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A charter stipulating how the African Development Bank engages with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will be launched at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in May 2015.
The charter defines why civil society matters to the Bank, and lays out specific actions that the Bank will undertake to strengthen this partnership. The charter builds on previous relationships between the two, especially under the 2012 Framework for Enhanced Engagement with Civil Society Organisations. It re-energises and defines new areas of engagement.
Some of the ways in which the Bank will work with civil society groups include consulting and sharing information, collaborating at project level, facilitating exchanges between the two, and reporting on progress of projects.
At a meeting held on March 31, 2015, a CSO-AfDB committee made contributions to a draft charter, which will be validated and adopted before the launch. “The African Development Bank values the contribution of civil society organisations. Over the years, it has learnt that by engaging with civil society we can improve the development outcomes of our investments,” said Emmanuel Mbi, the Bank’s First Vice-President.
The significance of CSOs in checking institutions also came into focus. “We can take advantage of the technical expertise, institutional support and grassroots experience of CSOs. They play many important roles in social development, improving governance and demand for greater accountability for the benefit of citizens of this continent,” he added.
The overarching objective of the charter is to increase the Bank’s accountability to CSOs and Africa’s citizens, according to Simon Mizrahi, AfDB’s Director of Quality Assurance and Results. “The Bank will achieve greater results and impact through strengthened engagement with CSOs and citizen,” he observed.
Citizen engagement is on the agenda of the Bank’s Ten-Year Strategy adopted in 2013. It recognises the need to support citizen initiatives that hold governments and service providers accountable for better service delivery.
Neil Cole, Executive Secretary of the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative, pointed out the importance of citizen and CSOs participation in interrogating budget formulation processes. “Greater transparency helps to increase legitimacy and trust in government. As transparency improves, compliance in payment of taxes will increase, contributing to development,” he said.
The AfDB has already developed a CSO mapping database, which helps identify competent CSOs which the Bank can partner with at various levels – corporate, regional, country and project – especially on policy issues, among other things. These have implications on design and implementation of projects.