The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Selected to Participate at the Fourth Assembly of the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC)
By Dr Stanley Maphosa
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund joins representatives of various non-governmental organisations or Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nairobi, Kenya. The objective is to learn why it is important for civil society to register and take part in the continent-wide process of elections into the fourth Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) permanent general assembly. The hosting of this election on the 6-8 December 2022 is a follow up of a decision of the ECOSOCC Credentials Committee and African Union Commission (AUC) Interdepartmental meeting that was held on 21 to 23 March 2022 in Zambia. The meeting in Zambia was also a build-up on the Decision of the 40th Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council of February 2022. The 40th Ordinary Session requested the ECOSOCC Secretariat in collaboration with the relevant departments of the AU Commission to launch the call for applications for the 4th Permanent General Assembly of ECOSOCC. The Fund responded to this call and went through a virtual rigorous selection process together with others CSOs at national, regional and continental levels to be selected as one of the organisations to participate from South Africa.
The ECOSOCC General Assembly is the highest policy making body of the Organ. During the First Ordinary Session of the General Assembly on 6 December 2022, the CSOs will elect from amongst the representatives of its members, the Bureau consisting of the Presiding Officer and four Deputy Presiding Officers. The Head of the ECOSOCC Secretariat, the Minister of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs (Kenya) and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission are expected to address the meeting in Nairobi; Kenya.
Established under the provisions of Articles 5 and 22 of the African Union’s Constitutive Act, the ECOSOCC is the vehicle for building a strong partnership between governments and all segments of the African civil society. Its Statues, adopted by the AU Assembly in July 2004, define it as an advisory organ composed of different social and professional groups of AU Member States Under Article 4 of the ECOSOCC Statutes. ECOSOCC is composed of 154 Civil Society Organization (CSOs): two (2) CSOs from each Member State; ten (10) CSOs operating at regional level and eight (8) at continental level, twenty (20) CSOs from the African Diaspora, as defined by the Executive Council and covering the continents of the world; and six (6) CSOs, in ex-officio capacity, nominated by the AU Commission and based on special considerations, in consultation with Member States. Article 4 (2) provides that the elections for members of ECOSOCC at Member State, regional, continental and Diaspora levels shall ensure fifty percent (50%) gender equality provided that fifty percent (50 %) of the representatives shall consist of youth between the ages of 18 and 35. Members are elected for a term of four (4) years and may be re-elected only once. Since its inception, the organ has had three successful General Assembly terms and the tenure of the current Third General Assembly will come to an end in December, 2022.
The CSOs come from the fifty five (55) Member States of the Union and the five (5) Regions of Africa, These include but are not limited to social groups, professional groups, non-governmental organizations, community based organizations, voluntary organizations and cultural organizations form the ECOSOCC membership. The heads of state and government adopted the statute of the ECOSOCC at the third ordinary session of the assembly in July 2004. It defines it as an advisory organ of the African Union composed of different social and professional groups of the member states of the African Union (AU). ECOSOCC is mandated to actively engage the civil society in the processes and work of the African Union, particularly about Africa’s integration and development. Through advice, the ECOSOCC assists the AU to the effectively translation objectives, principles and policies of the Union into concrete programmes, as well as evaluating these programmes.
Dr Stanley Maphosa, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund attended and participated on behalf of the Fund. “Changing the way society treats its children and youth is not possible without a strong and inclusive framework that recognises the multi-faceted nature of sustainable development. It is also important to engage at multilateral levels like the African Union so as to create common understanding, respect and the promotion of the dignity and voice of children and young people,” argued Dr Maphosa.
He added that “For us at the Fund we would like to see ECOSOCC bringing a platform for children and youth to engage among themselves and with policy makers at continental level”. At national level, the Fund has worked with its partners the Department of Social Development, UNICEF, Save the Children, Parliament and Offices of the Premiers at provincial levels to support the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament for the past 10 years. The Fund advocates that civil society should be recognised and supported as critical partners in national, regional, Pan African and global development. In those spaces, children’s issues should not be treated as by the ways or cross cutting issues that have no goal owners, plan or budgets assigned to them. Partnerships should be concretised between the government and progressive civil society organisations (CSOs) as it helps to build stronger and more resilient nations. ECOSOCC provides the structure and opportunities for civil society to engage with member states of the African Union. Many policies ratified and domesticated at national level come from the protocols and treaties signed at continental and global levels. The Fund believes that ECOSOCC has the potential to be one of the best conduits for civil society to engage in the work of the AU as it has been designed to contain thematic clusters on various areas, from peace and security, trade and social matters.
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