The Social Watch Africa Regional Meeting was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from September 22 to 24, 2005.
Africa Regional Social Watch Meeting
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
22-24 September 2004
- Representatives of African civil society organisations active in the Social Watch Coalition met for the first time in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 22 – 24 September 2004. The theme for the meeting was “Eradicating Poverty in Africa for Social Development”. The meeting convened to explore strategies and tactics for strengthening the Social Watch Africa coalition at national, sub-regional and regional levels.
- Participants focused on three sub-themes: Security and Development, the Millennium Development Goals and the social development agenda, with special reference to gender rights as expressed in the Beijing and Copenhagen conferences organised by the UN in 1995.
- The main conclusions of deliberation on these sub-themes are set out below.
Security & Development
- African Social Watchers understand “security” in involving more than just the absence of armed conflict. Security involves the reasonable assurance of continued access to basic social goods and services such as health, education, shelter, nutrition, work, participation – in a word “development”. Properly understood many “stable” African countries are actually experiencing deep security crises.
- At the heart of Africa’s security crises is the drive for appropriation of her resources and her productivity by global corporate interests. Warfare has been imposed on African countries principally as a method of acquiring strategic control over resources and as a direct money making enterprise in its own right.
However, the extraction of Africa’s resources through unfair debt repayments, unfair terms of trade with the North, increasing privatisation of her economies and deregulation of FDI and related capital transfers (under SAPs and PRSPs) are equally drivers of continental insecurity.
- The increasing regionalisation of the assault on Africa’s security requires greater regional coordination of Africa’s social movement. Social Watchers undertake to:
a. work within our own CSOs to improve our understanding of the nature of security and development crises;
b. challenge the anti-African propaganda of the corporate controlled media that presents Africa’s security crises as the cause rather than the consequence of underdevelopment and propagate information and promote understandings of Africa’s security crises that empower African peoples in our quest for peace and development;
c. engage with national, sub regional, continental and global governance and human rights institutions and strengthen their capacity to respond to Africa’s security and human rights needs. Social Watchers must also pay keen attention to institutions to its peoples and to the international community. In this regard, the review of the workings of the UN Security Council presents and important opportunity for addressing Africa’s security crises.
Millennium Development Goals
- African Social Watchers recognise in the MDGs campaign an opportunity to hold governments (both southern and northern) accountable domestically and globally for specific, quantifiable, albeit minimal, development commitments made at the Millennium Summit. The campaign provides an opportunity for strengthening global civil society activism and coordination. Activist CSOs can engage governments over MDGs without compromising higher development aspirations or more strategic domestic programmes. Activist groups must leverage on the MDGs campaign to demand immediate and radical action on Africa’s crushing development needs. Further engagement over the MDGs does not imply acceptance of the neo-liberal development paradigm within which many governments, supported by the IFIs, have sought to approach MDGs. Rather African CSOs have a responsibility to contest this approach and to point out that the lack of progress on MDGs demonstrates the weakness of neo-liberalism and the need for alternative development paradigms that better reflect our Africa’s urgent needs.
- African Social Watchers commit to focusing national coalition energies on monitoring government’s pursuit of the MDGs towards the 2005 Social Watch report. Each national coalition must determine the particular millennium goals to watch and report on.
- African Social Watchers will also work towards delivering sub regional reports and even a regional report for 2005.
- African Social Watchers will adopt an activist posture and will commit to organising around their reports.
The Social Development Agenda
- Despite firm commitments by African governments and tremendous efforts on the part of gender activists across the continent, little concrete or sustainable progress has been made towards gender equality. The legal, economic, health, education, employment status of women remains far worse than that of men in Africa.
Governments have not demonstrated the political will to tackle specific gender discrimination that has been identified by gender rights activists and other section of society. Ritual references to the Beijing agenda have actually become a means of limiting and bureaucratising gender rights campaigns and legitimising other programmes such as PRSPs and NEPAD, which are often injurious to the cause of gender equality. This in turn reflects the continued exclusion of women from decision-making processes.
- Opportunities do however exist for progress in achieving gender equality. The African social movement is increasingly gender sensitive. There is growing global impatience with African governments over this issue. Opportunities also exist in the growing trend towards constitutional rule in Africa for gender activism.
- African social watchers commit to raising domestic consciousness about the commitments our governments have made within the framework of the United Nations and their failure to meet these obligations and in mobilising to demand immediate action on this front.
- African Social Watchers recognise that most national coalitions are weak, passive and inconsistent in our practice. In most cases, the coalition is driven by a single CSO or network that organises Social Watch as a peripheral activity.
Accordingly, interest and activity has tended to peak annually around the launch of annual reports to the media and immediate lobbying of government and international agencies. Between annual media launches, national coalitions relapse into inactivity. Few national coalitions have managed to harness the power of Social Watch reports as advocacy tools that can mobilise important marginalised social constituencies for action in the way that social watchers in other continents have managed to do. Linkages with the wider mass movement and the media remain weak.
- African Social Watchers recognise that these opportunities exist and will organise to use them. Global and comparative information exposing the common features of our development crises and the global character of campaigns is a powerful tool for mobilisation. National level creativity regarding the means of advocacy and mobilisation important opportunities for advocacy on the Social Watch platform and to organise wide sections of youth, women.
- In the year ahead African Social Watchers will work to bring Africa fully in to the world Social Watch movement. We will:
a. develop a calendar of strategic international events around which governments can be called to account and adopt a graduated programme of mass mobilisations towards the September 2005 UN review of the achievements of Beijing and Copenhagen commitments in September 2005. Possible events to include in this calendar include media conferences on the Dar es Salaam meeting, the just ended World Summit on Hunger, the Scotland G8 meeting in July 2005, and the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005 as well as AU and sub-regional grouping events.
b. establish regular e-mail contact between national campaigns, possible a list serve and an electronic newsletter for African watchers as the first step towards a continental report.
c. work to hold an annual review meeting to strengthen continental cooperation.
d. begin to work in particular with Asia and Latin American Social Watch coalitions to strengthen the third world perspective in the global Social Watch coalition.