Mobilizing support for Africa's Charter on Democracy
08 March 2010
In 2007, Member States of the African Union adopted the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, marking a significant step forward for the AU as an actor promoting good governance in the region. To take effect, the Charter requires at least 15 Member States to sign and ratify. By March 2010, only Mauritania, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone have ratified the Charter, while another 25 Member States have signed with the intent to ratify.
With UNDEF support, the African Democratic Forum, a consortium of African CSOs, supported by the African democracy institute, Idasa, launched a project in to build constituencies of support for the Charter. The initiative aims to advance efforts by all stakeholders, including civil society and policy makers, to promote and improve democratic practices on the ground and to build sustainable democratic institutions throughout the continent. It seeks to create national movements as well as international solidarity to promote dialogue and awareness of the Charter.
An outcome of a successful campaign would be ratification by at least 15 Members States. But even with that result, the campaign would continue to seek the support of all Members of the African Union to ratify and implement the Charter.
In February 2010, Idasa hosted a workshop in Pretoria brining together civil society representatives from 14 countries who devised national and sub-regional strategies to lobby governments and parliaments in support of the Charter. Roland Rich, the Executive Head of UNDEF, also attended and encouraged the participants to mobilize broad-based support for the Charter. “Governments have already adopted this far-sighted document,” he noted. “Now it is civil society’s role to keep them to their word and ensure that these governments ratify and implement the Charter”.
South Africa’s Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Sue Van der Merwe, said in a keynote speech that “the Charter lays out explicit principles and objectives for the building of progressive, rights based states with representative government. It commits to the promotion of gender equality and recognises the crucial role of women in development and strengthening democracy. It is explicit in its commitment to fighting corruption, and unconstitutional change of government”. Ms Van der Merwe concluded: “The Charter is more than just another agreement or convention. It is in a sense the blueprint for the Africa of the future.”
The participants workshop adopted a declaration on the role of civil society in mobilizing support for the Charter. Click here to view the declaration in English and French.
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