26 July 2006
The head of the visiting African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) country review team, Adebayo Adedeji of Nigeria, has praised the manner in which South Africa handled the peer review process, saying other countries could learn from it.
For the past two weeks, the 25-member team has been holding consultations South Africa’s APRM governing council, government, parliamentarians, political parties, business, trade unions, civil society and faith-based organisations.
This followed South Africa’s submission of its country self-assessment report and programme of action to the APRM secretariat.
Helping Africa help itself
A voluntary self-monitoring tool adopted by the African Union in 2003, the APRM aims to promote the adoption of laws, policies and practices that lead to political stability, economic growth, sustainable development and the economic integration of Africa.
The mechanism also seeks to improve the accountability of Africa’s leaders and to deepen the levels of trust and cooperation between governments and citizens and among different countries on the continent.
Countries are expected to conduct self-assessments in line with APRM guidelines, with South Africa one of 24 countries that have submitted to the scrutiny. First to be reviewed were Rwanda and Ghana, which released their self-assessment reports in June.
Once the reports are complete, countries are expected to produce a programme of action to address shortcomings revealed in the self-assessment process, and report on progress every three to five years.
According to Public Service Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the chairperson of SA’s ARPM council, the goal of the APRM is “to help Africans help themselves. To show ourselves and the world that we are not part of those whose mindset assumes that we need external assistance in order to grow.”
SA praised for participation
Speaking to journalists in Pretoria on Tuesday after meeting with President Thabo Mbeki, Adedeji emphasised that the peer review process was a review of the country as a whole and not merely of the government.
Adedeji said he was impressed that the scepticism about the process that was evident when he visited South Africa in November was “not there anymore.” He also commended South Africans for their level of participation in the process.
“The process has the potential for government and the people to reach a consensus on many issues,” Adedeji said.
“There is also a clear understanding that the peer review was not here to judge the government but to facilitate a process where all stakeholders sit down and ask: Where are we [as a country]? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there?”
Adedeji emphasised that the process did not end with the country report, but that this was followed by the implementation of a national programme of action.
Adedeji said his team’s report on South Africa would be finalised and presented by the end of September.
‘We need to take it forward’
Fraser-Moleketi said the process of creating the country’s self-assessment report and programme of action was credible “and the participatory process in South Africa is good – we need to take it forward.”
Handing SA’s self-assessment report to the review team in Pretoria two weeks ago, Fraser-Moleketi said the report “notes the emergence of an enabling political and economic environment conducive to improving social cohesion and economic growth, transformation and empowerment.
The report, she said, also draws attention to the important role of the developmental state, South Africa’s Constitution, and the value of having a people’s contract that unites citizens and civil society with the government and its elected representatives.
“Poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment are still the three primary challenges facing our country,” Fraser-Moleketi said.
“Improving access to rights and using them properly is a major area of agreement that needs to be taken forward in practical ways so that justice is really taken to the people.”
President Thabo Mbeki, who witnessed the handing over of the report, said South Africa had been “hard on itself,” as the majority wanted to see a better country in all respects.
“Some progress has been made to change the country for the better,” Mbeki told the review team. “However … we look forward to the [review team’s country] report and to what our peers will say about us, and what we need to do to improve ourselves.”
SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews