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Key Messages on NEPAD

The Africa-Canada Forum welcomed the commitment of G8 countries last July in Genoa to "forge a new partnership to address issues crucial to African development." Given the importance of the proposed framework for that partnership, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the ACF carried out a process of consultation in Africa and in Canada to gather analysis and commentary on the NEPAD and the G8 initiative.

We propose that Canada

  • support civil society debate and engagement with governments in Africa on NEPAD;
  • redirect significantly more of ODA to African civil society organizations in order to strengthen government accountability and democratization;
  • legislate to ensure that Canadian-based private corporations adhere to the highest environmental, ethical and social standards when they invest abroad;
  • actively promote full unconditional cancellation of the debts of the poorest African countries, and the de-linking of debt relief from structural adjustment conditions;
  • change international trade rules and the process for negotiating them to respect the specific development needs and strategies of African countries;
  • establish a binding timetable to meet the 0.7% ODA target, untie aid, and focus it on eradicating poverty, in partnership with civil society and government;
  • democratize the international financial architecture, with fully operational transparency and respect for human rights;
  • reduce aid conditionalities to allow for broad African ownership in the management of aid and of national budgets;
  • report on these points to the Canadian public through Parliament.

The Africa-Canada Forum (ACF) is a working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC). It brings together 43 Canadian NGOs, church and labour organisations, working in partnership with African organisations. These organisations have a long history of policy discussions with African colleagues on issues related to peace and development in Africa.

ACF member organizations sought the opinions of colleagues and partners in Africa, in writing and through meetings and conferences on the continent and in Canada. This process included a preliminary discussion of NEPAD at a members meeting in October 2001 and a two-day conference in February 2002. In the course of the consultation process, the ACF also engaged in discussions with representatives of the Canadian government who are directly involved in developing the G8 Plan of Action for Africa for the G8 meeting in Kananaskis this coming June.

The Africa-Canada Forum recognizes the importance of this framework in Africa, and in the North. NEPAD is promoted by African heads of state and by the leaders of the G8 as an African initiative addressing African needs with African solutions. At the same time, NEPAD, as a policy framework and political compact among peoples, has actually not been extensively debated, much less endorsed, by important sectors of society in African countries, including government officials, the media, academics and civil society organizations.
As the initiative becomes better known, it is clear that NEPAD is a contested framework for addressing the needs and aspirations of the majority of people in Africa. Many of those we have consulted have observed that what is new about NEPAD is its endorsement by the North. In terms of policies prescribed for development and for improving Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world, many of the strategies NEPAD promotes have been applied in the past and have actually weakened national economies, undermined democratic reforms and intensified the impoverishment and insecurity of millions of people. Given this assessment, more of the same is not just inadequate, it risks undermining the very goals that NEPAD espouses, further entrenching processes of impoverishment and relations of inequality.

Africa-Canada Forum has three broad areas of concern regarding NEPAD:

Governance and Democratization

The promoters of NEPAD, in Africa and in the G8 countries, place a heavy emphasis on the centrality of "good governance" as a novel feature of the initiative, and the foundation of its success. However, the strategies that are presented, in the document and in related public discussions since the document’s release, are not grounded in the imperatives of government as an expression of the aspirations and will of citizens. NEPAD assigns government leaders alone the role to "periodically monitor and assess the progress made by African countries in meeting their commitment towards achieving good governance and social reform". However, reducing poverty is deeply rooted in politics that engage people, particularly the poor and the powerless, in negotiating with each other, with their governments, and with international actors for policies and rights that advance all aspects of their livelihoods.

Concerns regarding the absence of the vital role of politics and civic engagement in the development process are compounded by NEPAD’s limited vision of democratization and governance. Political space in most African countries is constricted and contested. It is critical for the long-term promotion of democracy that this space be opened and that civil society actors and citizens be able to monitor their own governments and demand accountability for fostering democratic political processes and for meeting the development goals that address their needs and aspirations.

NEPAD as an Economic Plan
NEPAD advances many strategies for economic development that have already left a disastrous legacy for the poor throughout the continent. The optimism of NEPAD rests on the confidence that foreign direct investment will increase to be the primary source of resources for development. This is risky because the same measures designed to attract investment applied in the past have not achieved their goal – foreign direct investment has actually declined. As importantly, these measures have also actually weakened national economies and made their integration into the global economy more disadvantageous. The issue of investment in Africa is not simply the levels of resources invested, but more importantly, the productive capacity of that investment. Given the de-industrialization of African economies and the dismantling of essential public services that has taken place under structural adjustment, further rapid integration into the world economy, under the conditions of current trade and investment regimes, would not foster equitable and sustainable growth. It is much more likely that processes of impoverishment would become further entrenched.

NEPAD as a Global Partnership
As one of our colleagues in Africa has observed, the logic of the NEPAD is: "We the African leadership will commit to doing all the things that you have been asking of us, and you the industrialized world, will give us the money to do it." This logic does not offer a sound starting point for addressing the calamitous position of African countries in the global economic and political order.

A truly "new partnership" to eradicate poverty and redress injustice would require as much change in the policies and practices of the North as it does in Africa. There has been no evidence to date that international institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, are prepared to make the significant policy changes necessary to promote sustainable human development in Africa.

These international institutions continue to reinforce economic and political structures in which African states have very little room to maneuver to address their specific development needs. African economies, constructed initially to support the industrialization of colonial powers through resource extraction, remain internally weak and linked to a global economy that continues to extract resources with little beneficial return to African citizens.

It is time that a new partnership with Africa be built not on tutelage and aid conditionality, but on a shared responsibility for the eradication of poverty and the promotion of global peace and justice.
June 2002

Molly Kane, Co-Chair of the AFRICA-CANADA FORUM with CCIC staff








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