The Future of Citizenship: A debate featuring Rakesh Rajani and Arend Jan Boekestijn

The Future of Citizenship
A debate featuring Rakesh Rajani and Arend Jan Boekestijn

23 February, 19.30
Nutshuis, Riviervismarkt 5, The Hague

All over the world the spotlight is on the citizen. From Time magazine’s nomination of the protestor as person of the year to the enduring optimism around the ripples of the Arab spring: from Obama’s ‘yes we can’ to Cameron’s big society: citizenship seems to have become the new magic bullet. But will this new starring role for the citizen actually lead to solutions?

Almost all institutional arrangements that carried the day in the 20th century, are increasingly deemed unfit to solve 21st century problems. In the Netherlandstoo, the Dutch polder is being drained and civil society is asked to make way for citizen action 2.0. Citizens are expected to look after each other, make democracy work and save the planet in the absence of global public policy.

The debate
This debate will be kick-started by Rakesh Rajani and Arend Jan Boekestijn. They will reflect on whether citizenship is the new magic bullet and what this implies for the support efforts by states and other civic actors. Is it best to steer clear? Can citizen action in anyway be aided, and if so how?

Existing frameworks for explaining the role of citizens in our rapidly changing societies are clearly in need of an update. Therefore, these questions are important for anyone interested in citizen action for social change, whether in the ‘developing’ or the ‘developed’ world.

Rakesh Rajani is leading at the forefront of a new generation of prominent African initiatives that galvanize citizen agency for social change, that radically depart from the old paradigms of NGOs and development aid. Building on his work in Tanzania, he will share his view on the future of citizen action and the possibilities for supporting their drive for change.

Arend Jan Boekestijn is a former member of parliament for the VVD. He teaches at the University of Utrecht and is the author of ‘The Price of a Bad Conscience’ (De prijs van een slecht geweten), a book on foreign aid policy. He is very sceptical about development aid as we know it, since it results in a passive attitude of citizens from the donating as well the receiving country.

This event is co-organized by the Teldersstichting and Hivos. The debate will be held in English.
Register at:

For more information contact Josine Stremmelaar at Hivos ( or Stephan de Vries at Teldersstichting (

Selma Zijlstra

17 februari 2012