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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

FROM UNDP :

Regional Governance Forum Challenges Africa’s Heads of State on Transparency, Legitimacy, Participation African countries commit to strengthening state capacities for good governance.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 26 October 26, 2007 — After three days of around-the-clock deliberations, the 300 delegates at the Seventh Africa Governance Forum (AGF VII) here agreed today on recommendations to boost the efficiency and responsiveness of African governments to deliver essential social services to their people. Their proposals will be presented to Presidents and Prime Ministers from across the region at the next African Union Summit.

Capped off by a dialogue with Burkina Faso’s President, Blaise Compaore; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; and Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem of Algeria, the AGF VII brought together government officials, civil society representatives, journalists and business leaders from more than 30 countries under the theme “Building the Capable State in Africa.” A flagship governance initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the AGF VII was convened by the agency’s Regional Bureau for Africa.

“The Ouagadougou Summit is for us an opportunity to remind the international community about the importance of additional support to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals,” said President Compaore.

Having hosted the 2006 edition of the AGF in Kigali, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said that the region has made much progress, with rising economic growth rates, democratic elections in many countries, increased space for civil society and the media, and the creation of effective regional institutions. Despite these advancements, he noted, many African states have low capacity, leaving them unable to lift their citizens out of poverty. “The creation of the capable state in Africa is long overdue. These discussions have been going on for a long time. It is now time to translate these discussions into actions.”

During the Forum, participants focused on the following topics:

Redefining the role of the state and development challenges in Africa;
Developing institutional and human capacity for public sector performance;
State legitimacy and leadership;
Strengthening state performance through decentralized governance;
The role of non-state actors;
Globalization and state capacity; and
The role of women in building the capable state in Africa: challenges and opportunities.

In their “Commitment of Ouagadougou,” participants assert that capacity is one of the key missing links to development and democratization in Africa. They identify a number of challenges which factor into Africa’s capacity equation, including the need to improve popular participation and electoral systems; peace and security issues, such as preventing and resolving conflicts; service delivery, including investments in education, health, water and sanitation, and housing; economic governance, especially the effective and transparent use of natural resources and transparency in accounting and contracting and procurement systems; promoting civil society and media development and supporting marginalized groups like youth; globalization; and gender, including how to ensure that women have access to education, land and credit.

The delegates recommend 11 steps to help strengthen the capacities of the state in Africa – from increasing government efforts to consolidate the rule of law (mainly by ensuring the efficiency, integrity and independence of the judiciary); invest in education, with a view to nurturing future generations; factor women’s participation into the process of building a capable state in Africa – to placing importance on good governance as a guarantee of political stability so as to improve the quality of people’s lives.

They challenge African Heads of State to take the “Commitment of Ouagadougou” seriously and put its recommendations to good use.

A high point of the Forum was the presence of Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique and Chairman of the African Forum, who peacefully left the reigns of his country in 2005 and was recently named the first winner of the Mo Ibrahim Award, which recognizes African countries and former presidents for their achievements in good governance in Africa. During the opening ceremony he said that political change is taking hold in Africa. “Increasingly, African States have renounced the culture of military and single party rule and presidency for life. I stand before you as a clear testimony to the emergence of this new form of political governance in Africa.”

On the sidelines of the Forum, UNDP, in collaboration with the Reuters Foundation, conducted a media dialogue for journalists from AGF countries. The dialogue provided participating journalists an opportunity to explore from a media point of view the meaning and definition of a capable state in Africa and hear about the prevailing capacity development challenges and opportunities. The agenda for the media dialogue included an exclusive group interview with President Chissano and a briefing by Protais Musoni, Rwanda’s Minister of Local Administration, Good Governance, Community Development and Social Affairs.

“At the heart of all development challenges that African governments are facing is the lack of capacity to deliver education, water, sanitation, health, electrical power, telecommunications or roads to their people,” said Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, UNDP Regional Director for Africa. “Human development is ultimately defined by degree of access to these services. I hope that the countries and partners represented here will take home the message that building capacity for effective service delivery is the critical element in the agenda for building the capable state in Africa.”

The AGF was conceived as a UNDP joint initiative with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Previous AGFs have focused on the African Peer Review Mechanism, Local Governance for Poverty Eradication, Parliament as an Instrument for Good Governance, Conflict Management for Durable Peace and Sustainable Development, Accountability and Transparency in Africa and Meeting the Governance Challenge in Africa.

The following countries participated in the Forum: Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In addition, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Niger attended as observers.

For more information, please visit: www.undp.org/africa/agf/agf7_home…

For press queries, please contact:

In Ouagadougou:
Cassandra Waldon:  casandra.waldon at undp.org, Cell Phone: +1-917-432-7965, +226-76-940-793
Theophane Kinda:  theophane.kinda at undp.org, Cell Phone: +226-70-218-256
Simon Omoding:  simon.omoding at undp.org, Cell Phone: +226-76-337-681

In New York:
Niamh Collier-Smith:  niamh.collier at undp.org: Office: +1-212-906-6111

UNDP is the UN’s global development network advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners.

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