SADC Background and Context

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was established to end colonialism and apartheid in southern Africa. The inter-governmental body evolved from the Frontline States whose goal was liberation across the region. The Frontline States became the SADCC which transformed into the current body when SADC Treaty was adopted in 1992.

Some important achievements since then include:

SADC has set an inspirational vision for itself, which generally resonates with civil society expectations.

The SADC vision is “A common future in a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom, social justice, peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa”.

SADC’s mission is “To promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy”.

SADC has 15 Member States and in keeping with key articles in the founding SADC treaty of 1992, namely 16A and 23, is supposed to consult with, and be responsive to, stakeholders, including civil society and NGOs. Unfortunately only a handful of member states have functioning National Committees and the SADC Tribunal has been disbanded.

Other key protocols, such as the one promoting free movement of people within the region, towards a common regional market and free trade zone, have not been fully ratified. There have also been missed targets in pursuit of a free trade area by 2008 and a SADC Customs Union by 2010.

SADC faces several challenges in pursuing some of its objectives and goals. These include: a lack of a clear strategy, commitment and political will to implement regional agreements and commitments signed, and ratified by Member States, and a lack of cohesion between Member States and SADC, leading to a state of regional uncertainty and troubling developments such as suspension of the SADC Tribunal.

The demise of the Tribunal and the on-going failure to bring the SADC Parliament into being in a meaningful sense, are symptoms of the problems SADC faces, among them a lack of political will. These institutional and programmatic challenges do not exist in a vacuum. They occur in a context of inequality, poverty vulnerability, insecurity, disparities and other issues that challenge healthy societies. Details of these challenges are contained in the Assessment of the Millennium Development Goals commissioned by the SADC Secretariat.

We could characterise the SADC public sphere as having a number of deficits, particularly when it comes to governance, accountability and delivery and crucially in leadership, but what we do know is that the people of the SADC demand and deserve better lives. The SADC WE WANT campaign expresses a deep and urgent need to redress inequalities and let justice and respectful governance prevail as an essential condition of life.

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