SADC Makes Strides in Operationalizing New Engagement Mechanism with Non-State Actors
The SADC is advancing in implementing its mechanism for engaging with non-state actors, as per Wazha Omphile, a representative of the IICB Programme in the SADC Secretariat.
Lilongwe, Malawi-The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is making progress in operationalizing its newly established mechanism for engaging with non-state actors, according to a presentation by Wazha Omphile, a representative of the Integrated Institutional Capacity Building (IICB) Programme within the SADC Secretariat, writes Winston Mwale.
This development was presented on Thursday during the Third Regional Dialogue for Non-State Actors on the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020–2030, held on September 13–14, 2023.
Omphile began by elucidating the diverse composition of NSAs, which encompassed a wide array of organisations ranging from NGOs, think tanks, trade unions, foundations, faith-based organisations, community-based organisations, employee groups, and business associations.
He highlighted that these NSAs contribute to various mandates, including service delivery, capacity building, research, advocacy, and more.
The genesis of the engagement mechanism, according to Omphile, lies in recognising the crucial role played by non-state actors in the implementation of SADC's regional integration agenda, as outlined in SADC Treaty Articles 5, 2B, 16A, and 23.
While engagements with NSAs have occurred in the past, the new mechanism seeks to formalise and streamline these interactions to address several challenges, such as the absence of rules and procedures, a lack of common approaches, limited formal representation, and resource constraints faced by NSAs.
The key components of the mechanism were discussed, including the establishment of a Non-State Actor Forum, a Non-State Liaison Office at the SADC Secretariat, and the accreditation of NSAs. The Forum is intended to be structured into thematic clusters aligned with the Strategic Priorities of the RISDP.
The Non-State Liaison Office will serve as a crucial channel for consultation, management, and feedback between NSAs and the Secretariat, fostering effective communication and collaboration.
Additionally, the accreditation process aims to provide NSAs with a formal role in decision-making processes, defining criteria, application procedures, and obligations for accredited SADC non-state actors.
Regarding the operationalization of the mechanism, Omphile noted that the guidelines for accreditation were a pivotal milestone. However, he explained that these guidelines had been returned to the SADC Council for further input from member states.
The Council has set a deadline of October 31, 2023, for member states to submit their comments, with plans to present the revised guidelines for approval in March 2024.
Despite this hurdle, progress continues on other fronts. Resources are being mobilised, with discussions underway with cooperating partners to fund initiatives related to peace and security and capacity-building for the SADC Secretariat, incorporating elements of the engagement mechanism.
Activities include establishing the Non-State Actor Liaison Office, comprehensive mapping of NSAs, developing a database and information-sharing platform, and convening the Non-State Actor Forum, with a tentative start date of early 2024.
The operationalization of the SADC Non-State Actors Engagement Mechanism marks a significant step in fostering collaboration and dialogue between NSAs and the SADC Secretariat, ensuring their active participation in advancing the region's development agenda.
The Third Regional Dialogue for Non-State Actors on the SADC RISDP 2020–2030 took place virtually via Zoom and in person across various locations, including Johannesburg, Lilongwe, Lusaka, Dodoma, Harare, and Maputo, on September 13–14.