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The last two decades of the 20th century saw an upsurge and historic spread of democracy. In Africa many countries in Sub Saharan Africa took fundamental steps towards democratization. However, in recent times there have been mixed results in the practice of democracy in these countries which clearly demonstrates that the process of deepening democracy and making it work for the societies in Africa is still long.
The governance system of a country consists of a wide complexity of relationships that involve political parties, a healthy civil society, the civil service, a strong and independent judiciary and the media. Those institutions interconnect the population as a whole.
The workshop will take a closer look to these interconnections and the special situation of traditional authorities in African societies and their influence on these relationships today. It will also highlight the role of former liberation movements and their attitude towards political pluralism.
A key emphasis will be put on three different actors and their potential contribution to strengthen institutional capacity of democratic institutions and good governance in Subsahara Africa.
The first panel will focus on the activities of Civil Society in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is now generally recognized that the collaboration and participation of civil society is frequently a crucial factor in the success of development initiatives. Civil society is closer than most government actors to the grassroots communities, with consequent advantages both in the ability to mobilize at levels government may find difficult to reach in response to grassroots needs. Civil society is increasingly seen to be a crucial agent for enforcing political accountability and improving the quality of governance.
The critical question of the second panel will be how African countries can strengthen their systems of representation? How should the different actors on a local, regional and international level interact to speak on behalf of local people and bring their concerns into the political arena? More regular and effective communication between parliamentarians and local NGO’s would directly bring the local people’s concern to the political level and would help to build mutual capacity, trust and strengthen the reputation of political actors.
Questions of how to better harmonies and complement parliamentary work with grass roots level activities, how to support direct dialogue of parliamentarians with people in their constituencies should be discussed here.
Improving good governance also deeply depends on the well functioning and effectiveness of parliamentary and political party systems responsive to people with high ethical standards, transparent financial management and a high level of internal democratic decision making and participatory elements.
Parliaments act as representatives of the people’s will. They represent the best opportunities for all societal actors to be represented at different levels of the policy making process. In their role to oversee and control the government, they are responsible for encouraging and improving transparency in the management of state affairs.
Political parties in Africa are key institutional instruments in the functioning of democracy and the political process, as elsewhere. They play a critical role in the democratization process by establishing alternative discourses and viable alternatives, both in terms of policy and outcomes of good governance. Their acceptance of written and unwritten rules of democratic and fair competition is a key factor for the successful functioning of a democratic system.
The necessity of revitalizing institutions of political expression and representation in Sub Saharan Africa will be the central issue of the third panel.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a worldwide operating political foundation with focus on the development of democracy, rule of law, good governance and social oriented market economy therefore organises this Workshop to help deepening the dialogue and mutual understanding between our African Partners and participants from the different European Institutions and organisations. We hope, that the results can be of use for decision makers and experts of both sides.
The contributions to this workshop and the results of the discussions shall be published and distributed as a further tool for the information.