Timely rejuvenation of the African Peer Review Mechanism?
Six years before the 2014 Burkina Faso uprising, the country’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) report identified “omnipresent weight and domination of the majority, which seems to ‘block’ the democratic system and stifle multiparty politics”. The assessment called on authorities to “provide appropriate responses and solutions to bring about the necessary change”.
In South Africa, the 2007 APRM report stated that “xenophobia against other Africans is currently on the rise and should be nipped in the bud.” Dozens of migrants have since lost their lives in attacks.
African Union Member States established the APRM in 2003 as a voluntary tool to assess political, economic and corporate governance, and socio-economic development in countries. It seeks to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to African Union standards of transparency and accountability.
UNDP has provided financial and technical support to the APRM since 2003 as a singular inclusive platform that convenes different actors from government, civil society and other sectors to look holistically at a country’s status across these governance and development issues and agree on a way forward.
Once signed up, countries first grade themselves and then allow a panel of independent experts to assess the findings, followed by a government response. The combined report and resulting National Plan of Action are then shared with fellow heads of state and government in the APR Forum, where potential areas of support, shared experiences, etc., are discussed.
To date 35 countries have acceded to the APRM, of which 17 have put themselves forward for peer review. The findings have presented some common challenges across countries. These include corruption, youth bulges and unemployment, poor infrastructure, and inconsistent gender mainstreaming.
The review also highlights good practices, ask critical questions, set goals, and differentiate responsibilities between government and non-governmental actors. The APRM reports also recommend mitigation actions for the challenges raised.
The 2006 Kenya report, for instance, encouraged the government and political parties to work on conflict resolution mechanisms to build consensus on crucial national issues, defuse ethnic tension and promote tolerance. A year later, the country experienced post-election violence that saw thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Despite its utility, the APRM has suffered some challenges. These include irregular payment of contributions by Member States, delays in review and lack of post-review follow-up due to changes in political leadership. Momentum is also slowed when countries that have acceded to the APRM do not opt for review.
The current Chair of the APR Forum, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on heads of state to recommit to the ideals of the mechanism. He is seeking to revitalize and refocus the APRM to deliver on continental and global development agendas.
A new Chief Executive Officer has been appointed. Member States are being urged to meet their financial obligations to ensure a well-staffed and equipped secretariat to oversee the efficient running of the mechanism. Non-participating countries have also been called upon to join in order to ensure consistency in the implementation and monitoring of the global 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
More could be done to build on this progress. Regular payment of all assessed contributions would ensure a well-staffed and equipped continental secretariat to oversee the efficient running of the mechanism. The secretariat could review the APRM process taking into account technological and legal developments since the mechanism was set up 13 years ago.
Reviews should be timed to align with a country’s national development planning process in order to integrate Action Plan outcomes and ring-fence resources for implementation. Efforts should be made to include all segments of society in the review process to build ownership and sustainability of results.
The tenets of good governance, such as participation, transparency and accountability are not voluntary. So why should their monitoring be? It is time for the APRM to revisit its voluntary nature as a means to entrench these values continent-wide.
Goal 16 of the universal Sustainable Development Goals promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, while Agenda 2063 envisions an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent. Both provide a timely opportunity for the APRM to deliver on its original vision – to foster conditions for economic integration, political stability and sustainable development.