SAIIA website. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is arguably the strongest tool for Members of Parliament to promote and monitor governance in Africa, but interaction with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) so far has been peripheral. Although these institutions are housed within a few kilometres in Midrand, they appear miles apart. The following practical recommendations demonstrate how, through more regular, sustained and meaningful engagement with the APRM – at minimal extra cost – the PAP could add value by exercising oversight and championing accountability within and across states.
1. Regularly table, discuss and comment on reports
The PAP’s mandate is clear. The APRM Base Document (2002), says in paragraph 24:“Six months after [each Country Review Report (CRR)] has been considered by the Heads of State and Government of the participating member countries, it should be formally and publicly tabled in key regional and sub-regional structures such as the Pan-African Parliament …”. To date, just five (Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Algeria and South Africa) of twelve CRRs have been tabled without much preparation, analysis or debate.
• The PAP should signal its seriousness by requesting a meeting with the incoming APRM Panel of Eminent Persons in April 2010, and formally request that the seven other available CRRs are tabled.
• PAP MPs need to receive full reports and summaries in advance of tabling from the APRM Secretariat, to read, study and comment on them. The PAP should also request the regular tabling of the annual APRM implementation reports. All deliberations should be published on the PAP website, and publicised through press conferences, articles and written briefings.
• The PAP Justice and Human Rights Committee could take the lead, until a PAP Committee on the APRM is constituted.
2. Build MPs’ capacity
Building on the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) November 2008 workshop Enhancing the Role and Effective Participation of Parliamentarians in the APRM Process, there is scope to strengthen the ability of MPs, National Parliaments and the PAP to engage with the APRM.
• The PAP could invite a key APRM speaker to regularly address it, publishing reports of the discussions.
• The PAP could hold hearings on the APRM, inviting public submissions.
• The PAP could drive the development of a manual or guidebook targeted at MPs on their roles and responsibilities in the APRM.
• The PAP could undertake to improve its capacity in this area through partnership with an institution like SAIIA to provide technical assistance.
3. Undertake APRM missions
PAP MPs constitute a valuable core of experts who could participate in the missions that the APRM regularly undertakes to participating countries. All missions should have non-MPs seconded to provide technical backup.
• The PAP should submit CVs of its MPs to UNECA and the APRM Secretariat, for consideration for APRM Country Support Missions and Country Review Missions, at no cost to the PAP.
• The PAP could raise funds to undertake its own missions, in cooperation with the APRM Secretariat, to good APRM performers (to learn best practices) or slow APRM states (to help remove logjams).
4. Mainstream the Mechanism
The PAP must understand the APRM, embrace it and insert itself into the process. The APRM needs to be mainstreamed into the Plenary, and become a regular agenda item. The PAP is uniquely positioned to produce an integrated and co-ordinated evaluation of cross-country progress and challenges. It should also lead debate on the role of parliaments and political parties to democratically transform our continent.
By engaging more actively on the APRM, the PAP could become a key force in holding the executive branch more accountable to citizens across the continent. It cannot afford to miss this chance.
Bearing in mind that promoting the APRM constitutes the 2nd priority action of the Africa-EU Democratic Governance and Human Rights Partnership.
Steven Gruzd is the head of the Governance and APRM Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) in Johannesburg, an independent public policy think tank. This article is based on recommendations made in a presentation to the PAP Committee on Justice and Human Rights on 4 March 2010.
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