Tuesday 18 May 2021
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Reflection on SADC in the context of the 38th Summit

The 38th Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is in session in Windhoek, Namibia. The Summit amongst others, and as per the pre-summit media briefing by Honourable Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, will deliberate on items relevant to the regional integration agenda of the Region.
These agenda items include; implementation of priority programmes contained in the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap, matters of continental integration such as the implementation of free movement of persons in Africa, gender and development, food security and HIV and AIDS, and report of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.  The Summit will also deliberate on the socio-economic situation in the Region and globally. The purpose of this article is to reflect on challenges facing SADC, and to highlight critical matters that the Region ought to pay attention to, as Namibia takes over the chairpersonship.
It is important briefly, to recall the objectives of SADC. The overall objectives, as stated in the Declaration Treaty and Protocol, are to achieve development and economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa, and to strengthen and consolidate the long-standing historical, social and cultural links among the peoples of the Region. The United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) defines development as the process of widening choices for people to do and be what they value in life, hence the emphasis on sustainable human development. Human development is more than creating opportunities in education, health, political freedom and decent standard of life.
The notion of human development has also been present in the thinking and writings of African leaders and scholars. The late Dr. Julius Nyerere for example, has articulated that the purpose of development is the human person whom it must serve. Against this background, it is critical and urgent that SADC becomes inclusive in its methods of work, if regional integration, as envisaged in the Declaration Treaty, is to be achieved. Development is about people, hence their participation in development processes. The work of SADC should not continue to be top – down. Furthermore, SADC cannot continue to be the domain of governments and diplomats only. SADC in the Treaty has undertaken to promote a shared future that provides opportunities to all its peoples to become effective actors in regional integration. We have not seen over the years, as a matter of policy and practice, the involvement and participation of non-state actors such as trade unions, media practitioners, religious organizations, academics and research institutions, the private sector and other civil society organizations in the work of SADC.
The objective of the need for inclusive participation is to influence the strategic direction of the organization. It is not surprising therefore, that civil society organizations are holding a separate SADC People’s Summit. Why is it not feasible to incorporate the views and recommendations emanating from non-state actors in future SADC agendas with the view to enrich decision-making?  Regional integration and establishment of supranational bodies are necessities. They are informed by the reality that individual member states whether in SADC, Africa or elsewhere in the world, are weak politically and economically to impact global politics and economic policies.
SADC has also committed to evolve common political values, systems and institutions, and to promote self-sustaining development based on collective self-reliance and interdependence of Member States.  It cannot be acceptable that SADC States generally continue to be characterized by ineffective governance, lack of respect for human dignity and human rights, inability to manage political, cultural, and linguistic diversities, corruption, weak institutions and overdependence on international partner funding. Already in 2000, the SAPES-UNDP-SADC Regional Human Development Report has identified and documented the challenges facing SADC Member States. These challenges persist today namely, low economic growth, abject poverty, uneven distribution of resources, high underemployment und unemployment rates, conflicts, weak institutions to implement policies and programmes, and environmental challenges.
It is imperative that the incoming SADC Chairperson firstly, promote an inclusive SADC where non-state actors contribute to the shaping of a shared future. Secondly, concretely promote effective governance and respect for human dignity, human rights and rule of law in SADC. Thirdly, anticipate conflicts in the Region, and manage them through inclusive conflict management and resolution processes before they reach serious conflict situations. This is particular with reference to upcoming elections in SADC. Finally, facilitate the realization of free movements of people. It cannot be acceptable that SADC citizens, including students and academics, continue to experience unfriendly immigration officials and procedures despite the existence of protocols such as the SADC Protocol on Education and Training.
His fields of expertise are eductation, policy studies and international relations

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