conference on African Development, slated for next week. Some NGOs will participate in the conference as observers.Yasushi Kurokochi, vice president of the Africa Society of Japan and chairman of the symposium, said proposals written by Japanese NGOs will be submitted to the conference, and the symposium Friday will help build an international network of NGOs working for Africa.Rene Segbenou, director general of the African Institute for Economic and Social Development — Training Center in Cote d’Ivoire, said tolerance is important in leading people from conflict to peace. “Poverty becomes the reason for conflict in Africa, and economic development projects will reduce poverty and produce tolerance,” he said.
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