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Ecosocc & civil society participation lessons learnt & ways forward


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In the framework of the in-depth review of ECOSOCC ordered by the Executive Council of the African Union to make the organ effective and efficient, I have made this presentation to a group of experts to inform the process - Seychelles, 30 October 2017

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Ecosocc & civil society participation lessons learnt & ways forward

  1. 1. ECOSOCC & Civil Society Participation in the African Union Lessons Learnt and Ways Forward By Desire Assogbavi 30 October 2017
  2. 2. Introductory Remarks  The involvement of a diverse range of actors, including civil society, is essential for effective action on continental priorities  By its immersion within the society and its preservation of an identity that is distinct from States, civil society has vocation to contribute greatly in development, peace, security, prosperity…  The constructive engagement of civil society can reinforce intergovernmental deliberations by informing them, sensitizing them to public opinion and grass- roots realities, increasing public understanding of their decisions and enhancing their accountability  The growing influence of civil society in global and continental policy does not diminish the relevance of inter-governmental processes — it enhances it. Nor does it lessen the authority of Governments within them. While civil society can help to put issues on the continental agenda, only Governments have the power to decide on them.
  3. 3. If properly built & managed…  ECOSOCC could be an influential forum to inform policies and practices of the African Union  ECOSOCC could help concretize the vision of the AU vision to establish a people-centred continental body… and close the gap between continental policies and the actual needs of people  ECOSOCC could be the continental champion and guarantor of civic space at all level, including national level  ECOSOCC could empower citizens to claim accoumtability for the implementation of AU decisions at national level
  4. 4. Lessons Learnt – What did not work for ECOSOCC? The Nature/Uniqueness: ECOSOCC is an AU Organ, regulated by the AU but composed of CSOs… Without a certain independence, it could not genuinely perform…  Membership criteria have limited the capacity/credibility of ECOSOCC… the 50% funding criteria for membership, not observed by the AU itself in terms of funding is purely irrational. Beyond Members: There were no or less efforts by ECOSOCC to tape on resources and kwnoledge from the wider civil society outside of its framework... A waste! Space & Mandate: There is lack of clarity of ECOSOCC space, in the AU policy process.... Interventions are limited to presenting reports to the Executive Council.
  5. 5. Best Practices from other institutions ECOSOC (UN) Economic & Social Committee (EU) ECOWAS & East African Community
  6. 6. ECOSOC (UN) Thematic based: Economic & Social Development + HR 54 Members, Receive report from many UN Agencies Members states seat in it, so not a primarily avenue for CSOs but its Committee on NGOs consults with over 2,000 registered NGOs: written statements, observer status... NGOs have used ECOSOC to influence many policies adopted at the UN ECOSOC Status allow individual NGOs to be accredited in many UN organ meetings including at regional and national level With ECOSOC: UN provide space & NGOs organize themselves
  7. 7. Economic & Social Committee (EU) ESC directly represents the various economic and social components of organized CSOs… Like a parliament, ESC is an Assembly of representatives, but it is a consultative body dominated by business and labor groups but also has other actors: Women, environmentalists, NGOs etc. ESC issues different types of opinions (referral by EU Commission & own initiative) ESC Assembly has 222 members proposed by national Gov & elected by EU Council.
  8. 8. CSOs and ECOWAS  The revised ECOWAS Treaty called for the broad participation of civil society organizations and all citizens  Council of Ministers established the Forum of Association Recognized by ECOWAS (FARE) to coordinate all CSOs’ activities and act as a liaison between CSOs and ECOWAS Secretariat. FARE is open only to those CSOs with observer status…membership based but not exclusive but an apex institution for dialogue with CSOs  WACSOF was formed with the support of ECOWAS and became a partner and advisor of ECOWAS on various issues… WANEP on peace building etc…  ECOWAS CSOs unit created ... Similar to CIDO to “strengthen the capacity of CSOs to support policy development and implement ECOWAS programmes in relation to peace and security concerns”  At ECOWAS: liberty of engagement…, no ECOSOCC type.
  9. 9. 7 Important Considerations in the reform of ECOSOCC  Consultation Mechanism of the wider civil society based on capacity… ECOSOCC is not expected to have all the knowledge... Rather, to find and coordinate knowledge... This needs a continental thematic database to be maintained. We need a Thematic Advisory Task Forces of entities not qualified for ECOSOCC membership to be set up  Membership: It is understood that ECOSOCC is not for INGOs but the 50% budget criteria for eligibility is exaggerated and should be removed: AU itself still get 72% of its resources from partners. Other provisions in the ECOSOCC statutes already ensure the “Africanity” of the body  ECOSOCC policy/advisory Space needs to be clearly defined and AU organs sensitized about it. Social, economic and cultural issues should be tabled to ECOSOCC systematically before decisions are made  Capacity/Competency should be a strong criteria in choosing cluster leadership  Need for sign-off process/procedure for public position of ECOSOCC: It’s a matter of credibility and accountability  Role of Member states: No influence of member states in the formation of the General Assembly of ECOSOCC. CSOs should organize themselves.  Division of Labor and synergy with CIDO...: Both should be mutually reinforcing organs
  10. 10. Thank You ! Contacts Email: Twitter: @assodesire