SADC realigns regional integration agenda

SANF 13 No 27 – by Kizito Sikuka in Lilongwe
The Southern African Development Community is recalibrating its regional integration targets as part of efforts to realign the region’s development agenda in line with new realities and emerging global dynamics.

Speaking to journalists ahead of the 33rd Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government underway in Lilongwe, Malawi, SADC Deputy Executive Secretary responsible for regional integration, João Caholo said the region was reviewing its 15-year development blueprint to ensure that targets are more manageable and practical.

The targets are contained in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) being implemented in five-year phases starting from 2005. The 15-year plan was approved by SADC member states in 2003 as a blueprint for regional integration and development.

“Most of the development targets for SADC are not realistic, hence we are reviewing the RISDP,” he said. For example, SADC has deferred the launch of a Customs Union initially set for 2010 because countries are still implementing the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) launched in 2008. This deferment could ultimately mean that SADC will not be able to launch its monetary union by 2016 and an economic union with a single currency by 2018.

Caholo said an independent review process of the RISDP is progressing well and a final draft report of the consultants will be circulated to member states by the end of August for their own input and further consultation.
According to the independent mid-term review of the RISDP carried out by the Zimbabwe-based Trade and Development Studies (Trades) Centre, there is need for a revision of most SADC protocols to align them with the new challenges and emerging issues affecting regional integration.

Among other findings, the review noted that despite the several challenges ranging from limited financial and technical resources, volatilities in the global economy and other crises, the SADC region has made significant progress in implementing the RISDP in most of the thematic areas.

SADC member states have signed 27 protocols and a number of declarations, charters and memoranda of understanding on various matters, ranging from trade, mining and finance and investment to illicit drugs, forestry and shared watercourses.

Most of the 27 protocols have been ratified and have entered into force. However, the final stages of enforcing these regional laws are the most challenging as this requires action at national level to “domesticate” the laws and implement them.

It was noted that this process does not have a roadmap to enable a systematic approach to implementation of protocols at both regional and national levels. The review observed that most protocols pre-date RISDP and have not been revised to include new and emerging issues. It noted that one shortcoming of most of the existing protocols is that they have obligations that are neither legally binding nor obligatory.

Most protocols do not have obligations but principles, making it difficult to enforce the instruments. In cases where obligations are clear, they are not measurable, unrealistic and unattainable and do not have time frames. Some protocols need to be reviewed to take into account the needs of the peoples of the region. For example, the SADC Trade Protocol and Finance and Investment Protocol need to be reviewed to address employment creation issues or promote social dialogue with labour movements.

Another area of the regional integration agenda that requires attention is the implementation mechanisms and coordination, notably the non-functional SADC National Committees and the absence of a platform for policy engagement between the SADC Secretariat and non-state actors such as regional think tanks, the private sector and non-governmental organisations.

SADC National Committees are not functional in most member states, a situation that creates a critical oversight weakness in terms of regional policy formulation, domestication, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The independent RISDP mid-term review established that the committees are only functional in four member states and exist on paper in seven other countries. Three other member states do not have national committees.

In addition, the regional integration agenda has been affected by the absence of an independent regional institution to provide oversight over the integration programme. This has meant that a number of RISDP targets have been missed or have not been implemented.

The revised RISDP is expected to be submitted to SADC Heads of State and Government for approval in 2014 at their annual summit. On the political environment in the region, Caholo said summit will discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.

The DRC slid into political turmoil early last year when anti-government rebels calling themselves the March 23 movement invaded and captured the city of Goma, causing displacement of people and loss of lives and property.
Madagascar is in a constitutional crisis following the ouster of former President Marc Ravalomanana by Andry Rajoelina in 2009, in a similar method used by Ravalomanana on former President Didier Ratsiraka a few years back.

The 33rd annual SADC Heads of State and Government Summit will be held on 17-18 August. Meetings of senior officials were held from 10 to 13 August, followed by the Council of Ministers from 14 to 15 August. Malawian President Joyce Banda is expected to assume the rotating SADC chair from President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.

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