Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Tanzania Civil Society Community commits to ECOSOCC.
Dar-es–Salaam, Tanzania, 15th September 2014 – Several civil society organizations in Tanzania attended the ECOSOCC Sensitization and Motivation Campaign held in Kebby’s Hotel and Conference Centre in Dar-es-Salaam today.
In his Welcome Address to the gathering, Mr. Ngunga Tepani, Executive Director, Tanzania Association of NGOs (TANGO), observed that Tanzania has about 8000-registered Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in addition to large number of unregistered organizations that were also in active operation and doing valuable work. CSOs in Tanzania had challenges but participation in ECOSOCC would be a fruitful way to address and overcome such challenges. It would enable more constant and productive interaction with Governments and policy makers at various levels and create avenues for developmental inputs and channels for increasing institutional and funding support.
The main obstacle that Tanzania CSOs would encounter is the eligibility requirement that 50 percent of the funding must be internally derived. He lamented the situation of the continent in which governments and the private sector were niggardly in providing support for CSOs leaving them at the mercy of external donors. Thus CSOs should seek to use the provision to challenge governments and their internal constituencies on the need to provide effective funding support for CSOs.
He urged the AU mission to provide clarity on the processes of ECOSOCC, the role, functions and performance of the organ and its varied uses as well as the processes and procedures for application and how ECOSOCC would function in the aftermath. It would be important to relate these to the activities of CSOs as they are at present so that they can adapt to ECOSOCC and add value to its processes as they grow.
In turn, Amb. Lazarus, the Advisor to the AU Chairperson, elaborated on the objectives of the mission that were clearly designed to respond to the needs and requirements underlined by the Executive Director of TANGO.
“The purpose of this mission here today is to ensure the faithful implementation of the decision of our executive organs on ECOSOCC in close collaboration with Member States of the Union in general and the civil society community in particular. This is a mission that involves cooperation with governments but is not primarily directed at Governments. It is an outreach program for the people at the grassroots that is designed and implemented in the spirit of the people –driven focus and people driven agenda of the African Union. The mission is truly reflective of the ECOSOCC agenda. ECOSOCC is an organ that seeks to connect he people at the grassroots in Africa directly with the continental governance structures”
In the keynote and official opening address, Ambassador Yahya Simba, the Director for the Middle East who was representing the Director for African Affairs in the Tanzania Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also recalled the genesis and origin of ECOSOCC as a vehicle for achieving the people-oriented and people driven character of the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Tanzania, he added, has been consistent in its engagement with the ECOSOCC process from the time of its establishment to its subsequent progress. He recalled the fact the 1st Permanent ECOSOCC General Assembly was launched in Tanzania under the leadership of the current President of the Republic, HE Jakaya Kikwete while he was the Chairperson of the African Union.
“The visit by the AU mission today is not because Tanzania was not represented in the first Permanent General Assembly but rather to give new impetus to as many civil society organizations to take part in the forthcoming ECOSOCC election process in a manner that will surpass all expectations. Your (CSO) presence here in large numbers here is assurance that we will be able to achieve these goals end ensure that Tanzania continues to play a significant role in the affairs of the AU. I therefore, call on you all to listen closely, understand the process and take subsequent steps to register and participate appropriately.”
The opening session was followed by the main presentations on the sensitization program. Mr. Chilengi, the member of the 1st ECOSOCC Permanent General Assembly provided a detailed insiders view of the functions, role and history of ECOSOCC, it performance, achievements and challenges in its first two phases of its existence as an interim Assembly under Prof. Wangari Maathai and later as a Permanent General Assembly. He saw the experience as a learning process that would orient ECOSOCC to greater heights in its subsequent incarnations.
Dr. Jinmi Adisa, the Director, Citizens and Diaspora Directorate that also serves as the Secretariat of ECOSOCC then took the participants through the history of the electoral process and the process of decision making that led to the current sensitization exercise and its imperative demands. In an interactive session, he guided the participants through the application processes and procedures and noted that the application forms may be completed in about one hour. He provided a checklist for CSOs to use in reviewing their own applications to be sure that they have met all the requirements. He ended with a word of counsel to the gathering. “ It has been said that ECOSOCC has an advisory role but an advisory role is defined by its quality, efficacy and purpose. If an advisory role is handled with care, commitment and dedication, it would become much more. An office has latency, it is as big as the person who occupies it.”
Another lively, intensive interaction session followed in which participants offered comments and observations and requested further clarification of certain issues. The discussion touched on a series of issues including the issue of observer status for CSOs that were not eligible for election in the wider AU structures and within ECOSOCC, the role and circumstances of cultural organizations in the ECOSCC set up, the operation of sectorial cluster committees, accountability and responsibility of elected ECOSOCC representatives to their national, regional or continental constituencies, the distinction between national, regional and continental CSOs and levels of applicability, the 50 percent funding criteria, the sharing of reports of the sensitization exercise, campaign opportunities in the ECOSOCC election process, the nature of the ECOSOCC electoral college and the recent AU resolution regarding the immunity of Heads of States or political leaders while in office.
The meeting ended with a number of conclusions. First, was a clear commitment by CSOs at the meeting to register and participate in the ECOSOCC process. TANGO will serve as the rallying point for this process and those present will carry the message to others that are absent. The CSOs also agreed on the need for a national ECOSOCC cluster as a mechanism for consultation, accountability. and to provide direction to national representatives. There was also a preference for the inclusion of provisions for recall in the ECOSOCC Statutes when it is revised and amended to support the processes of accountability.
The CSOs also advised on the need for extensive applications by Tanzania CSOs to enlarge the AU database of CSOs and give it comprehensive coverage in Tanzania. Tanzania CSOs also committed to work extensively within the ECOSOCC cluster committees. In conclusion, the gathering expressed appreciation for the work of the AU mission as it has offered closer intimacy with the operations of the AU and its people-centered agenda. It was imperative for the AU to continue with its sensitization exercise including and beyond ECOSOCC to build up an affective constituency for the activities of the continental organization.