July 2017

Revamped APRM is now tracking African Union Governance commitments. Should it still be voluntary?


Guinea citizens line up to vote during the presidential elections. Aspiration 3 of the AU Agenda 2063 calls for an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law. UNDP Photo

With the adoption of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, African countries have been grappling with the question of which systems to set up to implement and measure progress.

To address this, in January 2017, the 28th Ordinary Session of AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government decided that “the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) should be strengthened to track implementation and oversee monitoring and evaluation in key governance areas of the continent.”

Notable among the key governance commitments are the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Aspirations 3 and 4 of the AU Agenda 2063, which calls for an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law, and a peaceful and secure Africa respectively. It also includes SDG 16 which focuses on governance, peace and security. It is critical to monitor and report on these commitment as they enable the attainment of other continental aspirations on development.

The APRM was set up in 2003 by African Union Member States as a voluntary tool to assess political, economic and corporate governance, and socio-economic development in countries, and ensure policy conformity.  36 of the AU’s 55 members have acceded to the APRM, and 21 have been peer-reviewed at the Head of State and Government level.

Africa’s treaty implementation challenge

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) analysis shows that of the 49 treaties, protocols and charters adopted by the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) since its establishment in 1963, only 66 percent have been signed and only 42 percent ratified and deposited.

Without ratification, there cannot be domestication and without domestication, the impact of these normative frameworks cannot be felt. Citizens cannot enjoy the full benefit of the treaties and attainment of the integration agenda will remain a mirage.

African countries must implement Agenda 2063 and the SDGs if they are to “leave no one behind”.

If the expanded APRM mandate empowers it to track and report on governance-related commitments, who then tracks the rest, and should it still be voluntary?

For development partners, including UNDP, the expanded APRM mandate could improve coordination among themselves, and serve as an entry point to supporting government efforts.

Tracking implementation and reporting on progress should also be through a single coherent system, and the APRM could help with this. The APRM approach will help governments, the UN and other partners to answer the four human rights-based approach critical questions:

·         Who has been left behind

·         Why? Which rights are at stake?

·         Who must do something about it?

·         What do they need, to take action?

In expanding the APRM mandate, Member States have called for a review of the current methodology. Countries would like the APRM questionnaire aligned with the SDGs priorities, and simplified to make it easier for civil society groups, media and others to report regularly on SDG performance in their countries.  Adopting electronic data capture systems could also fast track the APRM country review process.

Following a national APRM process, implementation of the broader mandate would include aligning the resulting National Plan of Action with the SDGs, and involving parliament to ensure ring-fenced financial resources for implementation and reporting, and oversight government action.

Member states should equally ensure that their assessed contributions are paid promptly and in full to execute the APRM plans. Such prompt payment will demonstrate continued interest and commitment to the mechanism.

Finally, a remaining challenge is to get the remaining 19 countries yet to accede to the APRM to do so. For the very first time since its founding, four countries were presented for peer review in a single APR meeting in January 2017, namely Kenya, Djibouti, Chad and Senegal.  Sudan could have been the fifth country peer-reviewed save for the absence of President Al- Bashir. This increase in engagement bears further testimony to a revamped and functioning mechanism.

To have all 55 AU Member States accede to APRM would be a very positive result. However, that is quantity. Quality is when the Member States demonstrate constitutional integrity – play by the rules, reduce impunity and let government work for all.

Governance and peacebuilding Agenda 2030 Africa David Omozuafoh Sustainable development In the news News

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