SAFOD has been participating in the preparatory meetings for the 11th SADC CSO Forum (CSF) which will be held in Gaborone, Botswana, during the run-up to the SADC Heads of State Summit in August 2015.
SAFOD is one of the networks participating in the Steering Committee of the “SADC We Want” Campaign where it is coordinating the Disability Thematic Area. The Forum for SADC civil society meets every year to dialogue and reflect on issues affecting the SADC region. The SADC We Want campaign is led by the civil society Apex Alliance which includes the Southern African Trade Unions Coordination Council (SATUCC), SADC Council of NGOs (SADC-CNGO) and the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA).
The Apex Alliance is an independent apex alliance of umbrella formations of civil society in all the 15 SADC member states, representing thousands of faith-based and grassroots organisations and millions of organized workers.
At one of the CSF planning meetings held on 8 April 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the steering committee members reaffirmed the role of the alliance partners in ensuring that this year’s forum significantly contributes towards bringing about real and sustainable change within SADC.
“We need to ensure that our role as alliance partners must go beyond just engaging with our constituencies constantly. We now need to explore new ways of running the forum to make sure we make tangible and sustainable impact [within the SADC system],” said Boichoko Ditlhake, SADC-CNGO Director.
Delegates observed that despite the CSF being held yearly for the past 10 years unrevealing and advancing various regional development issues, not much change within SADC, particularly in terms of how the institution governs itself. Hence the delegates proposed that the main theme for this year should focus on rebuilding SADC.
“It’s not about the issues because we already know them. Rather, it’s about how we mobilize ourselves to deal with the issues. Issues need to appeal to the national contexts while we transmute them into the regional context,” added Ditlhake.
At these forums, the CSF builds consensus and unity on the burning issues facing CSO in the region and addresses itself in particular to the challenges and opportunities facing regional integration. The CSF also contributes towards a common and shared plan of action on agreed priorities for CSOs in Southern Africa.
The 11th CSF will coincide with the summit on the review of the SADC Gender Protocol to be convened by the Genderlinks, while a number of side events will also be held during the 11th CSO forum. At the planning meeting, SAFOD, on its part, committed to holding its own side event focusing on “Disability and Inclusive Development,” which is also expected to discuss the framework for a proposed SADC Disability Protocol.