The Africa We Want! Anchoring Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063

The Foundation recently hosted a roundtable on the practice of implementing civic engagement strategies, outlining success stories and challenges to inclusive peacebuilding in Africa.

Implementing goals is always a challenging and imperfect process. The United Nation’s Agenda 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 outline a roadmap for a more sustainable and prosperous future, but the scale of these frameworks is so large that it appears disconnected from the everyday lives they seek to improve.

Realising inclusivity in peacebuilding processes is recognised as a crucial issue across both agendas. But how do organisations work in practice to implement this goal? And most importantly, how effective are their strategies?

At the end of January the Foundation hosted a roundtable to discuss these questions. Over 30 participants attended as representatives from organisations such as the UN, the AU, ACCORD, WANEP, Trust Africa and various academic institutions. They were specially invited to the closed event, which was held under Chatham house rules to promote free engagement. The event is part of a broader series entitled The Africa We Want!, which was kicked off last year with a roundtable on inclusive peacebuilding in The Gambia.

The keynote discussants of this event were Dr. Angela Muvumba Sellström, Senior Researcher from the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI); Ngozi Amu, Team Leader at The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), and Her Excellency Jainaba Jagne, Ambassador of The Gambia to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Permanent Representative of The Gambia Permanent Mission to the AU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The discussants represented three relevant areas in inclusive peacebuilding: international development, local and regional cooperation, and scientific research, respectively. They shared success stories of inclusivity strategies and identified the key to anchoring development frameworks effectively.

The Role of Local Communities

The relevance of local voices is hardly a new principle for peacebuilding strategies. However, the goals and effects of this engagement are much more complex issues in practice. What level does ‘local’ refer to? On the ground, as discussants explained during the event, local participation involves a complex articulation of the global, national, regional and civil society levels. In addition, peacebuilders need to balance stakeholders, donors, mandates, as well as demands and financing regulations. To navigate this, a discussant emphasised that ‘when discussing inclusivity, decisions should be taken at the most local level possible.’

“There is no shortage of knowledge on what the grievances are. But now, how do you address this? […] Speak to the local population. And take their ideas and strategies and knowledge. This is where the change may come from.”

This principle of local decision-making was a reality in the discussants’ practice. They explained how implementing inclusivity strategies led to innovations that drove action and debate towards citizens directly. For example, UNOWAS usually focuses on high level mediation among politicians and political parties. However, after committing to making their work more inclusive, they realised that conflicts had become more communal and that the local effects of climate change were aggravating inequality and displacement in rural communities. This led them to partner with the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) for an analysis of the drivers of conflict in the region. The assessment spanned five countries and included interviews with national populations and the cooperation of numerous civil society organisations.

The Role of Culture in Inclusion

The expansion of democratic rights through peace-building processes opens opportunities for marginalised voices be heard. This does not mean, however, that people are willing or able to take the opportunities from the start. For example, traditional values and a lack of support from friends and family often discourage women from participating in politics. This is why The Gambia has focused on developing the right catalysts to spark and expand the participation of women and youth.

“No meaningful inclusive peacebuilding can be attained without the participation and promotion of women and children and their protection against human rights violations.”

The Gambia has undertaken an ambitious process of democratisation in the past 20 years. Current President Adama Barrow oversaw the establishment of democratic institutions, justice mechanisms and reparations to the victims of the violence under Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorial regime. The current democratic government has put a lot of energy into encouraging citizens’ political engagement. These efforts enhanced the peacebuilding process and played a role in the successful transfer of power from the transitional government to a democratically elected government in December 2021. The country’s engagement strategies included organisations and forums that focused on sparking and sustaining women and youth’s political participation.

A Future of Inclusive Peacebuilding

Together, discussants and participants outlined six keys for future inclusivity strategies:

  • Increased collaboration between the African Union and the United Nations
  • A focus on catalysts for engagement to overcome cultural and structural detriments to expanding citizen’s participation, especially women and youth
  • Shifting the focus from grievances to the effectiveness of current models for enabling faster adaptations to local needs
  • More flexible financing and engagement by donors that can support the crucial work of civil society organisations
  • Raising inclusivity and political engagement to contribute to the development of the political will needed for furthering peacebuilding processes, as shown by the Gambian experience
  • Higher adaptability of international frameworks and flexible mandates to adapt strategies to local contexts

True to the Foundation’s principles, the roundtable opened a space for dialogue. The Foundation will continue to build on this discussion and keep advancing inclusive peace-building in Africa.


Roundtable Series: The Africa We Want

Inclusive Peacebuilding in The Gambia

In July 2021 the Foundation organised a roundtable, together with civil society partners, to identify ways to enhance inclusive peacebuilding in the Gambia by strengthening collaboration between civil society and regional organisations.

Chair Summary