On 16th August 2017 at Hotel Africana, Uganda National NGO Forum under the auspices of the African Union Economic Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC) Uganda Chapter convened a meeting to reflect on how CSOs in Uganda can meaningfully influence the African Union through ECOSOCC. The meeting attracted 40 participants from national and sub-national civil society, media and representatives from Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also in attendance was Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga, the newly elected Presiding Officer of the AU ECOSOCC.
In his welcome remarks, Henry Oriokot, Executive Director, Uganda Management Assistance noted that the Uganda Chapter is in a unique position because of the role it plays in providing leadership to AU-ECOSOCC through the Presiding Officer. He therefore urged members of the chapter to make best use of this opportunity to ensure that CSOs in Uganda have a strong voice within the AU decision making processes.
Speaking on behalf of AU-ECOSCC, Richard Ssewakiryanga, the Presiding Officer ECOSOCC was concerned that Civil Society Organizations have not fully utilized ECOSOCC and yet this is a space where the sector can raise fundamental issues that affect citizens of the region. He stated that AU-ECOSOCC is a strategic organ that is instrumental in achieving the aspirations of the African Union and therefore proposed the need to build a network of partners at country level that can effectively engage with the Union through ECOSOCC.
Commenting on the role of ECOSOCC in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, Mr Ssewakiryanga highlighted the following as priorities for ECOSOCC: hold national chapters will hold bi-annual consultations with the Member States Focal Groups for Agenda 2063 to assess progress on implementation; prepare a continental monitoring and evaluation report from the perspective of the national CSOs; Build capacities to support effective implementation of Agenda 2063 at continental, regional and national levels; and setting up agenda 2063 focal points at national chapters for advocacy, tracking implementation of Agenda 2063 at national level.
In his remarks, Mr Benon Kayemba, Director Peace and Regional Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs applauded the Uganda National NGO Forum for providing space for CSOs to dialogue on issues that concern the continent and pledged government support to the initiative. He also gave an overview of some of the issues that dominated the 29th African Union Summit held on 27th June-4th July 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. These include; declaration of 2017-2027 as a decade for the youth focused on skilling of youth; institutional reform of AU to ensure that it is self-financed; and also address the humanitarian situation in the region. Other important decisions and commitments were on peace and security and the AU road map for silencing the guns in Africa by 2020 among others. In a bid to enhance collaboration between Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Uganda Chapter, the Desk Officer, African Union Affairs was introduced as focal point for the Chapter at MoFA.
In the discussions that ensued, the participants raised the following issues: the need for Ministry of foreign Affairs to work closely with CSOs to popularize the decisions of the African Union Summits; failure of the African Union to handle the escalating levels of insecurity in the region, the need to invoke African Union decisions since they are binding commitments by African Heads of State; Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) should institute a Multi-stakeholder Forum where key stakeholders deliberate on issues related to the continent; need for advisory organ like ECOSOCC within the EAC; fast track the establishment of the ECOSOCC Secretariat and bring the youth on board through a cluster on Youth Affairs others.
Lastly, the meeting constituted an Interim Committee of 5 members that will be tasked to operationalize the National Chapter and strengthen the partnership with Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Story By Esther Nakayima