The annual New Year School and Conference which has over the years been a platform for experts drawn from politics, academia, industry, regulatory agencies, local government and anti-corruption institutions to shine the spotlight on key national issues and seek to challenge the status quo has begun.
After 70 years of shaping policy and setting the stage for constitutional democracy, the New Year School opened again on Monday, January 14, 2018 with a focus on strengthening state institutions for national development.
It will not only be a platform for thought-provoking speeches that would awaken duty bearers from their slumber, but it will also be a medium through which veritable solutions to national challenges will be proffered.
The event is being held on the theme: “Building strong institutions for democratic consolidation in Ghana.”
Among the sub-themes that will dominate the discussions at the event are effective legislative oversight for countervailing authority, judicial independence and democratic consolidation, strengthening anti-corruption state institutions and investigative journalism, corruption and sustainable development.
The other sub-themes are political vigilantism and Ghana’s democracy, building a stronger civil society for effective accountability, improving electoral process for democratic consolidation, and 30 years of decentralisation – challenges and prospects.
Key speakers at the conference will include the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye; the Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu; the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Commissioner of the Commission for Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Joseph Whittal.
Ahead of the official opening of the annual event, a Co-Director of the College of Education’s School of Continuing and Distance Education of the University of Ghana, Professor Eric Osei-Assibey, said the stakes were high for one of the best conferences.
He told the Daily Graphic that the theme underscored the important role institutions played in deepening constitutional democracy and sustainable national development.
“It has been more than 25 years of multi-party democracy in this country and Ghana is seen as one of the most democratic countries in Africa. We have done largely well with our governance in terms of the three arms of government and the media.
“But the institutions of state that are to enhance government effectiveness, weed out corruption, entrench rule of law and also ensure efficient regulation have been weak and need to be strengthened,” he stressed.
He observed that the happenings in the banking sector over the last two years indicated the extent to which the institutions that had oversight responsibility of the financial sector were weak.
Touching on the success story in the New Year School’s 70-year journey, Prof. Osei-Assibey said most of the policies that had been rolled out by successive governments took their roots from the recommendations of the conferences that had been held.
He said for instance that the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) policy that had been implemented by the current government was a proposal made at the New Year School and Conference in 2017.
“The 2017 edition of the New Year School and Conference focused on the modernisation of agriculture using information and communication technology (ICT) as the game changer.
The PFJ that has been implemented by the government came up through this initiative,” he said.
He added that a number of innovations that had been deployed in the education, health, agriculture and other sectors were proposals from the discussions at the annual event.
“The relevance of this conference cannot be overemphasised because it has always provided a platform for democratic governance and constitutional democracy.
Transparent ballot boxes that are used during elections in this country emanated from the New Year School,” he said.
Prof. Osei-Assibey, however, said it was disappointing that although a number of communiqués and recommendations had been made by the New Year School, some of them had not been implemented by concerned authorities.
He added that the lack of funds to follow-up to ensure that the appropriate state institutions implemented the recommendations made by successive conferences was a major setback.
Prof. Osei-Assibey called on the government and the private sector to take keen interest in this year’s conference to make it a success.