This week the heads of member States of the African Union meet in Addis Ababa at the 16th African Union summit under the banner Shared Values. The agenda calls for them to discuss government’s collective responsibility to promote and defend a list of values that includes democracy, governance and human rights.
There has never been a more urgent time for upholding the principles of democracy across the continent. With 18 presidential elections slated this year, street revolutions forcing a change of leadership in Tunisia, and the incumbent president of Ivory Coast refusing to accept defeat in an election the international community declared fair, the democratic process is being challenged.
Transparency International in Africa
Transparency International (TI) believes transparency, accountability and integrity are the shared values that lead to a strong foundation for democracy, governance and human rights. TI chapters across Africa work to promote these values and develop the capacity for an informed citizenry to fully participate in democracy.
TI has four key strategic programmes:
- Public Service Delivery: Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery in Africa (TISDA). This is a 3-year programme in eight countries that looks at ways to improve the delivery of education, water and health.
- Access to Information: Africa Education Watch indentifies leakages in the delivery of primary education in seven African countries.
- Conventions: TI continues to advocate further ratifications of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption among signatory states. At the same time, TI has started to monitor the implementation of the convention. TI developed the brochure Understanding the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and related Offences as an advocacy tool for National Chapters and other anti-corruption activists across Africa.
- Empowering citizens and building capacity: TI chapters in several African countries are opening Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres. These centres are designed for victims and witnesses of corruption to find out what they can do. The Poverty and Corruption in Africa program (PCA) working with disadvantaged communities, promoting local-level anti-corruption initiatives and strengthening TI’s local chapters to help citizen mobilisation and inclusion.
The African Union preamble to the Summit has committed to be inclusive:
To facilitate wider consultation, effective engagements and reflections on Shared Values, the AU Commission is embarking on creating dialogue and consensus building process with amongst others, the youth, women organizations and civil society… It is anticipated that these engagements would provide the basis for making the Summit and the declaration on the theme, a milestone in the Shared Values journey.
This is a good start. Civil society can help keep governments accountable to their citizens and demand transparency in the process. When that happens, shared values will be seen to benefit everyone.
Several civil society organizations have gathered ahead of the Summit to formulate propositions to put to the Heads of State and governments present at the Summit. The goal is for the AU to engage more actively with the civil society and ensure that there is a safe and open environment for civil society across Africa to freely participate in governance processes, monitor the implementation of agreements on human, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
With political instability, continued violation of human rights and the culture of impunity seen as a threat to the success of the Summit, as well as and the ongoing conflicts throughout the continent, it is more important than ever that civil society is both protected and heard.
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