The role of the NGO and Positive Politics – Giselle Borg Olivier

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 November, 2020 at 10:49 am by Andre Camilleri

There are over 1,800 registered NGOs and voluntary organisations in Malta – that’s a huge number (considering the size of the country) of groups and organisations that are set up to focus on a particular area of interest, from band clubs to charities to training organisations.

Does it make sense to have so many organisations? That’s a very subjective matter, because they all provide some form of service and benefit and, even though many of them would have overlapping remits and agendas, each still provides a service to the community and to the people who are involved.

These organisations often give purpose to people’s lives; they provide a second family, a set of friends with similar interests and ideologies, a cause worth volunteering time towards. Let’s remember that the people who dedicate time towards a cause are doing so voluntarily – there’s no financial reward. This isn’t a job, this is activism.

Unfortunately, it seems that the term ‘activism’ has taken on a slightly negative slant as the word is often associated with people brandishing placards while chaining themselves to gates and causing chaos, and, while sometimes there’s need for that, activism shouldn’t be conjuring up solely those images; it’s about the drive to improve – oneself, the community, and society on a larger scale. People want to leave their mark, they want to be remembered, some want to change the world! This might seem incongruous, and potentially megalomaniacal, but where would we be without these people? Those with the big dreams and the bigger plans?

The United States of America has just elected a new President amid a lot of tension and speculation exacerbated by the media frenzy that surrounded the candidates during their electoral campaign. To state that the media’s influence is greater than ever is unlikely to raise any eyebrows, because it is the public that is promoting their authority by sharing stories on their own social media platforms, oftentimes without checking whether what they are sharing is true or not.

While one hopes that serious media houses would strive to only carry content that is researched and verified, we often fail to think about their bias. Do we think about who the owners are? Do we question who are the stakeholders behind a particular newspaper or TV station?

Fake news is a relatively recent term, brought about by the rise of social media and the realisation that click-bait and shocking titles will not only catch people’s attention but increase their propensity to share that news item on their news feed, thus starting a chain of likes, comments and shares that multiplies in intensity and exposure, and all the while feeding either the PR pot or the financial pot of the source.

The US elections played out online more than on any other media channel. Everybody had their opinion, wanted their say, and backed a certain candidate. Debates were had between friends and strangers – not always in a dignified, savoury manner – and even after the results were announced, the debates continued. More than that, the taunts continued – the memes, the caricatures, the jokes; all part of the political arena perhaps, but does that make it right?

Forty-odd years ago people spoke about the political giants like Churchill and Eisenhower and reminisced about a time when politics was a stately and elegant affair. Nowadays we speak about the politicians of 30 and 40 years ago like Bush and Blair and feel a sense of nostalgia about those times. Is politics becoming such a media circus that in 2050, we’ll be yearning for the Trump and Johnson years?

It’s time for positive politics. To encourage young leaders to enter the political fray for the right reasons based on good morals and strong values. This is where our NGOs play a vital role as they are the changemakers, the ones to engage in conversations and bring about a change in policy. JCI Malta, the local representative of JCI (Junior Chamber International), has delved into the local political scene over the years encouraging young people to learn about their candidates, meet prospective MEPs, and vote in an educated manner based on research. In the coming years, this healthy attitude towards politics will continue to be high on the agenda in a bid to encourage new young leaders to enter the political scene and give the people fresh, healthy options when it comes to choosing their representatives.

The relationship between NGOs and politicians is an important one as that is where the opportunity to build a bridge to educate people is formed. Being involved directly in an NGO or in politics isn’t a role for everyone; however, everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of society in some way. We need the Gretas and the Malalas of the world to come forward and take a stand knowing that they will be listened to and that their voice will make a difference to the actions of many.

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