Weak infrastructure remains major constraint to growth and achieving the MDGs. Need to improve public-private partnerships and implement PIDA Priority Plan.
Africa: African governments have reiterated on numerous occasions their commitments to good political governance and to taking collective action through continental and regional institutions to improve democratic processes and human rights. The African Union (AU) has adopted a zero-tolerance policy to unconstitutional changes of government. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) provides a framework to monitor and promote good governance.
Building on these commitments, the 16th AU Summit in January 2011 committed to the establishment of a Pan-African Governance Architecture (AGA) to enhance the capacity of the AU to promote, evaluate and monitor governance trends. Leaders further committed to accelerate ratification and adoption of relevant AU instruments through the September 2011 Cairo Declaration. The AGA consolidates charters and protocols already adopted to improve political governance, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance, as well as measures to protect and promote human rights including the Human Rights Strategy for Africa.
The Charter which entered into force in February 2012 commits states to establishing independent election bodies, codes of conduct and standards for democratic institutions, rule of law, political, economic and social governance and creates an obligation to respond to unconstitutional actions within member states. The AU has developed a framework for monitoring implementation of the Charter.
Development partners: Development partners have welcomed Africa’s emphasis on good governance. They have committed to support the APRM and related processes, whilst recognizing their own limited role in African governance. The ongoing EU-Africa Strategy on governance and human rights has contriibuted to the focus of the AGA. Under the United Nations, partners are signatories of several international commitments on human, civil and political rights.
Responding to recent regional, development partners have reaffirmed their universal commitments to freedom and democracy. The 2011 Deauville Partnership committed partners to support countries engaged in a transition towards free, democratic and tolerant societies.
What has been done to deliver on these commitments?
Africa: The picture is varied both between countries and across different areas of governance. The 2011 Ibrahim index finds that just over half the countries in Africa have improved in overall governance quality, and just under half have declined. The majority have improved in the areas of economic opportunity and human development, but have regressed in safety and the rule of law, and human rights. These trends will be examined in more detail in the forthcoming Africa Governance Report III.
Within this overall picture, elections continue to be the most visible and tangible expression of the AU and its member states’ commitment to democracy and governance, and are now a regular feature of the political landscape. Between January 2011 and end-March 2012, 29 countries held elections at presidential, parliamentary, regional and local levels. The AU and regional organizations have supported this process through election observation missions and technical assistance for Election Management Bodies. They have also supported the peaceful transfer of power following elections, and have taken an extremely strong stand against unconstitutional changes of government.
The roll-out of the APRM process continues: 31 countries have acceded to the APRM, of which 15 have been reviewed and are at different stages of implementing their National Plans. There have been changes at the level of the continent’s judicial infrastructure with the establishment of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights and actions at the level of the Pan-African Parliament.
Development partners: Development partners have supported initiatives to strengthen the rule of law and improve parliamentary oversight and civil society engagement. They have provided support for upstream stages of the APRM process through a UNDP Trust Fund, and have helped countries conduct self assessments or design national action plans. Financial assistance has been modest, but is increasing. Assistance for elections increased to US$317 million in 2010, an almost four-fold increase over the decade. Assistance supporting democratic participation and civil society has almost doubled over the period, reaching US$595 million in 2010. Development partners have also supported development transitions in North Africa in establishing the Deauville Partnership through: (i) political processes to support the democratic transition and foster governance reforms; and (ii) an economic stability framework for sustainable and inclusive growth.
What results have been achieved?
There has been an increase over the last two years in the number of political systems that are largely based on democratic norms, the rule of law and separation of powers, and a decline in the number of autocratic and unaccountable regimes, following the democratic transitions now underway in North Africa. Most African countries have become electoral democracies, of varying degrees and capacity. In two countries elections have led to the successful transfer of power from one party to another at Presidential level. There has been some success in reversing unconstitutional change. And while there has been a worrying resurgence of attempted coups d’état, these have nearly all failed. The APRM has also helped to promote improved governance in countries that have engaged in reform processes. Overall, popular support for democratic institutions and good political governance has become stronger.
However despite these advances, there continue to be major challenges. Although the quality of elections has improved, it continues to be uneven. In 5 countries there were pre-election and voting related violence and conflicts. The elections in all other countries were relatively peaceful, but not devoid of tensions, allegations of electoral corruption and intimidation of opponents. Continued outbreaks of election related conflict and political violence reflect not only weaknesses in the governance of elections, the rules of orderly political competition, and the mechanisms to interpret and adjudicate electoral disputes, but also the underlying challenge of managing diversity and promoting social inclusiveness and participation through the electoral process (discussed in the forthcoming AGR).
Broader challenges of political governance include strengthening the institutions of accountability, expanding the political space for citizens to take part in decisions, and consolidating the rule of law, civil liberties and human rights. And although democratic transitions are underway following the momentous political changes of 2011, these have yet to be fully consolidated and the danger of slippage and reversals remains.
What are the future priority actions?