Power of Union Cape Town 2 – 15 - 19 February, 2016
Unpacking a topic as profound as this is quite a daunting task. It’s also a huge privilege and an opportunity to gain real insight into the many dynamics influencing the outcome of any initiatives designed to deliver positive impact. It demands huge respect and deservessingle minded focus and attention.
“AGA has now moved from the 4 original platform members – more awareness, more involvement, with a secretariat and a platform. 2 clusters are constituted. The foundations are here – initiatives are being planned and implemented. For a governance programme this is a tremendous success.”
“Cape Town1 anchored AGA. There are important links to Agenda 2063 that remind us of the AGA purpose and inspire us as we grow AGA. This is about representing the African people’s – we have to ensure citizens themselves feel the difference and that we are changing their lives in a positive way.”
The framework we designed for this strategy retreat was primarily positioned to help capture important perspectives and insights that would help further the strategic intentions of the AU with regard to the AGA, a programme that is still in its infancy and facing all of the usual challenges that an initiative of this complexity faces.
Starting with clear intentions From a timing perspective this programme is reaching a key milestone. The current strategy covers the period to 2016 and so an important question for the stakeholders present was how this strategy needed to evolve â€“ and what that meant for everyone involved, as well as the future direction of AGA.
Any framework designed for conversation needs to help those engaging to focus on a common aim, we call this the exam question. We chose one that we felt was appropriate to the needs of this retreat.
“AGA still seems to be referred to as a new thing yet it is not new – everything that AGA asks already exists as a mandate”.
While we may have introduced additional structure and visualisation to the current strategy the intentions are all taken from existing material and thinking. There is no doubt that a direction has been established and intentions declared.
A topic requiring respect and appreciation
Our preparation, for the days we would support the discussions, required us to gain a good appreciation of AGA and its role within the AU. While it was easy to appreciate the significance of this programme the task of deconstructing it was quite a challenge. Of course it is a particularly complex topic, but one that was made much harder by the absence of a visual representation of what AGA was, what it did, and how it worked. We felt compelled to bring it to life and position this architecture as the centrepiece for the framework. The conversations over the two days we were present reinforced our own perceptions. There was regular reference to confusion around meaning, structure, intention and operation. Probably not surprising for an initiative of this scale but something that needed quality discussion and serious focus.
In an ideal world there would be no need for something like AGA Everything would seamlessly connect and everyone would share a common understanding of the commitment being made to peace and democracy. The reality however is that there are multiple frameworks (instruments) that have been created over time and in some way relate to the topics of democracy, justice, governance, human rights and constitutional law. These are international agreements and each has its mandate that has to be fulfilled. That is not going to change.
â€œWe still have a long way ahead. Despite the successes we need the architecture to work fully, there are many things that we need to complete. The state reporting process can now start â€“ we have the enablers in place.â€?
That is not going to change The challenge comes when 54 Member States have to interpret and take action on them in a way that is in harmony with the primary framework – The African Charter for Democracy, Elections & Governance. While the number of member states who have ratified is increasing there are still questions as to whether these ratifications are driving the changes and outcomes that are implicit in the charter. Currently it is debatable, and that also is not surprising. There was never going to be an instant and profound change across the Continent. As the number of organisations and institutions actively involved with AGA grows, clarity, coherence and compliance are becoming important focus topics. As new processes are being introduced a solid foundation is vital – and by that we mean shared understanding, of definitions, meaning, intention, structure and processes.
“Most important are the member states – AGA is their prime responsibility and we can give them the processes and structures to implement but this will only be successful if they participate and own the process – A union is only as good as its member states.”
This is an environment influenced by so many dynamics – political, social economic, organisational and individual Having a relatively brief immersion in the discussion we would be foolish to think we had a full understanding of the situation. However as independent observers and translators – and with the help of the framework that developed over the two days – there were some repeating themes that we have deconstructed and feel provide vital clues as to the ongoing development of AGA – as both a mechanism and a platform for dialogue.
The confusion around structures and responsibilities – Platform members have to be very clear on role of secretariat from planning through to implementation so that we are all working consistently in the same direction. The clusters were not really thought through at Cape Town 1 however in the last few years they have been a growing feature and need to consider their enhanced role in terms of steering and driving content. The need to create capacity – This featured in several ways: being able to do more with less, finding better ways to share the knowledge and expertise that exists across the membership, becoming less dependent on external investment. Every organization has the responsibility to engage with citizens – we can work together to find ways in which we can strengthen our collective ability to do this more effectively and consistently. The question of relevance and impact – No one in the room doubted the relevance of AGA to good governance but it is still ‘a well kept secret’ to the many people not directly involved, but who need to play a part in its success. It was interesting to see that the intentions already stated ahead of this retreat stood the test of the week – and that it wasn’t really necessary to add more, the critical factor is to clarify what already exists – important and good intentions and principles that need to be understood by a broad and diverse audience.
Moving on from Cape Town 2 As we leave Cape Town 2 we need to be mindful of the much larger and diverse network that we can draw from. There are synergies that we are finding even without asking for them because of the broader network and their connections (like APSA). We need to think more broadly about the contributions and value that we can bring as a collective.
The ultimate outcome is better implementation of AGA, regardless of who is responsible AGA allows us to reach more people – to connect in ways we may not have been able to do, to be more appreciative of each other’s mandates and activities. It helps us take more collective responsibility – to be guided by the same understanding. We can’t achieve these things on our own. For this we need to understand the network that is now so vital to success. We have started to explore their perspectives a little and this is worth much more continued effort in order to create the messages that most resonate with them.
Funding Organisations/Institutions/Donors: AGA is still not very clear to partners, it’s more of a process than a rich mechanism, supported by programme and roadmap. The latter is what they need to see so that they can see what they are supporting, and to know that AGA is delivering value to the Union and is showing it to be effective in the member states. Parliaments in Member States: AGA can be a source of valuable knowledge to parliamentarians. They are not well informed most of the time. This is valuable for reform. Ratification of formal charters and protocols is an important topic for them – without it democracy and good governance will not grow/improve – so any guidance on the process and frameworks can help make this more successful. Involving national parties in the dialogues we are holding will help to influence their perspective and decisions and ensure alignment with the norms and standards. Executive – Government and surrounding institutions in contact with AGA: Guidance, assistance and support – to help implement the shared values. And resources to do this. The confusion issue comes up here as well – there are so many decisions made by AU that member states forgot almost as quickly as they have been decided.
The Donors Perspective: GIZ
Civil Society A platform for meaningful participation. Treated with respect and taken seriously when engaging in dialogue. Knowing that when something is passed to AGA that it will be considered and acted upon. Tools for effective information exchange and good communications flows – between CSO and AGA so that we can establish strategic partnerships An open environment where civil society can see they are being represented by effective CSO networks that are connected meaningfully to AGA and influencing policy. They are seen as credible representatives of the citizen.
The parameters are shifting over the next few years. Germany will continue to support AGA, the political commitment will continue but there will be new funding dynamics. Germany has its own challenges with migration and refugees and other political issues. For AGA for the next 3 years it’s going to mean less funds, maybe 40-50%. This is one of the most expensive governance programmes and so that investment can’t continue. The conversations this we are suggesting that this is not as bad as it sounds. It suggests we need to be more focused, more targeted, more effective. Away from big costly events, revisiting who does what and how. Improve communications so that we coordinate efforts more efficiently and consolidate – make sure we each know what we are doing and work more collectively. A joint roadmap gives us the platform to do this – a more information and coordinated plan. We also (GIZ, BMZ, EU etc) should also co-ordinate our efforts and make sure that we are also playing our role in making AGA successful and cost effective. EU At last summit the joint Africa/EU roadmap was agreed (2014-17) – that still stands. There are five priorities. Over 450 euros went to Africa in 2014. Governance and Human Rights in Africa are at the heart of the root causes of conflict and insecurity. We are in implementation of the pan African programme, supporting AGA civil society and elections among others. From now till April we are finalising details. EU cannot afford to continue to invest the same levels moving forward. There are political and economic issues that may make this unaffordable.
Governance is high on the list and we are pushing for co-financing to achieve what we all want. It’s important to EU that AGA is successful and that the secretariat is able to drive this forward. Political dialogue on governance across the AU organs is still not strong. This is still hard to sell to EU member states – they see a lot of money but not the level of results it promises. Ratification is no guarantee of results. This is important of course but we need to see outcomes, we need benchmarks and member states are looking for exit plans. Note: This triggered an interesting question – are there really no results or are we just not articulating this in a way that provides the evidence? Do we have a clear definition of what results are being requested and how they are going to be measured?
There is considerable (and natural) frustration that there is still so much uncertainty around AGA across the stakeholders who could be instrumental for change. It’s not because they have not been given information, it’s just clearly not creating the level of appreciation and awareness that is needed.
“Everyone’s capacity becomes our capacity” AGA Platform members will need to be much more creative to help member states to do the right things. For example, establish a critical mass of MP’s who have good understanding already. We might review our methods for critical interventions and track the key connections in our network where we can leverage their strengths.
The result is that AGA is not being leveraged. We need to change our strategy, especially in the way we engage with member states. There is a lot of opportunity to improve AGA’s effectiveness, deliver at far less cost and with greater impact.
Our Challenge An impressive group of people arrived in Cape Town to drill into the work already done by the team and to ask themselves what next. Cape Town proved a powerful visual backdrop to the conversation. Transforming the mountain of passion into a comprehensive roadmap. Our role was to â€˜actively listenâ€™ and to extract the essence from the conversations throughout the week. This final section contains the individual elements of the framework that emerged along with a high level narrative that explains each element.
White space Frameworks have the ability to provoke. They highlight gaps and they enable important calculations. For us they are everything but for the team we hoped they would simplify, respect and enable real clarity around the way forward.
Signal to noise The world we live in is awash with information.
Actively seeing – the power of frameworks We had prepared well in advance. Understanding and distilling as much as possible and to be properly structured as the week evolved – but at the same time not to be blinded by the wealth of information. As the team arrived a wall of logic was ready – a conversational framework that honoured sufficient of the incredible work already done but space to allow for the agenda that the team needed to work through.
Much of it valuable but most of it out of context. OPI – ‘Other People’s Information’ is often ignored because it was written for different audiences – not tailored to us. It is usually written for specific purposes and often not deliberately crafted to survive the Twitter Generation. Unfortunately people do not have the attention span to engage as much as we would like them to.
Comfort in complexity
Working in union What we see as we travel around the world is a tidal wave of meaningless information hiding the ‘jewels’ of the story. We observe low levels of engagement and attention in complex issues generally. This is coupled with a genuine difficulty for stakeholders to engage with societal challenges in ways the world needs. Engaging isn’t only the tyranny of sharing but of caring. Our aim through structured conversation is to unravel the complexity, reveal the true meaning and unify the aims and ambitions of those with the commitment and responsibility to deliver.
All strategy is story The Governance of Democracy and Human Rights is of paramount importance but if we cannot convey the inherent meaning simply and with grace and relevance it’s unlikely that we will get our messages across.
Few of us do have comfort in complexity. The reason we visualise and structure is to lay out the complex in ways that makes sense. We do this so that it makes sense to us and in the process we hope to utilise the outcome to explain its meaning to everyone. We believe the best strategies are stories that far outweigh the sum of their moving parts. Imagine this – the 50+ Nation States of the entire continent of Africa, the themes (clusters) that offer insight and expertise, the actors and organs involved in bringing anything about – the instruments that must be applied, the processes and policies that sit within, the managing, reporting and lobbying, the monitoring, communicating and the refining of it all – it all adds up to a heady cocktail. Now imagine it applied uniquely in each national instance and every context. Everyone demands simplicity but the world just isn’t simple. Our story had better be.
We have incredible content and no shortage of passion, we just need to bring it to life – for the benefit of millions of deserving people in Africa.
Our Frameworks We started with two primary tools in the room 1. The Context Framework that explained the driving question we were there to answer – surrounded by Four Quadrants that explained the strategic intentions of the AGA. 2. The Conversational Framework that was designed to honour why, had already been achieved and also allow the conversations of the week to be reflected in a logical way. By the end of the week we had introduced a third framework – 3.The Reporting Mechanism that was introduced to the group on the final day as a next step in formalising this vital dimension. Establishing a workable and effective model for everyone to play their part and connect activity all the way back to the primary instrument The Democracy Charter. Conversations take on many forms We design the frameworks knowing that important dimensions will arise and clues emerge. They will be a mixture of important fact, fresh thinking and genuine insight. We resist anything that’s repetitive or superficial and as a result arrive with the most valuable and unified reflection of each of the topics as possible.
The Strategic Intentions Because of the arrangement of the room it was difficult for everyone to see the Four Quadrants at all times but they were the foundations of everything. Written to remind everyone of the overarching intentions, aims and mission of AGA.
The impact of our work The ambition of the program is very high â€“ the way we achieve it will be directly proportionate to how well we implement and communicate. Impact is a powerful measure of achievement and the communication is a tremendous lever for influence.
The Challenges To anchor the framework on the far left of the wall we wanted to capture any major barriers, challenges and real achievements so as to baseline the current state of play. A lot of progress had happened since Cape Town 1 in 2014.
AGA - as a framework Although this image represents the architecture at a simple level it does start to show the primary components in relationship to each other. And in time help to inform a wider audience of how it all works and is used to achieve the strategic intentions.
The Vision A core aim for the week was to construct a unified AGA Vision. Something that would bind all the members around a common view and help articulate the machinery of it all. In addition it would be valuable to clarify/illustrate the main role of everyone in helping to implement. At the heart of this image is the African People. A citizen centred system for the benefit of Africans. People who simply want to get on with and improve their livelihoods. Everything else we do is in pursuit of that outcome.
The New Goals We used this module to remind us that we already have a set of powerful Strategic Intentions and our job is to make them work. The team split into groups to work in and we collated all the different reports into a series of repeated themes. They guided these outcomes and the actions that emerged in the roadmap.
The Roadmap A roadmap is a set of initiatives and actions over time. Our roadmap rests on simple definitions – it will run over period of time – to 2020 and beyond. During that time certain outcomes need to have been achieved – several of them are shown. Each outcome will demand certain actions if it is to be reached. Each action will most likely be preceded by prior activities – activities that are necessary if the action is to be completed. Multiple actions will be required to achieve each outcome. Certain outcomes will need to have been completed for other outcomes to be achieved. Every action needs a clear plan, budget, owner and deadline.
The Reporting Mechanism
To support the main framework it became useful to show how the â€˜machineâ€™ and the reporting mechanism for the member states met with the main processes. This representation began to put all of that together as a hypothesis â€“ illustrating how the different parts and their roles work. This visual covers several dimensions:
It shows the responsibilities that each of the key member groups has to support the delivery of the aims of the charter It reminds us of the overarching principles that sit behind the charter â€“ and that more and more members states are signing up to and ratifying
It positions the various frameworks that are currently perceived to be critical in helping the various organs work to a consistent purpose It outlines the high level reporting processes â€“ that everyone will follow to fulfil this commitment 36
Frameworks are living tools. They are a visual reflection of the systems and dynamics involved at any point in time. That means they are always a work in progress â€“ some elements are merely a snapshot in time, others provide vital definition and anchor intention. We very much hope that the power of frameworks and our use of them has illustrated their value to AGA and that the members of the Platform will find them helpful in moving on from Cape Town 2 and creating the value that is so deserved.
Further Information A much more detailed report of the entire week has been produced by your facilitators. We have included a link here so that this detail is not lost. You will also be able to access this from your GIZ contacts. https://www.dropbox.com/s/9maeywxfe0earo9/Cape%20 Town%20II%20Consolidated%20Report%2025.02.16. docx?dl=0 Our thanks to Daniel and Albert for their facilitation and collaboration throughout the week, and leading up to it.
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