November 7, 2002

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Nepad to institute political peer review system after all

African countries will, after all, be subjected to a voluntary review of their political and human rights behaviour under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), and this will later become obligatory under the auspices of the African Union (AU).

Chief South African government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe announced details of the peer review structure after the cabinet meeting of November 6, saying the cabinet welcomed the progress made in the implementation of Nepad at the recent heads of state implementation committee meeting in Abuja. Whether or not the peer review mechanism would include political review has been a subject of considerable speculation since South African President Thabo Mbeki said a week ago it would include only economic matters.

Concern was expressed in diplomatic circles that if peer review was left in the structures of the AU, then maverick African states would be able to lower the standards applied. But if political review remained within the ambit of Nepad, then it would be tied to the principle of more development aid in return for more democracy.

The cabinet's statement stressed that the Nepad peer review mechanism would be comprehensive. Netshitenzhe said that this meant Nepad's peer review system would include political matters on a voluntary basis until such time as the structures of the AU were able to take them over. When that happened they would be "obligatory" to all member states. This was expected to take some years and this was why the Nepad system was urgently developing criteria for peer review and indicators for measuring performance on political and economic governance and to finalise the way in which nations would accede to peer review. "This will start the process of self-assessment on the part of the continent, in the interest of socioeconomic development and realising the basic human rights of Africa's people," the cabinet statement said.

The minimum standards, which all member states were expected to meet, were contained in the constitutive act of the AU. Because the AU structures do not yet exist, the Nepad secretariat, under supervision of the AU committee of eminent persons, would push ahead with establishing the voluntary peer review mechanism. (Business Day, Johannesburg)


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