Southern Africa is a region with great potential. The region, however, faces a number of critical challenges- among them, serious water and energy challenges that are exacerbated by climate change. Access to clean and sustainable water and energy resources is instrumental in all the efforts to alleviate poverty for the region’s population. In effect, energy and water are critical ingredients to the SADC Region’s efforts aimed at advancing economic development, regional integration and poverty reduction strategies. Indeed, improvement in access to water and energy is likely to have a positive impact on other aspects of life such as health, education and overall economic development. This potentially accelerates the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDGs 6, 7, and 9 on increasing access to safe water and sanitation, access to affordable clean energy and infrastructural development for industrialisation of the Member States.
Greater influences and active participation in policy-making by political actors as well as other national leaders are central to building national (or regional) water and energy resource governance mechanisms. These include equipping political actors with the tools, knowledge and information which will assist them in devising and implementing targeted policies that are likely to improve water and energy resource management in their countries.
Political Parties are key policy influencers. In many instances, however, they tend not to have the requisite knowledge and experiences for them to ably deliver on their mandate or indeed on what society expects of them. This notwithstanding, political parties have enormous potential in championing energy and water as priority policy areas. Political parties have the power to ensure that policies and strategies that would improve access and management of these resources are in place.
Furthermore, political parties play a critical role in a country’s development. Political competition, as characterized by inclusive, issues-based political parties, managed through democratic institutions and organisations, is critical to a successful democratic system. Parties also provide the main channel for articulating issues of public concern, linking the public to their government. Effective political parties understand the needs of citizens, using these to develop policy positions on issues of public concern, sparking public discussion and engagement.
Political parties in government make critical public policy decisions which have significant budgetary and broader public implications. On the other hand, those political parties in opposition play an equally significant role, even if not in government, to shape public policy decisions, through playing an oversight role, extracting accountability on policy implementation and budgetary spending and even through public debate in society. It is thus critical that all political parties be imbued with policy capacity in order to play their key policy decision-making, implementation, oversight and accountability roles and responsibilities.
Most importantly, while the discourse around energy and water tends to be more nationally focused, these resources have a regional dimension both in terms of the challenges and solutions that they are associated with. This regional symposium provides political parties and other relevant stakeholders in the targeted countries in southern Africa with a unique regional platform to introspect, reflect on and share experiences and lessons on how political parties can best advance the agenda of sustainable access to and governance and management of energy and water resources. The symposium also provides the participants with an opportunity to have an in-depth appreciation of the centrality of the energy-water nexus not only to the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) but also to the regional nature of these resources thereby enhancing the necessity of going beyond nationally inspired solutions when political actors are addressing these challenges.
The symposium will build on and enrich the various initiatives that DWF has been undertaking over the recent years in strengthening participatory policy and platform development that accurately reflects citizen identified needs to explicitly include access to clean water and energy and management of these resources. Thus, this regional event will also serve as a good foundation for the much needed regional network of political actors and other relevant stakeholders to facilitate sharing of experiences and best practices in southern Africa on the role of political parties not only in the management and governance of natural resources and climate change but also in the deepening issue-based politics in particular and democratic governance in general.
In light of the foregoing, this regional symposium seeks to realise the following objectives:
- To enhance the knowledge and appreciation of political actors on the centrality of energy and water to the attainment of SDGs;
- To deepen political parties’ understanding of the SADC regional commitments and regional regulatory and policy frameworks with respect to energy and water
- To share experiences and lessons on the role of politics and political parties in advancing or undermining the water and energy agenda in the region
This symposium will draw participants at senior leadership level from the parliamentary political parties that are participating in the SAPP&D Programme in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia as well as selected relevant other stakeholders from Eswatini.
The Symposium will take place on 24-26 May 2022 at Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosebank, South Africa.