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NEPAD and AU Last update: 2020-11-27  

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United Nations - Economic Commission for Africa

Strategies for promoting effective stakeholder participation in the African Peer Review Mechanism(APRM)

Economic Commission for Africa

14 April 2005

SARPN acknowledges the Economic Commission for Africa website as the source of this report:
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  1. Context: NEPAD and the APRM

    1. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has been heralded, since its adoption by African Heads of State Summit in Lusaka in July 2001, as Africa’s vision and compact for development in the 21st Century. The five core principles of NEPAD are good governance; peace, stability and security; sound economic policy-making and management; effective partnerships; and domestic ownership and leadership. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is an important component of the NEPAD process to achieve its objectives. Considered to be the most innovative aspect of NEPAD, the APRM aims “to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration.”i It, thus, identifies the capacity gaps in African governance systems and recommends remedial policy actions by adopting best practices from within the continent.

    2. The APRM has a comprehensive structure of peer review that aims to inspire under-performing African states to improve in four key areas – democracy and political governance, corporate governance, economic governance and management, and socio-economic development. The first of its kind in Africa, the APRM has the real potential of playing a decisive role in “collective self-governance” thereby unleashing the continent’s economic and political energies. It serves as a double contract between African governments and their citizens, on the one hand, and between Africa and its development partners, on the other. Above all, it provides a forum that speaks with an African voice to Africans, thereby enhancing ownership of the debate about development and security issues.

    3. The APRM Heads of State and Government Forum, its highest political authority, officially launched the APRM process in 2003. The review is open to all 53 member States of the African Union (AU), but currently only 24 African countries have signed up to be reviewed by their peers. These include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. In February 2004, the Heads of State and Government Forum in Kigali, Rwanda announced that Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius would be the first four countries to be reviewed. Subsequently, all four countries have received supporting missions from the APR Secretariat and its strategic partners to assess their level of readiness in terms of what institutional structures and participatory mechanisms they have set up for overseeing the review process.

    4. The APRM aims to change the context of African government’s engagement with their citizens. The launching of NEPAD is an affirmation of Africa’s political leadership, at the highest level, to forge a new partnership with all development stakeholders including the private sector and civil society organizations (CSOs). Indeed, AU recognizes civil society and the private sector as key partners in governance and development and emphasizes the strengthening of partnerships to improve citizens’ participation in development, including governance. Through an open and participatory process, the APRM is to engage key stakeholders to facilitate exchange of information and build a national dialogue platform on good governance and all socio-economic development programmes, thereby increasing transparency of the decision-making process and building trust in the pursuit of national development goals. Thus, the success of the APRM process relies on the need to promote full participation of relevant stakeholders in the development as well as in the implementation of programmes of action.

    5. The APRM provides a platform for African governments, civil society, NGOs and their external partners to discuss and build consensus on the state of governance at the national level. It is a framework for systematic review of state performance by other states in order to help the reviewed state adopt optimal practices, with the overall objective being the need for global improvements in all aspects and levels of governance. Thus, the exercise is inherently a state-centric initiative, pitched at the level of African political leadership taking responsibility for the continent’s development. The burden and responsibility lies first and foremost with the elected African leaders. The expectation is that internal self-assessment and peer review would necessarily lead to the entrenchment of the principles of accountability and transparency that constitute the bedrock of good governance.

    6. While the process of implementing the APRM has been primarily spearheaded by a government-designated focal point, the process relies extensively on a participatory and partnership framework involving the private sector, civil society and all development stakeholders. Regrettably, national development planning and implementation issues are still mainly the exclusive responsibility of national or subnational governments, without effective mechanisms for more direct individual and collective engagement in the peer review process. All stakeholders should strive to better comprehend and effectively participate in the APRM process as a shared responsibility that requires certain strategies and mechanisms to be more effective.

    7. The above challenges have resulted in a participation and partnership that are skewed, intermittent, ad-hoc and ill timed, resulting in largely low level and contradictory contributions from all the stakeholders in the APRM process. To be an effective process, however, the APRM must look to the participation of all stakeholders at all stages of the peer review mechanism. The emphasis is on ways to institutionalize inclusive participatory structures and processes that can go beyond the peer review and become national governance systems.

  2. Purpose and Objectives

    1. The main objective of this paper, therefore, is to foster a consensus on appropriate and effective strategies for building, widening and deepening the support base for the APRM process. This includes dispelling the perception that peer review is only a dialogue among African governments or leaders; on the contrary, the peer review process is a comprehensive national self-assessment encompassing the entire body politic.

    2. In order to achieve such a consensus, this paper provides a conceptual and empirical overview of how to make the role of the various stakeholders – policy think tanks, development NGOs, churches, private sector, trade unions, students and youth, parliamentarians – more effective in participating in the APRM process. The Development Policy Management Division (DPMD) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) believes that its legislative body, the Committee for Human Development and Civil Society (CHDCS), has a unique opportunity to step up its mandate and agenda to promote accountability, transparency and participation by the public, private and the civil society sectors in governance and development. Viewed from such a strategic perspective, the CHDCS meeting will take stock and examine national experiences in countries already undergoing the APRM, analyse the challenges to effective participation in the process and make concrete recommendations that will instructively guide and provide lessons for other countries who are about to embark on the process.

    3. The key issues for consideration by the CHDCS meeting are as follows:

      • What are the strategies and mechanisms for effective coordination of key stakeholders’ and partners’ participation in the APRM process – what have been the best practices from those countries that have embarked upon the process?

      • What are the strategic entry points and opportunities for effective stakeholders’ participation in the drawing up of the National Programme of Action, which is a major outcome of the APRM process?

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