Civil Society and Private Sector engagement with COMESA

Civil society and private sector organisations have continued their engagement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in the field of peace and security. At the beginning of September 2012, various representatives of the two sectors met at Chaminuka Resort Lodge in Lusaka, Zambia, for their fourth annual review workshop. Countries represented included Burundi, Comoros, DRC Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia Zimbabwe and Uganda which was represented by Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE), Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) and Human Rights
Network-Uganda (HURINET).

The background of the idea of collaborating with civil society and private sector began in 1999 when COMESA made a landmark decision for a formal structure and modalities for engagement on matters of peace and security under article 3(d) of the COMESA treaty. This was made after a number of years of COMESA’s efforts to promote peace and security through ad hoc arrangements, which were previously minimal. It was agreed that COMESA should attend to conflict prevention, management and resolution (CPMR) issues without necessarily detracting from her core programs on economic integration.

COMESA agreed that in order to have systematic involvement of civil society, rules and criteria for accrediting non-state actors should be adopted, which was done after a validation workshop in Swaziland and adopted in 2004 in Kampala COMESA is therefore able to grant accreditation to the programme to any civil society or private sector organisation which is able to contribute to the work of COMESA program on peace and security.

At this year’s annual workshop, participants stressed the need for parliamentarians to be trained in the importance of good governance, the need to raise awareness on “trading for peace” and the economic dimension of conflict, the need to continue enhancing democracy and good governance in the region as an important factor in contributing to free, peaceful and fair elections and the need to participate early warning systems to ensure that conflict is prevented.

The participants were also informed of COMESA’s climate change program, the objective of which is to enable adaption to climate change and enable citizens of COMESA countries to respond to issues of climate change and the support of Africa’s negotiation in international forums on key elements of the African climate solution and the mainstreaming of climate change in national planning. It was noted that civil society’s strength lies in their ability to influence state decisions.

Participants also held a meeting with the Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya where issues of peace and security were discussed and commiserated with him on the burning of the COMESA building, which destroyed vital documents