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NEPAD and civil society participation in the APRM

Len Verwey


May 2005

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This paper attempts to provide civil society organisations with general information on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to help facilitate active and meaningful participation in its processes. Nepad is a relatively recent initiative for the rejuvenation of development on the African continent, arguably still more familiar to Western and African leaders than civil society. Though there appear to be mixed feelings about what has been attained to date, we believe the process of further conceptualising Nepad and realising its vision in practice must be an ongoing one. This paper addresses these issues from the perspective of the needs and challenges facing civil society, with an emphasis on those aspects which relate to economic governance and socio-economic development.

The second section of the paper provides a summary of what we regard as key aspects of the Nepad vision and the APRM structures and processes, since these remain insufficiently clear to many individuals and organisations potentially affected by them or interested in engaging with them. Section 3 uses results from the 2002 Afrobarometer survey to provide some indication of challenges to Nepad’s broad realisation which derive from domestic circumstances and ‘ground-level’ perceptions. These challenges include perceptions that economic reforms to date have primarily benefited an exclusive elite, tensions between the Nepad conception of the relative roles of the state and markets in development and the ‘protectionist’, even ‘paternal’, state many African people still seem to favour, and the mixture of successes and disappointments in government social performance and responsiveness over the last few years.

With the preceding discussions providing an underlying context, section 4 presents an account of expected civil society participation in the APRM. We examine both the manner in which the participatory dimension has been articulated in key Nepad and APRM documents, and a number of challenges that may impede the realisation of such participation in practice. Our conclusion cautions civil society against adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach and emphasises that civil society will have to insist on being granted an active role within the APRM if its inputs and perspectives are to substantively inform national governance debates and commitments to improved governance.

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