ISTR-L, 19 August 2005
Three pan-African research organisations - the Pan-African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG); the Development Policy Management Forum (DPMF) and the African Association of Political Science (AAPS) - hereby announce the holding of a joint Conference on "Civil Society, Governance and Integration in Africa" in December 2005. The venue of the Conference is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In view of the nearly pan-African phenomenon of domestication and assimilation of civil society into a 'new globalisation' corporatist framework dominated by the state and capital, there is a compelling need to critically interrogate the role of civil society in the struggle for good government/governance and a people-driven/popular integration process after the 'second wave' of electoral democracies. We need not exaggerate the role of civil society in these enterprises because whilst the ethical and normative functions of civil society are important, the empirical reality that subsists calls for a realistic explication and understanding of the role, nature, character and finality of the engagement between the state and society in the quest for the continent's development through good government/governance and regional integration.
There is a gap between theory and praxis with regard to CSOs in Africa. Consequently analysts of African civil societies are called upon to interrogate the democratic credentials (procedural and substantive) of key CSOs by paying close attention to contexts, conjunctures and crossroads. In other words, if it is true that without 'politics from below' there is little redemption in 'politics from above', where are the concerned and activist civil society groups that are expected to push the state from below to continue to open up the political space? How would they fulfill the aim of ensuring "the full participation of all sections of (the) societies in the process of developmental regionalism"?
Furthermore, to the extent that many an African country has seemingly assigned itself the task of consolidating and deepening its emergent political pluralism and democratic governance, CSOs are expected to play an even more critical role. This role has to be interrogated and evaluated within the continuum of facilitation of, and obstacle to, the continent's development process. Case studies and country-specific/sub-regional analyses appear important in this respect.
More recently, with the primacy given to regional cooperation and integration by African governments and the African Union (AU), creating space for civil society by interacting with CSOs, through forums such as the ECOSOC and the CSO Forum, has become a virtual article of faith. An enduring, stable and self-reliant state needs focused, transparent, accountable and professionally-run CSOs to build both vertical and horizontal integration at all levels within and between states.
Several questions are posed. Can CSOs develop an "Africa Agenda" which would combine both NEPAD and the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA), the one largely external-induced, the other essentially internally-driven? How do the state and CSOs apprehend and comprehend the dynamics of integration in Africa? How far, for instance, has the ECOWAS moved away from its description in 1990 by a notable student of African Integration as one lacking "a group or a popular dynamic supporting integration" as well as one in which "pressure groups for the mobilization of public opinion in the direction of the community are almost totally non-existent"? How can civil society participation be strengthened such that it could contribute to the social and political legitimacy of regional integration? Why is there always a palpable de-linkage between, on the one hand, national policies and development programmes and, on the other, sub-regional/regional economic cooperation such that national needs and priorities are often promoted (however well or badly these are done) at the expense of the collective interest of African development? Because good government/governance is too important to be left only in the hands of state elites and government officials, how can CSOs and other non-state actors intensify political struggle to make governance a process that goes beyond making capitalism a universal resource and western liberal democracy, the so-called 'universal governance system'?
Sub-themes for reflection include the following:
1. Civil Society, Governance and Integration: Theoretical Perspectives
2. Civil Society, Governance and Integration in Africa: Exploring the multiple dimensions of an interface ? trade (formal and informal), movement of people, borders, language and culture.
3. Civil Society, Governance and Integration in Africa: A Historical Exegesis.
4. Is there an African Civil Society?
5. The Post-Colonial/Post-Adjustment State and Regional Integration in Africa?
6. Sub-Regional/Regional Organisations and Popular Social Engineering in Africa
7. The State, Conflict Resolution, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Regional Integration.
8. The ECOSOC, CSOs and Integration in Africa
9. Sub-Regional Organisations and the African Union (AU)
10. The African Peer Review Mechanism and Supra-National Governance in Africa.
All interested researchers, activists and public servants across the African continent are hereby invited to e-mail, not later than Wednesday August 31 2005, a one-page abstract on any of the foregoing sub-themes to the following trio:
1. Abdalla Bujra
2. Ishola Williams
3. Adekunle Amuwo
Abstracts received after this date will not be entertained.Those selected will be notified by Monday, September 12 2005. Full-length papers, not more than 20 pages, should reach the trio latest by Monday, October 31 2005. No late papers will feature on our programme.
For further information, please contact Professor Abdalla Bujra , Executive Director, Development Policy Management Forum (DPMF), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tel: 251-1-515410/443197; Fax: 251-1-515410/514416