Democracy and governance: participation, transparency and accountability
Professor Jack Spence - Royal Institute of International Affairs / Royal College of Defence Studies
Simon Maxwell - Director, ODI.
- Jack Spence hoped that the Africa seminar series would offer a range of practical recommendations for the G8 summit in June. Tony Blair had played a key role in keeping Africa on the agenda. It was important that it should remain there.
- All people had a right to decent governance. Were there African values? Certain values had universal significance. How they were translated depended on the particular country.
- There were the core universal values of democracy. They included representation, transparency and accountability. The presence and observance of such principles provides legitimacy for the political system. However free and fair elections are also a key component but are not ends in themselves. Elections do not bring about legitimacy and good governance.
- There was a danger in trying to export democratic models from the West to Africa. First, there are significant differences between western models of democracy and trying to apply any one model to a continent is hugely problematic. Local traditions and conditions must be taken into account. In South Africa today, for example, the new political elites drew heavily on political traditions such as strong statehood and parliamentary government. To quote Oakshot there was the "habit of parliamentary governments". Despite the myriad problems and abuses of power and privilege during the Apartheid era, democracy and the rule of law never died completely. It was vital to recognise that in devising and defining new constitutional arrangements, there is no single right pattern of social, economic and political structure for Africa.
- What can western governments do to assist African countries in the process of constitutional development? Encourage the growth and participation of civil society, the development of a free press (which was often a substitute for the opposition) education programmes and skills training.
- The cessation of Africas civil wars was also vital. There were two key responses: "give war a chance" and liberal imperialism restored by the West Jack Spence cited Kosovo and Bosnia as examples of such intervention but noted that this had only occurred because they were of strategic value to the west. He did not believe that either of these responses was suitable for Africa and noted that even if countries found it desirable, a lack of resources and political will would preclude the liberal imperialist model from being applied.
- What is important for Africa now? Development of a contact group comprised of disinterested states encouraging leaders to move towards a sustainable peace and a democratic polity. Also to encourage a deeper understanding of the adverse impact of war on regional stability, economic development and foreign investment by creating an "enabling environment". Development cannot occur in a context of regional chaos and instability. Poor governance is a major constraint on development in Africa and must be addressed.
- The issue of corruption needed to be tackled. There was the capacity problem and was there the political will to drive the process forward?
- Did Africa need more aid? There was already a vast amount of capital on the continent but it was being drained away. How could this be prevented?
- There was also a virtual brain drain with widespread skills being lost to developed countries
- Many of the problems needed to be dealt with from within.
A key commitment given in the New Partnership for Africa is the importance of democratisation and good governance. This event was a discussion on what have been the major obstacles, breakthroughs and the key challenges that are lying ahead.