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society plays a vital role in Regional integration
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
March 22, 2004
Dr Prega Ramsamy,
Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
this afternoon reaffirmed civil society's vital role in efforts at regional
integration, and highlighted SADC's commitment to a partnership with civil
society to find lasting solutions to the development needs in southern
Africa. Dr Ramsamy was addressing more than 700 civil society actors,
activists, practitioners, researchers, concerned business leaders, representatives
from intergovernmental organisations and government representatives from
over 100 countries, gathered in Gaborone, Botswana at the 5th
CIVICUS World Assembly.
"SADC has accorded
top priority and given full recognition to the key role and significant
contribution of the civil society and non-governmental organisations.
Effective participation and constructive dialogue of all key stakeholders
are the cornerstones of the process of integration in the SADC region
and of development in general" he said.
SADC has recently
been restructured to effectively mobilise key stakeholders to take full
advantage of current global opportunities and challenges. This, Ramsamy
added, is well supported by positive policy changes amongst SADC's international
cooperating partners, such as the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA)
between the EU and ACP states. These policy changes provide a sound legal
basis and wider framework for involving non-state actors in political
dialogue, policy formulation and implementation as well as in the evaluation
of cooperation strategies and programmes.
The commitment of
governments in the SADC region to the development oriented approach to
integration has gone beyond mere statements and has been given legal effect
as reflected in Article 23 of the SADC Treaty which commits Member States
"to fully involve, to cooperate with, and to support the initiatives of
the peoples of the region and NGOs in the community building process.
"This spirit is fully
consistent with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) philosophy
pertaining to the civil society involvement," said Ramsamy.
In recognition of
civil society's role in SADC's efforts at regional integration, SADC Council
of Ministers have now approved the establishment of the SADC Council of
NGOs, and has endorsed the Botswana Council of NGOs, BOCONGO, as its interim
Secretariat. The Council is aimed at creating a conducive environment
for the participation of civil society and non-governmental organisations
in the regional integration agenda. Among it's many objectives, it will
provide input in the formulation of policies that influence regional cooperation
and integration and will advocate for an enabling environment for civil
society organisations at national and regional levels.
of the growing collaboration between different groups of civil society
organisation at the regional level is evidenced in the development of
regional civil society organisations such as the Southern African Regional
Poverty Network (poverty alleviation) and the Electoral Institute for
Southern Africa. These are a demonstration of the power of working together
at the regional level, rather than separately at the national level.
Carlos Fumo, of the
Foundation of Community Development in Mozambique, responded to the address,
reaffirming that the development of any region is the full responsibility
of its citizens. "Civil society organisations need instituionalised mechanisms
of involvement to achieve their joint objectives" he said.
"The choice of the
overall theme of this historic gathering "Acting Together for a Just World"
could not have been better," concluded Ramsamy. "Clearly, the challenges
facing humanity in creating a just and secure global order are daunting,
but through joining forces and forging strategic partnerships, we can
make a huge difference and overcome the obstacles to the realisation of
our cherished vision of a better and inclusive future".
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