How collective action can influence the direction of a land reform: lessons learned from civil society mobilisation in Senegal
Civil society’s ability to contribute to public policies has been on the agenda in sub-Saharan Africa since the 2000s. Civil society organisations (CSOs) often debate policy options at some length and depth but spend less time thinking about their strategies for action and influence in this domain, even though the interests promoted by the state do not always correspond to those of most citizens, and policy formulation processes are often open to manipulation.
CSOs therefore face several dilemmas. Should they engage in the participatory processes proposed by the state? If so, under what conditions? How can they engage in constructive dialogue while being vigilant about the risks of manipulation? How can they influence the process and push for the interests and views of as many people as possible to be taken into account?
This study examines how Senegalese CSOs operating within the framework for dialogue and action on land in Senegal (CRAFS) mobilised around the process of formulating a draft land reform between 2014 and 2016. The process was led by the National Land Reform Commission (CNRF), which the Senegalese government created in 2012 to lead an ‘inclusive and participatory’ land reform. After describing how members of CRAFS contributed to the debate on the need for an inclusive land reform and their active and critical contributions to the CNRF process, this paper analyses the achievements and limitations of their engagement in the process and the lessons learned from it.