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“We will not turn our backs on the APRM ”- leadership of the governance mechanisms and civil society assures the continent
Gaborone May 21, 2015 – 140 delegates representing the Panel of Eminent Persons of the African Peer Review Mechanism, think tanks, academia, trade unions, faith based organisations and media resolved to remain fully engaged with the primary African governance instrument. They agreed that the instrument is still relevant because of the massive potential it has in deepening democracy and citizenry participation, and because it is the best instrument Africa has in striving for equality, diversity, plurality of voices and ideas, prosperity, growth and opportunity resulting in greater dialogue between governments and their citizens. This consensus comes at a time when enthusiasm in some members of the APRM has waned. Although 35 states have joined the APRM since inception in 2003, which is a positive development, only eight out of the fifteen countries in the SADC region have acceded to the process.
“The SADC region, which many see as a custodian of Africa’s historical ascension towards democracy post 1990’s, has the opportunity to consolidate such a legacy by collectively encouraging member states that have not done so to join the APRM, a primary governance instrument that propels our common quest to elevate a citizenry driven development and democratic process through peer learning, national dialogue, and serious self-assessments” said Dr. Moustapha Mekideche, incoming chairperson of the APR Panel of Eminent Persons.
DRC,which is marred by instability and a fledging electoral democracy, Madagascar which is coming out of a protracted political impasse, Swaziland, the only absolute monarchy in Africa, Zimbabwe, which continues to grapple with governance and economic volatilities, Seychelles, Namibia, and Botswana the host country for the regional conference, have not signed on to the APRM.
“SADC’s membership is a mix of 15 states with varying degrees of democratic credentials, economic and developmental pedigree, and dissimilarities in how citizens are regarded by their political leaders. And this is precisely the reason why the APRM is so crucial, because it acts as a platform that can facilitate the harmonisation and uniformity of policy adoption that will bring about the aspirations of a prosperous regional economic community”, said Randarirai Mechemedze, head of regional economic integration of SADC-CNGO, one of the organising partners.
However, delegates raised concerns over the lack of political will to take up the recommendations of the reviews, and commitments made towards the national programmes of action, which they said are often unmet by governments. This has led, over the years, to slow delivery of good governance, and the advancement of human rights in the SADC region. High levels of corruption, impunity, insufficient public service delivery, high unemployment rates and dwindling popular participation in the affairs of state by ordinary citizens, continue to be challenges and are issues that the APRM was meant to monitor and address.
Evidence does show that the APRM’s full potential is yet to be fully realized. The mechanism has been useful in highlighting the governance pitfalls, and warning of the threats to peace and security at national and even regional levels. Yet these warnings have often times been ignored by leaders whose countries were under review. In South Africa, warnings were advanced on the issues of xenophobia, rampant corruption and land reform. In Lesotho, there was a strong recommendation for the country to focus on electoral and political reforms. In Mozambique, there were warnings that unless corruption was addressed, and plural participation in public institutions, were urgently undertaken, the country could plunged into a second round of instability.
Delegates also pointed to the mechanism’s mandate to facilitate a partnership between the governments and their citizens to discuss and agree on key issues that promotes diversity, economic governance, and socio-economic development, and generally agreed that more must be done to ensure that such ambitions move from rhetoric to reality.
They also stated that civil society, businesses, and faith based organisations needed to do more in engaging with the APRM in a more effective and consistent way, especially given that the mechanism is threatened by insufficient funding, and a very uncertain future with country reviews not having taken place for over three years, the most recent of which were Zambia and Tanzania, with the latter yet to launch its own report at national level. Despite these challenges, the delegates agreed to continue their fight to ensure that the APRM is rescued from the political wilderness it finds itself in, and is elevated to levels worthy of its intended status and potential.
About the organisers:
The APRM Secretariat provides secretarial, technical, coordinating and administrative support services for the APRM processes. This includes preparation of background documents assessing the country to be reviewed, drawing on up-to-date information from national, sub-regional, regional and international organisations. The APRM Secretariat also prepares a document outlining each participating nation’s major governance issues. It is also in charge of organising and facilitating the Country Review Missions.
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AfRO, the Africa Regional Office is part of the Open Society African foundations, and works with national civil society organizations to conduct systematic audits of government performance in key sectors such as: state party compliance with continental norms and treaties; combatting anti- corruption. It also focuses on citizenship and a right to a nationality, elections integrity, and transparency in natural resource governance, international justice and food security in Africa.
EISA, evolved from an election NGO servicing Southern Africa into a more diversified organisation working throughout the continent with national, regional, Pan-African and global partners. The Institute’s work covers elections and other Democracy & Governance fields like political party development, conflict management, legislative strengthening, the African Peer Review Mechanism and local governance and decentralisation. Outside the southern African region, EISA has field offices in Burundi, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Sudan, which is a reflection of its broader geographical mandate.
SAIIA, South African Institute of International Affairs has a long and proud record as South Africa’s premier research institute on international issues. It is an independent, non-government think-tank whose purpose is to encourage wider and more informed awareness of the importance of international affairs. It is both a centre for research excellence and a home for stimulating public debate.
SADC-CNGO, the Southern Africa Development Community Council of Non-Governmental Organisations was formed in 1998 to facilitate meaningful engagement of the people of the region with SADC Secretariat at regional level, and with the Member States at national level through national NGO umbrella bodies. The formation of SADC was originally influenced by the need to promote and support political liberation in southern Africa.