ESARP becomes ARP
Some 60 delegates representing more than 20 political parties from 10 African states, met in Naivasha Kenya from 7-10th June 2009 for the annual conference of the Southern African Regional Progamme (ESARP). This year the conference resolved to expand its network to include West African countries so as to ensure a more Pan-African partnership known as the African Regional Programme (ARP).
Delegates represented both ruling and opposition parties in all of these countries and came from Burundi (observers); Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; South Africa; Tanzania; Uganda (observers) and Zambia. Zimbabwe was represented by the Zimbabwe Institute.
The theme of the conference was ‘Deepening Voice and Accountability in African Democracy’. It was based on the recognition that the needs and aspirations of African citizens should be the driving force of democratic governance on the continent. Political parties were identified as important vehicles for ensuring that these voices are translated into programmes and policies and holding governments to account.
At the conference, the ARP partners adopted a communiqué. Among others, they resolved to:
- embed civic education into their own party education programmes as a means of raising demands for voice and empowering citizens to engage and hold government to account;
- commit themselves to an internal review of their structures and processes in order to ensure that the views, interests and policy preferences of citizens are taken into account;
- explore avenues for opposition and ruling parties to jointly engage with all sectors of society – including government, the business community and civil society – in developing a shared national democratic consolidation agenda.
- call upon the donor community to support the strengthening of political parties and national democratic reform agendas in order to enhance democratic governance.
- -call upon the respective states to support political parties through public funding, because they play a public role, as a means of enhancing democratic participation.
- recognise the importance of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as an instrument for advancing voice and accountability, and encourage the popularisation of this charter, its signing and ratification by their respective countries;
- influence the budget-making process as well as to monitor its implementation to ensure that it is done in the public interest.
Parties also agreed to lobby for the adoption of a Freedom of Information Act, parliamentary budget offices and civic education on the parliamentary budget process. The next ARP conference will be held in Zambia.