The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, held a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Forum on the sidelines of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) on 11 May 2019. Some of the organisations that were present at the forum include: Section 27, Lawyers for Human Rights, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Mediation for Peace and Human Rights, Human Rights Institute of South Africa, Economic Justice Network, Mediation for Peace and Human Rights, Corruption Watch, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Lesotho Women’s Law Clinic, Media Institute of Southern Africa, Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust, Business and Human Rights Tanzania, Institute for Social and Economic Rights Uganda, AIDS Foundation of South Africa, Afrika Parliamentary Network and Under The Same Sun, Tanzania.

The main objectives of the CSO Forum was to foster closer collaboration between CSOs on PAP-related issues on one hand, and between CSOs and the PAP on the other, with a view to advancing and promoting the mandate of the continental Parliament. The forum aimed to sensitise CSOs on the workings of the PAP to promote active and constructive citizen and civil society engagement with the PAP and to encourage more programming on issues pertaining to the PAP. The forum further aimed to deepen reflections on the establishment of a PAP Civil Society Coalition. Ms Bonolo Makgale of the Centre’s Democracy, Transparency, and Digital Rights Unit, reflected that more than a decade after its inauguration, the PAP continues to find ways towards sustainably establishing formal and informal mechanisms for meaningful engagement with African people and civil society. The mandate of the PAP, as a representative of the people of Africa, cannot be implemented without engaging and involving citizens and civil society in their activities.

In his opening remarks Honorable Stephan Masera, the First Vice-President of the PAP, commended the Centre for the initiative and efforts of bringing together key actors in democracy and human rights from across the continent to discuss this timely issue.  He was of the view that the future of the continent is in the hands of CSOs. He noted that the CSO Forum’s objectives are relevant to PAP’s mandate to ensure that there is full participation of African people in the development and economic integration of Africa. He further noted that the deliberation of this meeting will provide meaningful insights for collaboration between and among the PAP and CSOs.

Mr Clement Mavungu, the legal officer of PAP, in his attempt to sensitise CSOs on the workings of the PAP and potential avenues to engage with PAP, reflected on the functions of the PAP. These functions are budgeting, oversight, advisory and consultative. He stated that PAP, as it is currently constituted, does not have full legislative powers to make binding laws. He extended a call for CSOs to offer technical support in advocacy, development of model laws and policy formation.

Mr John Makamure, Executive Director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (PAPST), echoed the view of all stakeholders when he noted that there is a need for CSOs to engage with the PAP. He further remarked that the rationale for CSO engagement with PAP is in the recognition of its mission as a platform for the people of the African continent to engage the African Union. This is in line with the ongoing African Union reforms which seeks to foster more citizen engagement with its organs.

Dr Nkatha Murungi, Assistant Director of the Centre for Human Rights, reflected that the meeting was timely considering the shrinking civic space. Dr Murungi suggested that civic space in Africa is only enabled for CSOs as long as it does not challenge power. Therefore, the meeting will assist CSOs in exploring creative ways to engage with existing African Union structures such as the PAP. The CSO Forum was resolute that there is a need for further engagement with the PAP.  

Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, made a call for the CSOs present to be part of the journey to the establishment of a coalition of CSOs. He committed the Centre to lead this process. He urged members of the CSOs to form a steering committee that will strategise on the formation of the coalition. The Centre for Human Rights is committed to steering the process and put it on motion.

For more information, please contact:

Ms Bonolo Makgale
Programme Manager Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743


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