Why This Work is Important
From TrustAfrica wiki - African Regional Organizations
The growing currency of regional approaches as a complementary strategy to state-led development in Africa makes this report timely and relevant.
On the one hand, the institutional landscape has evolved significantly in the past few years, with the result that the Pan-African intergovernmental system is becoming more and more relevant as a forum for policymaking. Alongside the advent of the African Union (AU) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in 2001 (and AU organs such as the Peace and Security Council, African Court on Human and People’s Rights and Pan-African Parliament), the regional economic communities (RECs) are forging ahead with various economic, political and peace-building arrangements.
This surge of activity is spurred by a conviction that regional approaches are critical in addressing a host of concerns that know no borders—such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, demographic imbalances, environmental degradation and armed conflicts. At their level best, regional organizations can serve as vehicles for setting and securing compliance with standards and norms for sustainable.
On the other hand, African civil society has grown exponentially since the days of the African Charter on Popular Participation in Development and Transformation (1990) and African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981) – which respectively reflected a growing awareness among states of popular participation, and emphasized the importance of economic and social rights alongside political rights. The advent of these norms also provided civil society with opportunities to engage continentally to push for compliance with continental norms and standards, opportunities that coalesced around a new Pan-Africanism triggered by the demise of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the birth of the AU.
The Constitutive Act of the African Union (2001) articulated the new commitment by African states to “build an integrated Africa, a prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena”. This commitment to a people-led union, marked by the establishment of institutions such as the Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the AU, came in recognition of the remarkable upsurge in the numbers as well as the diversity of civil society organizations (CSOs) engaging regionally, alongside the intergovernmental system.
Juxtaposed with an invigorated intergovernmental policy sphere, the emergence of these continental civil society formations advocating for continental policy, political and social change has attracted new interest and increasing support from Africa’s development partners.
And yet the emerging regional institutional landscape remains fragile, with sustainability posing an overarching challenge. The legitimacy of civil society remains contingent on its ability to put its house in order, while some governments remain suspicious of CSO agency and agendas. Even as it asserts African ownership, the African intergovernmental system is unable to sustain the ambition of its own operations. This has in part been due to the reality that while many donor agencies have provided institutional and program support to regional TBOs and CSOs in the last two decades, this funding has tended to be piecemeal and sporadic.
All this speaks to the need for a more coherent and coordinated approach to supporting continentally-focused African organizations. By providing a detailed review and analysis of the field as currently constituted, and lessons learned as to what has worked and what has not, this report speaks to the need to build the capacity and sustainability of regional institutions in Africa so they can bridge the gap between declarations of intent and implementation on the ground.
In light of all this, the timing is right for private foundations to rethink their support to organizations working on these themes. Sustained and well-coordinated efforts to strengthen regional approaches to addressing challenges related to these and other themes are likely to lead to a significantly stronger field over the next 10 to 15 years.
- I. Executive Summary
- II. Introduction
- III. Thematic Overview
- IV. Donor Support to AROs and CSOs
- V. Gaps and Opportunities
- VI. Conclusions and Recommendations