Regional Conference on Political Parties and Democratic Governance in the SADC Region 2006

See also: Dialogue on Political Parties in Southern Africa 2004 and Dialogue on Political Parties in Southern Africa 2005

21-22 February 2006, Sunnyside Park Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

Background

EISA embarked on a research and dialogue programme aimed at assessing the state of democratic governance in southern Africa under the theme Consolidating Democratic Governance in the SADC Region. This project was generously supported by three donors: Sida Regional Office (Harare, Zimbabwe), DANIDA (Pretoria, South Africa) and the Embassy of Finland (Pretoria, South Africa). Although the scope and coverage of the entire project was wide-ranging, its first phase investigated the role of political parties in a democracy. This first phase of the project was carried out jointly with the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) between 2003 and 2004. The project covered all 13 SADC countries, unravelling the state of political parties in the region and their role in entrenching democratic governance in each country. The specific objectives of the project were to:

  • Assess the general political and socio-economic context of each country and its possible impact on political parties;
  • Investigate the external regulatory and legislative environment in each country and its impact on the role and functions of political parties; and
  • Examine the internal functioning and structure of political parties and the impact of this on their institutional effectiveness.

EISA engaged researchers who interacted closely with five top officials from a list of between 3 to 6 parties in each country, conducting interviews and requesting relevant information. During data collection three instruments were used

  1. a questionnaire on country context;
  2. a questionnaire on the external regulatory framework for parties; and
  3. a questionnaire on internal functioning of parties.

Our modest assessment is that overall, the project achieved its objectives as outlined above. We have been able to publish many research reports as a result:

The Regional Conference marks the completion of this first phase of the EISA governance project. His Excellency Cassam Uteem, former president of the republic of Mauritius, will grace the occasion by delivering a keynote address and officially launching the Research Reports. The main objectives of this conference are:

  1. to share with political parties the final research findings of the project;
  2. to officially launch the Research Reports emanating from the political parties project undertaken jointly with International IDEA; and
  3. to provide political parties with the opportunity to share lessons and experiences on good practices, challenges and opportunities for democratic governance in the region, from the perspectives of party leaders.