ACCORD hosts debate on the significance of the APRM to African governance

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ACCORD, in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) Debating Union, has hosted a debate in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the inauguration of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), on the topic 'Since the inception of the APRM, there has been significant improvement in the standards of governance in member states'. The APRM has proposed that civil society organisations in all member states host events to significantly increase public awareness of the APRM and its contributions to the African continent.

The APRM, operating under the auspices of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), is a self-monitoring mechanism which conducts periodic reviews of the state of participating countries to assess progress made towards achieving mutually defined and accepted goals. The APRM's mandate is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating countries conform to the agreed values in the following four focus areas: democracy and political governance, economic governance, corporate governance, and socio-economic development.

This event was held on 6 March 2013 in Durban, and was supported by a key-note presentation by guest speaker Ms Nyiko Khoza, Foreign Service Officer in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa. The debate aimed to foster discussion among young people about the mandate and role of the APRM. The topic of debate was thus strategically selected to expose not only the milestones reached through the mechanism over the past 10 years, but also the challenges it still faces in its implementation.

The two teams that argued for and against the motion were comprised of two UKZN students who are part of the university's Debating Union and two learners each from two high schools in the Durban area; Durban Girls' College and Eden College.

The supporting team's arguments highlighted the fact that the APRM is an effective 'African solution to African problems' and that it is particularly useful in the local context as it is not subject to Western powers and is therefore able to support identification and addressing of the root causes of challenges encountered. It was also emphasised that the Mechanism's strength lies in its ability to assist member states to come up with context-specific and appropriate solutions for their own challenges, as opposed to having solutions imposed on them.

On the other hand, among others, the opposing team argued that the APRM lacks 'real power' due to its inability to insist on the adoption and implementation of the solutions it identifies. The team further emphasised that in cases where governments reject proposed solutions, the APRM lacks the power to compel them to adopt these solutions. The fact that the APRM's recommendations are not binding is, it was argued, one of the main dynamics that renders the body weak.

Key-note speaker Khoza shared a retrospective analysis of the APRM's achievements and challenges during the past 10 years. She also gave recommendations aimed at supporting effective implementation. She placed emphasis on the following key successes of the APRM:

  • maintaining steady progress in governments' voluntary accession to the provisions of the mechanism and steady growth in membership;
  • identification, profiling and sharing of best practices and lessons learnt;
  • creation of a space for civil society to participate in assessing national governance systems and processes in order to support the identification of challenges and efforts to resolve them; and
  • development and use of a diagnostic system to identify potential crises. For example in 2006, prior to the 2007/08 violence in Kenya, the Mechanism had issued a 'red light warning' to the Government of Kenya indicating that a crisis was possible.

Khoza highlighted that a major challenge with implementing the APRM is due to funding and resource limitations, non or poor implementation of programmes of action, poor synergies between programmes of action and national action plans, as well as the structure of the APRM Forum meetings. She offered some recommendations to address these challenges. Khoza suggested that the APRM Forum convenes an annual extra-ordinary summit to discuss cross-cutting issues and best practices. She also put forward that programmes should be implemented and streamlined into existing development plans to avoid the overlap and double costing of interventions. While the key-note presentation enlightened the audience on the work of the APRM, it also presented an important opportunity for audience members to discuss and engage around methods and strategies that the APRM can adopt to improve its effectiveness.

ACCORD's work aims to influence positive political developments by bringing conflict resolution, dialogue and institutional development to the forefront as alternatives to armed violence. The debate presented an important opportunity for ACCORD to support the profiling of an important African-centered institution, and a review of the policies and practices it employs to make a difference in conflict prevention and management and development on the continent.

For more information on the APRM follow the link: http://aprm-au.org