Post-conflict development: how South Africa can make a difference through SADC

Regional organisations are playing an increasingly important role in post-conflict development. As a major player in the region, what can South Africa achieve through SADC?

The important role that regional organisations can play in matters of peace and security has long been recognised. In Africa, the regional economic communities are increasingly taking on a role in responding to matters of peace and security, including post-conflict reconstruction and development (PCRD).

However, as intra-state conflict rises, spills over borders and often resurges after appearing to die down, implementing PCRD remains a daunting challenge. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an important actor in matters of peace and security, but, at present, it lacks the capacity to implement PCRD.

A new paper by the ISS finds that while there is some opportunity for South Africa to enhance and facilitate PCRD through SADC, the organisation must first overcome a number of challenges.

South Africa plays a significant role in matters of peace and security on the African continent. It contributed to the evolution of the African Union (AU) and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), and also facilitated the AU’s decision to establish the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC). South Africa was also involved in various mediation efforts as a member of SADC, notably in Zimbabwe’s post-2012 electoral crisis and Madagascar’s constitutional mediation process. Even so, South Africa’s ability to implement PCRD in the region through its SADC membership has been constrained for various reasons.

SADC’s main policy documents do not provide an easy basis from which to operate

Firstly, it has to manage perceptions over its actions within SADC, so as not to arouse accusations of hegemony. Secondly, South Africa is inadequately represented within SADC structures. This could be attributed to a combination of SADC staffing rules, diplomats’ perceptions of Gaborone not being a prime posting, and South Africa’s tendency to be inconsistent in its foreign policy. Thirdly, SADC espouses a state-centric, rather than human-centric definition of security. This makes post-conflict development difficult even at a conceptual level.

In addition to this, SADC’s main policy documents – namely the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO) – do not provide an easy basis from which to operate. Both of these have undergone review and version two of SIPO has already been adopted. The documents are long, extremely ambitious, and would arguably be better if merged into one.

To an extent, both the RISDP and SIPO II focus on promoting peace and security through integration. The specific focus of the RISDP is on economic and social policies, while SIPO II focuses on political and defence-related integration. At present, there are also a number of constraining factors in how SADC is structured. The organisation remains very hierarchical and different sections operate in silos. Furthermore, organisational accountability, agenda, and post-conflict development capacity remains located with the individual member states, instead of SADC itself.

Even so, there are a number of opportunities for South Africa to implement PCRD through SADC. South Africa has an impressive track record in conflict resolution; it has the largest economy of all the SADC member states; and also has substantial military power and experience to offer SADC. South Africa is also establishing the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA), which could potentially partner with the SADC Development Fund for implementing PCRD.

South Africa must show its commitment to SADC through solid foreign-policy actions

As the current head of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, South Africa should use this opportunity to positively influence the organisation and involve more of the member states to achieve a SADC brand (as opposed to an individual member-state brand) of multilateral PCRD implementation. However, in moving forward, South Africa must also clarify its commitment to SADC through solid foreign-policy actions, such as sending well-trained diplomats to Gaborone.

If SADC is to move forward, it needs to find a real post-liberation middle ground and achieve a unified agenda from which the organisation can operate. This will be essential in ameliorating the current constraining situation, which results from the difficult operational basis provided by the RISDP and SIPO II. At present the slow and opaque manner in which the RISDP and the SIPO were reviewed, along with the current lack of Monitoring and Evaluation capacity at SADC, has made it difficult for donors to gauge the status of the projects they have been funding.

It is critical that SADC better communicates with international partners – once again an area where South Africa can provide valuable technical assistance, based on its domestic experience of establishing the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.

While there is certainly a lot that South Africa can offer SADC, it also needs to demonstrate that it is committed to the organisation beyond merely incorporating that commitment in its foreign policy documents. As soon as SADC establishes a clear and logical policy basis from which to operate, it can also make great strides in its ability to respond to matters of peace and security in the region.

Naomi Kok, Consultant, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, ISS Pretoria

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