AGRIII : Technical Workshop for National Research Institutions “Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa”

Aug 10, 2012

The Director of the Governance and Public Administration Division of the ECA, Abdalla Hamdok

AGR Coordinator, Said Adejumobi,
Representatives of National Research Institutions

My Colleagues from UNDP

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA), I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to all of you to this important meeting co-organised by UNDP and ECA.

This meeting is the third consultation of its nature. The first was held in Kenya in July 2010, while the second took place here in Addis Ababa in November of that same year. All three consultations aim to solidify the foundation for the third edition of the African Governance Report: Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me take this opportunity to express UNDP‟s firm commitment to the partnership with our sister agency, the United Nations Economic
Commission for Africa (ECA), particularly on this project.

The AGRIII itself and today‟s meeting are significant to UNDP given the importance we attach to democratic governance as a fundamental condition for sustainable human development, poverty reduction and specifically the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa.

Our two agencies are already collaborating in various continental
governance initiatives. For example, in July 2011, UNDP and ECA provided assistance during a crucial second cycle African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Country Review Mission for Kenya; the first African country to undergo a second review.

Since 2004, UNDP, ECA and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have been designated strategic partners of the APRM by the APR Panel of Eminent Persons.

These three institutions provide both financial and technical assistance to the APRM process with a view to enhance capacity of this innovative and home-grown African governance assessment tool.

The eighth African Governance Forum, under the leadership of UNDP, will be held under the theme “Democracy, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa”. You will clearly notice here that AGF and AGR naturally complement each other.

The focus on issues of democracy, elections and diversity management in Africa” is not only pertinent, but also timely given the current democratization momentum in Africa. Democratic governance is still evolving in many of our countries in Africa, and the recent political upheavals in North Africa and the post-election crisis in Cote d‟Ivoire are a clear case in point.

The recent developments in North Africa, dubbed by some as the Arab Spring, teach us one important lesson, namely that when governance is not premised on popular consent, it breeds its own demise through popular uprising.

Since the democratization wave that swept through the continent in the late 1980s and early 1990s, overall, democracy in Africa still remains a work-inprogress, with most of the challenges revolving around elections. One of the major challenges has been the extent to which elections facilitate constructive management of diversity within Africa‟s diverse society, manifested by race, ethnicity, religion, regions, language etc. Let us not deceive ourselves: elections are a high stakes contest for power. They are therefore by their very nature, conflictual given that they are a political contest for the highest office of the land. Elections can become either an
asset or liability for a country.

Ladies and Gentlemen
If identity and social diversity is managed in a constructive, consultative and inclusive manner, it should not pose a major problem for elections. But if diversity is managed in such a way that it promotes exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination, elections can become destructive.

We have unfortunately witnessed this trend in a number of African countries where the political leadership and other key democracy actors politicize social identities for political gain. Marrying politics and ethnicity leads to a dysfunctional family and bodes ill for democratization and elections in Africa.

The predictable end results are protracted violent conflicts and retardation of socio-economic progress, which are inimical to the quest for sustainable human development and achievement of the MDGs. It is for these and many other reasons that the theme of AGRIII is so relevant and timely.

As we all do know, elections in some African countries have sadly gone down the history books not as flag-bearers for democracy-building. Quite the reverse – some elections have led to polarization of the society, violent conflicts and political instability.

Distinguished Guests
We at the UNDP, have for some time now, been well aware of the need for prudent policy responses to the challenge of cultural diversity. In 2004, UNDP produced its flagship annual publication, the Human Development Report (HDR) under the theme ‘Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World’. This report represents the most comprehensive treatise of challenges of socio-cultural diversity world-wide including Africa. The report boldly proclaims that „cultural diversity is here to stay and to grow. States need to find ways of forging national unity amid this diversity‟.

Let me conclude by once again welcoming our visiting National Research Institutions to Addis Ababa – the political and diplomatic capital of Africa. I hope and trust that this Technical Workshop will achieve its set goals and objectives. I wish you fruitful and productive deliberations over the next two days.

It is now my singular honour to declare this AGRIII Technical Workshop for National Research Institutions under the Theme “Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa”, OFFICIALLY OPEN.


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