UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Africa: UN-NADAF NGO Statement
Date Distributed (ymd): 960921
Background Paper Number 5, NGO Forum, UN-NADAF Mid Term
Review, September 13-14, 1996
AFRICAN NGO NETWORKS CAUCUS
Harare, August 1996
>From the African NGO Networks Caucus on the challenges to African development, the African development vision and the role of African institutions
>From 5-8 August 1996, 25 African networks met in Harare to discuss their role in asserting the agendas, priorities and concerns of African civil society organisations (CSOs) in African and international institutions. The meeting and its results are a clear indication that civil society organisations in Africa will no longer accept to be marginalised; that we have started to organise ourselves in order to ensure that this does not happen; and that we intend to assume our responsibilities as committed Africans towards improving the conditions of all the peoples of our continent.
Against this background, we have made the following conclusions and commitments.
1. The challenges to African development and the African development vision
The African continent continues to be marginalised in the new world order. It remains characterised on the international scene as a basket case, stricken with unresolvable poverty, conflict and debt. At the same time, the shaping of development policy, practice and pace is driven by the interests of TransNational Corporations and dominated by new instruments of global governance such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Financial Institutions. These are dominated by the North at the expense of Africa's voice. The international community lacks the moral and political will to constructively assist Africa with its dilemmas. It is therefore a matter of grave concern that, in spite of their best efforts, African institutions have not adequately played their role in defining an agenda for African development, in articulating African interests and in harnessing resources and capacities for action.
At the national level, African governments have excluded people in the policy and decision making processes. In particular, women, who are the socio-economic mainstay of the continent, have been totally marginalised. The exclusion of the population has blocked the emergence of endogenous initiatives. This is aggravated by the failure of education and information systems to nurture positive and creative thought to address African problems and mobilise local initiative.
Africa has vast energies and expertise within its civil society and grassroots people and is endowed with a rich resource base. To a large extent, these have not been harnessed because of a crisis of confidence Africans have themselves about their capabilities. As civil society, we wish to rebuild that confidence, firstly by restating our vision for African development in which Africa is able to:
* meet its basic needs in a sustainable and self reliant way though the optimal use of its abundant human and natural resources
* engage effectively on the international scene
* determine its own agenda and pace of development with the participation and to the benefit of its people
2. The importance of the African Regional Institutions and the state of their relationship with NGOs
It is the view of the African NGO Networks Caucus that strong, accountable and responsible African institutions (political or economic) have an important role to play in the resolution of Africa's current economic, political, social and environmental crisis. More than ever before, effective leadership of these institutions is crucial for enhancing Africa's interest in the globalization process, minimizing its marginalisation and providing fora for the articulation and promotion of an African development agenda in juxtaposition to the ones promoted by outside interests.
There is a widespread scepticism among African citizenry with regard to the Organisation of African Unity's role to provide a desirable political and economic vision for Africa. OAU's achievement in the realm of political liberalisation and independence needs to be complemented by a new and assertive role in economic emancipation for Africa. We recognise the adoption by the OAU Heads of State Summit of the Arusha Charter for Popular Participation, but observe that the relations with Africa's civil society organisations are at an early stage. Only a handful of NGOs have OAU observer status. While the OAU relates with specific NGOs on sectoral issues, such as conflict resolution and emergencies, as yet it has no proper mechanisms for consultation with the African NGOs at large. Indeed we are concerned by the level of ambivalence reflected in the OAU resolution referring to NGOs. We commend the Secretary General's specific effort in peace making as well as his unreserved willingness to receive NGO proposals on dialogue and interfacing with the OAU.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has the potential of providing leadership for the development of policies aimed at enhancing local capacities and mobilising local savings as the principal sources of investment, growth and the equitable distribution of the wealth thus generated. It could provide a forum for the nurturing and development of African-based analysis and ideas on economic policy management, a responsibility now usurped by the Bretton Woods Institutions. The AfDB is in the midst of major reform, which it is feared may lead to a distancing from its initial objective and a satisfying of interests other than African.
The relationship between the CSOs and the African Development Bank has been on a stop-go basis, facilitated mainly by the pressure of Northern NGOs and conditionalities imposed by Northern donors. Efforts to get the AfDB to develop a systematic mechanism for information access and dialogue has been largely unsuccessful, save the invitation of some NGOs to annual Bank meetings. The AfDB, unlike the World Bank, has no clear strategies for promoting participation by affected peoples in Bank projects nor a grievance redress mechanism. Nevertheless, we believe that there are benefits to be generated mutually, if an effective interface were to be developed between the AfDB and the Africa CSOs.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) was established in the spirit of the post-war values of promoting growth and equity worldwide. Its functions were to provide crucial technical assistance in policy analysis and policy-making, provide a platform for the development of African ideas and initiatives on development and a gateway to the United Nations body as a whole.
These objectives remain valid, even more so in this age of globalisation pressures. We are concerned however, that major reforms within the ECA to salvage its image and define new roles will put into question its crucial role as an independent counterweight to the ideas and policies of the Bretton Woods bodies.
The ECA and NGOs worked very closely in the processes leading to the Arusha Charter on Popular Participation. These relations continued in the implementation of the Arusha Charter. NGOs have also held the African Alternative Framework for Structural Adjustment Policies (AAFSAP) facilitated by the ECA in very high regard and held it up as evidence of the capacity for African input into the debate on economic and social policy. It is these events that have endeared the ECA to NGOs and ensured its leadership maintains legitimacy. In spite of these, the ECA has lacked a systematic mechanism for consultation with the African NGO collective. However, the recent reforms and change of leadership are generating major fears about its future role and the context of a future relationship with NGOs.
We recall that the OAU and the AfDB were founded on the steam and enthusiasm of the African peoples in their unity. To regain their energies, it is necessary for these institutions to re-establish their links with the African peoples through their popular organisations, including workers and peasants organisations, professional organisations, women and youth movements, and NGOs and their networks. In the view of the caucus, this analysis is equally applicable to other regional African institutions.
Caucus Expectations of Future Relationships
With regard to our expectations of future relationships, the African NGO Networks Caucus agreed that:
a) having seen through the political emancipation of Africa, the OAU should now focus on Africa's economic emancipation through promoting platforms for common positions, acting as a credible mouthpiece for Africa, promoting accountability and respect for civic and economic rights and by providing leadership on conflict resolution and peace management. In respect to this last point, we stress that the OAU can not be effective in conflict resolution if, on the ground, it is ineffectual and meaningless in times of peace.
b) the Africa Development Bank should play a key role in formulating Africa's development agenda and in ensuring that it is homegrown. It should support and build the capacity of national and subregional development banks through helping to mobilise resources, and negotiate long term solutions to Africa's crippling burden of debt.
c) the Economic Commission for Africa should assist in providing resources on capacity building to African NGOs, serve as a channel and a mouthpiece for African civil society to the United Nations, and relentlessly pursue its mission as one of the continent's key think tanks on independent socio-economic policy options for sustainable development.
d) the three institutions should develop ways of enhancing coordination between them.
4. Caucus commitments for follow up and future action
To contribute to the realisation of the above vision for African development, the participants of the NGO Networks Caucus commit themselves:
e) to contribute to redefining development and situate it within the African context, and to address Africa's marginalisation with a view to reasserting the voice of the African continent in the global arena.
f) to mainstream gender in their activities and work to influence governments to give women their rightful place in policies and programmes and decision making.
g) to develop mechanisms to make themselves heard and interact with national governments and regional organisations and institutions.
h) to take advantage of the human resources resident among themselves and also increase their capacities to respond to the challenges identified herein.
I) to lend their full support and collaboration to efforts by African institutions to promote human sustainable development, through participatory governance, poverty alleviation, economic empowerment and conflict management. We consider the above to be of primary concern to our work, and understand that this new engagement requires of us democratic, participatory and transparent approaches in our dealings with other sectors in civil society, the public at large, and our institutions and governments.
j) to seek to influence the Institutions' agenda, by providing information on grassroots views and experiences. To this end, NGOs will actively seek to widen the scope and give substance to the observer status accorded to them by the OAU, and ensure the inclusion of collective NGOs views on the OAU agenda.
k) to develop information access strategies to inform themselves and the population about the different institutions through lists of resolutions, calenders of events, current policy statements and critical analysis and submissions of resolutions by NGOs.
l) to organise specific lobbying or campaign actions to ensure ratification of various issues, with particular emphasis on those relating to the African Charter for Human and People's rights, and the Arusha Charter on Popular Participation.
m) to promote involvement of civil society by developing a database of African NGO networks and others and identify structures that feed into the various bodies.
n) to find innovative ways to mobilise resources locally and reduce external donor dependency.
It was further resolved:
o) to set up three working groups to work out modalities and seek ways to interface with the OAU, the AfDB and UNECA.
p) to form a working group which would focus on ways to overcome communication and capacity constraints for the purpose of identifying, initiating and coordinating campaigns and solidarity action around such critical but neglected issues of interest to Africa as the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the debt issue, structural adjustment and so forth.
Statement endorsed by the undersigned Harare, 8 August 1996
MWENGO Reflection and Development Centre for NGOs in Eastern and Southern Africa P.O. Box HG817,Highlands, Harare, Zimbabwe Tel: 263-4-721469 / Fax: 263-4-722363.
IRED Development and Support Service in Eastern and Southern Africa) P.O. Box CY3, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel:263-4-796853/Fax: 263-4-722421.
STATEMENT BY THE NGO NETWORKS CAUCUS endorsed by:
SOUTHERN AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS WORKING GROUP BOTSWANA
PROGRAMME RGIONAL DE FORMATION ET D'CHANGES POUR LE
DVELOPPEMENT (PREFED) BURUNDI
CONFEDERATION OF ENV. & DEVT NGOS IN CENTRAL AFRICA (CONGAC)
INADES-FORMATION COTE D'IVOIRE
INTER AFRICA GROUP ETHIOPIA
THIRD WORLD NETWORK GHANA
THIRD WORLD NETWORK GHANA
AFRICAN ASSOCIATION FOR LITERACY AND ADULT EDUCATION (AALAE)
ENVIRONMENT LIAISON CENTRE INTERNATIONAL (ELCI) KENYA
ECONEWS AFRICA KENYA
GOREE INSTITUTE SENEGAL
THE AFRICAN WOMEN'S DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION NETWORK
PAN-AFRICAN INSTITUTE FOR DEVELOPMENT EAST & SOUTHERN AFRICA
MWENGO (REFLECTION & DEVELOPMENT CENTRE FOR NGOS IN EASTERN
AND SOUTHERN AFRICA) ZIMBABWE
Canon Burges Carr
INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF VOLUNTARY AGENCIES (ICVA) SWITZERLAND
AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION NETWORK (ADEN) ZIMBABWE
WOMEN IN LAW AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA(WILDAF) ZIMBABWE
FEDERATION OF AFRICAN MEDIA WOMEN - ZIMBABWE (FAMWZ) ZIMBABWE
CONSUMERS INTERNATIONAL ZIMBABWE
IRED (DEVT. INNOVATIONS AND NETWORKS) ZIMBABWE
AFRICAN FORUM ON DEBT & DEVELOPMENT (AFRODAD) ZIMBABWE
For more information on this set of NGO background papers, please contact:
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), 1 Nicholas St., #1200, Ottawa, ON K1N 787, Canada. Phone: (613) 562-8242; Fax: (613) 532-8334; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Message-Id: <199609211550.IAA25682@igc3.igc.apc.org> From: email@example.com Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 11:47:29 -0500 Subject: Africa: UN-NADAF NGO Statement
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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