Managing diversity key to improving Africa’s governance: UNDP, ECA report

05 Jun 2014

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Democracy in Africa has seen important progress but remains fragile, according to the 2013 edition of the African Governance Report, presented today in Addis Ababa.

The African Governance Report, produced jointly by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assesses and monitors progress in the area of governance on the continent, identifying gaps in capacity and proposing policy solutions to ensure democratic institutions are more efficient, transparent and accountable.

The 2013 report, titled “Elections and the Management of Diversity”, looks at the risks and opportunities in Africa’s complex social makeup, arguing that political systems and institutions in many countries are failing to represent different groups, identities and interests.

Focusing on elections, the report says they are an essential component of democratization in Africa, enabling peaceful change, fostering more open societies and in most cases leading to increased economic growth and long-term development.

Still, the document shows elections can divide communities and nations rather than bring them together, fuelled by sectarian violence and “winner takes all” politics. 

In order to be free, fair and equal, elections require equal competition for power, clear rules and independent mechanisms to settle differences, as well as peace and absence of intimidation. But first and foremost, the report argues, elections succeed when civil society is actively involved.

The African Governance Report goes into further technical detail by looking at the role of Electoral Management Bodies in managing the electoral cycle and examining the importance of electoral, constitutional and political reforms, as well as the role of election finance.