Societal problems can best be addressed by engaging directly with the people who are most affected by them.
It’s in this spirit that the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU/ECOSOCC) was born. With its secretariat at the Citizens and Diaspora Office (Cido) in the African Union Commission, the initiative seeks to create a platform for the African people through their civil society organisations (CSOs), to be fully involved in the deliberations and development of appropriate policies. This is done through national chapters and cluster committees.
The AU/ECOSOCC plays an advisory role to the African Union (AU) by facilitating the creation of a solid voice for CSOs within it and its organs and decision-making processes.
The CSOs come from all aspects of life — including labour, business, professional groups, service providers and think tanks — which are then segregated into 10 sectoral cluster committees.
The committees were crafted to be viable vehicles for building synergies and aligning of their programmes and activities with the AU strategic documents.
The clusters and committees act in support of Aspiration 3 of Agenda 2063 on the role of civil society in the development agenda, good governance and democracy. They develop work plans, strategy papers and implementation plans to actualise their ideas and channel them to the AU.
They also explore funding possibilities for their programmes and develop strategic partnerships and alliances on the execution of their preferred activities and the implementation plan at national or sub-national levels.
Kenyan civil society organisations should claim their spaces within this august initiative as it is the most appropriate vehicle for accessing and influencing decision making at the continental level. This is a sure avenue that is devoid of government restrictions regarding generation and processing of ideas for the welfare of citizens.
To join the system, a CSO has to be national, regional, continental or of the diaspora and free to transact beyond the national borders. It must also have principles and objectives that are consistent and in congruence with the principles and objectives of the AU.
AUECOSOCC structures deal with policy formulation, policy implementation, policy evaluation and audit.
These include the General Assembly, the highest decision-making organ, followed by the Standing Committee, which coordinates the work of the organ, and finally, the 10 Sectoral Cluster Committees, useful for generation of ideas and channelling inputs into concrete policies and programmes of the AU.
The AU/ECOSOCC was established in 2004 under the chairmanship of Kenya’s Nobel Peace laureate, Prof Wangari Muta Maathai. It appears, however, that Kenya's CSOs at the AU level have not kept pace with the late environmental conservation icon’s standards.
Obviously, expectations are that Kenya should claim its rightful place in championing the right of inclusion of African CSOs in the deliberations and development of appropriate policies for the development and progress of Africa.
Mr Oliewo is the director, Public Research and Development Consultants (PRAD). [email protected]