Call for bigger roles for non-state actors in SADC issues |22 September 2022
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) must expand the participation of non-state actors (NSAs) in regional processes through the operationalisation of the Regional NSA Engagement Mechanism and include them in consultations and technical working groups for monitoring, evaluation and reporting, and planned regional initiatives.
Given the absence of functional and accessible SADC National Committees (SNCs) as key accountability mechanisms, SADC member states must improve the frequency and quality of reports related to the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 to the SADC Secretariat.
Additionally, the SADC Secretariat should share and promote the adoption by member states of the SADC National Committee (SNC) blueprint guidelines to inform the urgent establishment and strengthening of SNCs in all 16 member states.
These are some of the recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the RISDP 2020-2030, at regional level that were made at the end of a hybrid regional dialogue for NSAs on the revised SADC RISDP that took place in Johannesburg and virtually from September 13-15, 2022.
The theme of the dialogue, that was attended by more than 200 people from 12 of the 16 SADC member states (MS) from meetings in six locations (Dodoma, Lilongwe, Lusaka, Harare, Johannesburg, Maputo) and virtually, was The SADC RISDP and Social Accountability in Public Resource Management.
Delegates represented various NSAs, including civil society organisations, smallholder farmers’ associations, trade unions, youth organisations, people’s movements, women’s groups, faith-based organisations and media outlets and the GIZ-SNRL programme. Some parliamentarians also actively participated. The SADC Secretariat, SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF), SADC National Committees, SADC National Contact Points and other government departments were also represented.
Through a communique, the dialogue called, also, for the development of a regional extension services strategy and the operationalisation of a mechanism to ensure compliance with legal instruments and commitments.
“A funding facility should also be established to facilitate participation of NSAs at both regional and national levels,” said the communique.
The Secretariat was also urged improve regular communications with SNCs, provide them training on monitoring and evaluation, and support them to enhance reporting and sharing of monitoring reports.
The Secretariat and member states were reminded of their responsibility to facilitate timely access to public information that relates to SADC processes and that its website should be regularly updated with official plans, reviews, reports and strategies, among other publicly available documents, in all four SADC official languages (English, French, Portuguese and Kiswahili).
The SADC policy on monitoring and evaluation requires that the SADC Secretariat posts reports on their website. In addition to that requirement, the meeting recommended that information could also be shared on social media to expand young people’s access.
Delegates recommended that the RISDP implementation plan be updated to include the SADC SRHR Strategy (2019-2030), as it provides the regional policy and programming framework to improve the SRHR of all inhabitants of the SADC Region, and contribute towards members meeting the sustainable development goals and related commitments.
Member states were urged to urgently sign the agreement amending the SADC Treaty on transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into the SADC Parliament, and call upon SADC to ensure this is swiftly followed by formal amendment of the SADC Treaty and ratification of the required protocol, by August 2023, in accordance with the agreed roadmap.
The SADC Parliamentary Forum was encouraged to raise awareness of the Model Law on Public Financial Management (PFM), and Model Law on Gender Based Violence (GBV), and to develop scorecards to assess the alignment of member states’ laws to the model laws.
In addition to the regional recommendations, the dialogue made national-level recommendations including urging member states to expedite the operationalisation of the Regional Development Fund and the Agricultural Development Fund to ensure adequate support of the implementation of the RISDP, particularly towards support for the smallholder farmers and SRH interventions for adolescents and young people.
This stemmed from participants raising concern during deliberations that despite good conditions for crop production, animal husbandry, forestry and fisheries, the number of food insecure people in SADC region is estimated to be 55.7 million and 18.6 million children are stunted representing a third of the stunted children in Africa, according to the 2023 Regional Vulnerability Assessment Analysis (RVAA) Synthesis Report (covering 12 member states).
“We call upon all SADC members to urgently establish National Committees, particularly in Tanzania and Zimbabwe, as mandated by the SADC Treaty, inclusive of NSAs. We also implore member states to facilitate and broaden political participation for NSAs, including repealing all laws that threaten the existence of a diverse and pluralistic civil society,” said the communique.
Delegates further encouraged SADC states to ensure NSAs can input into and easily access national-level planning and reporting information related to RISDP 2020-2030, including by providing information to the public through national SADC media coordinators.
“SADC states must be reminded to report regularly and in a timely manner to the SADC Secretariat, and their citizens, on progress in implementing RISDP 2020-2030 commitments and domesticating regional agreements.
“They must review their PFM laws and make them to be in line with the SADC Model Law on PFM to improve management, transparency and accountability, and to prevent illicit financial flows.”
The Model Law is aligned with the objectives of the RISDP which envisages that the developmental goals within SADC will be reached within a climate that is conducive to good governance, transparency and accountability.
Delegates expressed appreciation to donors for their commitment to strengthening social accountability in the region, in particular the regional office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for their support of this dialogue.
During the deliberations that led to the recommendations, participants noted that the RISDP and Vision 2050 were approved at the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit in August 2020, and its regional implementation plan and costings were adopted by the SADC Council of Ministers in August 2021, with national plans being developed by member states and national costings being adopted by SADC Council of Ministers in August 2022.
The 10-year regional strategy envisions “a peaceful, inclusive, middle to high income industrialised region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice and freedom”.
Delegates applauded the SADC Council of Ministers for approving the establishment of a Regional NSA Engagement Mechanism at their meeting in August 2022. This further emphasised SADC’s recognition of the importance of working in strategic partnerships with NSAs to ensure the successful implementation of regional policies and programmes, as highlighted in the RISDP 2020.
To ensure social accountability in the roll-out of the RISDP 2020-2030, SADC and its member states must ensure the people of the region are fully informed and involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting of associated national and local level initiatives.
The participants however recognised the progress made by SADC Secretariat and SADC member states in implementing the RISDP, even amid the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, armed conflict in some member states, the war in Europe and multiple natural and man-made disasters, as described in SADC Annual Reports from 2020 to 2022.
There were concerns raised with the general lack of clarity about SADC processes at the national level, low levels of public access to and understanding of SADC information (including planning and reporting documents), and persistent underreporting by member states on their SADC commitments.
Regardless, delegates acknowledged progress made in establishing SNCs in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia, in particular.
The dialogue was convened by Southern Africa Trust, Economic Justice Network (EJN) of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA), Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN), Southern Africa Coordination Council (SATUCC), GenderLinks, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance (a consortium of ActionAid International (AAI), Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) of Rhodes University, Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) and SAfAIDS.
By Moses Magadza