Brussels, Belgium – After the closing of the very successful International Parliamentary Seminar on Peace, Security and Sustainable Development held at the Belgian Senate AWEPA’s leadership bodies met on Friday 9th October 2015.
The Executive Committee began by looking at the success of the seminar and considering any points of learning to be taken on board. After spending time with administrative issues the meeting reviewed AWEPA’s process of Africanisation and Decentralisation. Africanisation means promoting even more African ownership and African identity in AWEPA’s work, without losing the benefits and importance of European political participation, which is the uniqueness AWEPA has to offer. Decentralisation means strengthening the capacity of our African offices and staff regarding programme development, fundraising, implementation, reporting and evaluation.
AWEPA is strongly committed to a demand-driven programming ideal, in which the African partners are in the driver’s seat. This assurance of ownership and accountability is provided in a formal sense by AWEPA’s Partnership Council but the Executive Committee decided more can be done to strengthen this body. It was therefore agreed that the Management Team will review this for discussion at the first Executive Committee meeting of 2016.
Africanisation is also associated with AWEPA’s physical presence and operational capacity in Africa. The majority of AWEPA’s staff members are African and are based in offices in Africa often with offices in the partner parliament. During 2015 an additional decentralization step has been taken to designate two regional offices in Africa, one in Kampala, Uganda for West, Central and East Africa and a regional office in Cape Town, South Africa for Southern Africa, which are headed up by two Deputy Directors who are based in Africa and are part of the AWEPA Management Team. This demonstrates a shift of responsibility of programme coordination from AWEPA’s European base towards Africa, thus ensuring more African ownership.
The next meeting was AWEPA’s Governing Council. One of the issues the meeting looked at were last year’s developments to improve AWEPA’s methodology and theory of change. The methodology is aimed to have a more methodological and innovative approach to designing, monitoring and evaluating AWEPA’s programmes. The meeting agreed that it is important for AWEPA’s future, as it guarantees good results and impact in partner countries. It was conceded that it is difficult to measure results in parliamentary support, but that a focus on qualitative outcomes may help overcome this.
A discussion was held around the Theories of Change (ToC), which gives an illustration of changes AWEPA wishes to contribute to, together with its partners, and how they will be accomplished. One of the question raised was about the extent to which programme design is influenced or driven by specific donor preferences, and how AWEPA can counter balance this with inputs from partners and the actual needs and realities of the countries we work in.
The next stage in the process is for AWEPA to develop a manual of practice with practical tools for our programme staff.
Mr. Theo Kralt, CAO gave a presentation on the Annual and Financial Reports 2014, the financial situation 2015 and the financial perspective 2016. The meeting approved the Financial and Annual Reports 2014.
The President then gave the floor to Dr. Sering Falu Njie, Deputy Director- Policy/ regional Director for Africa a.i. UN Millennium Campaign to give an introduction to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and parliamentarian’s role in their realisation.
Parliamentarians were not involved in the process of drafting the MDGs but they have played an important role in the establishment of the SDGs. Dr. Falu Njie expressed his view that as representatives of the people parliamentarians are one of the key players in ensuring that they become universally accepted and actioned. The SDGs are aimed to be universal and there needs to be ownership and buy in from all stakeholders in all parts of the world. They are not the UN goals but all our goals so the aim is that everyone sees the need of them for their life. To support this development agenda legislation is needed. Parliamentarians need to interact with the people they represent and give feed back to the UN on implementation on how these goals are impacting people’s lives, and whether priories need to be adjusted.
The last meeting of the day was a working dinner with AWEPAs Partnership Council. AWEPA President and co-chair Minister of State Ms. Miet Smet opened the meeting noting that at its 2014 meeting the partners suggested AWEPA look at the structure and system of political parties in Africa. To this end AWEPA drafted a document which was sent to all participants for discussion and feed back in this meeting. The discussion that ensued was very lively and realistic, in which both the African partners and European Vice President’s tabled various issues.
For example Co-Chair, Hon. Elise Ndoadoumngue Neloumsei Loum, Vice President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) responded by speaking of the difficulties the PAP face. She noted that it’s very important that a parliamentarian belong to a political party, but it can at times be like belonging to a village and thinking only of that village whilst in fact you represent your nation not just your party. This becomes especially challenging where regional parliaments are concerned as it’s not just your political party or nation, you need to consider the whole region.
It was noted that some political party issues are regional, for example the SADC region has less trouble with ethnicity influencing political parties than other parts of Africa such as the Great Lakes Region. It was explained that in a country such as Rwanda ethnicity is a very real issue and to this end they have an experimental system where no matter how many votes you get no ethnic group can take more than 50% of the positions in government and parliament. The weakness is that no strong opposition can form. This then begs the question as to whether whilst dealing with this problem this creates by making it a constitutional point that all parties need to be represented in parliament is democracy? Is this an inclusive or excluding democracy?
Another discussion was around the role of a political party manifesto or programme and ideology which was tabled as being generally weak in Africa. The view expressed being that in the absence of a clear manifesto voters can only be wooed according to ethnicity or religion. As illiteracy is still high in some regions the understanding of what ideology there is can be very weak. In some regions if a politician is asked if their party is liberal they won’t even know the answer.
The vibrant discussion was brought to a conclusion by the President though there was clearly much more that could be said so she invited participants to send through any comments. She noted that a next stage might be to consider what a parliament can do to have a more democratic political party system.