Building inclusive, sustainable national water and energy resource governance mechanisms

Southern Africa is a region with great potential. However, the region faces a number of critical challenges, among them water and energy challenges that are exacerbated by climate change. Access to clean and sustainable water and energy resources lies at the root of efforts to alleviate poverty for the region’s population. As stated by his Excellency, Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana, at the special SADC ministerial workshop on water and energy on 20 June 2016: “Energy and water are critical ingredients to the SADC region’s efforts aimed at advancing economic development, regional integration and poverty reduction strategies.” Improvement of access to water and energy will have a positive impact on other aspects of life such as health, education and overall economic development.

Greater influences and active engagement in policy-making by political actors, as well as local communities are central to building inclusive, sustainable and accessible national water and energy resource governance mechanisms. For this to happen, political actors and local communities need to have relevant knowledge, information, tools and instruments that can assist them in devising, implementing and overseeing targeted policies that are likely to improve water and energy resource management in their respective countries and communities. This is the primary aim of the Southern Africa Political Parties and Dialogue Programme (SAPP&D).

SAPP&D seeks to strengthen the democratic structures and institutions of political parties in Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi, to better respond to and represent the needs of society, particularly in the areas of water and energy resource management. In this way, the SAPP&D Programme also aims to contribute to the realisation of SADC’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Strategy and Action, SADC’s Regional Water Infrastructure Programme as well as the deepening of democratic governance in the region.

Specifically, the programme will strengthen the ability of political parties to develop and implement participatory policies around access to sustainable water supply, clean water, and clean energy, using evidence-based knowledge, while at the same time enhancing a democratic political culture that supports the meaningful participation of women, youth and marginalised individuals. The programme will also facilitate the establishment of a Southern Africa regional network through which political parties and other actors in the targeted countries can share best practices, lessons learned and knowledge on their engagement in energy and water resources management, as well as on strengthening democratic structures and practices.

SAPP&D is implemented by Democracy Works Foundation, in partnership with the Centre for Multiparty Democracy-Malawi (CMD-M) and Freedom House Southern Africa (FH-SA) and is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CMD-M is a membership organisation for political parties who are represented in the National Assembly of Malawi. It sets out to ensure the entrenchment of multiparty democracy in Malawi. FH-SA has focused on strengthening elections and civic mobilisation, good governance, defence of human rights, rule of law, and an independent media.

SAPP&D is currently winding up its inception phase and preparing to begin implementation in its programme countries. Currently, the programme is conducting a Political Economy Analysis (PEA) in each of the programme countries and in the region. The aim of the PEA is to conduct a situational analysis of energy and water resources management, identify and analyse the key actors in both the water and energy sectors with regard to development or implementation of water and energy policies and strategies, and analyse the incentive frameworks of the key actors and stakeholders involved in the energy and water resources management. Additionally, we aim to review the impact of regional policies and actors on local water and energy management and investigate the management of transboundary waters and common energy use.

Additionally, SAPP&D is currently undertaking an assessment of political party capacities to manage their organisations, create inclusive structures and make inclusive policy, particularly around the management of and access to energy and water. These assessments will result in the development of action plans to support political parties to develop relevant policies and systems.

Upon the conclusion of this data gathering, SAPP&D will commence in earnest the development of action plans and the implementation of capacity building programmes for political parties. Through SAPP&D, political parties will develop more inclusive and democratic structures that will be able to be responsive to the needs of their constituents and develop policy informed by citizen needs.

Shannon Bernhardt has significant experience in programme management, leadership and youth development, curriculum design and strategic management. He previously served as the Program Director at the South Africa-Washington International Program (SAWIP), a non-profit development program that aims to support students from the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and the Western Cape to become servant leaders and engaged citizens in their communities. Prior to this, Shannon worked at the University of Cape Town as a student development co-ordinator; responsible for oversight student organisations and development agencies, grant making and skills development. He is also an experienced civic skills facilitator and coach. Shannon holds a Bachelor of Social Science Honours in Political Communication and is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy in Higher Education. His research interests include civic education, democratic consolidation and youth participation in politics.

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