By Falilou Mbacké Cissé (The Alliance for Rebuilding Governance in Africa, February 2005)
FROM NETWORK TO ALLIANCE: WHY AND HOW?
At the end of 1999, as a result of the crisis of the Nation-State in Africa, institutions such as the WARF, FPH and REPADEG became actively involved in the issue of governance and decided to participate in public debate and action in Africa, with two goals in mind:
work towards an African statement of governance;
change African ideas and practices in the management of public affairs.
These institutions decided to launch an “inter-African process of dialogue on governance” with at least two distinct phases:
enter the field of African initiatives on governance as a distinct entity;
influence policy change in Africa.
It is from this point of view that the change from ‘Governance network’ to ‘Alliance to rebuild governance’ must be understood: the network brought us into the field; the alliance will allow us to rebuild.
A NETWORK TO GET STARTED
The initiators of the process were first of all anxious to get into the field of governance in Africa and be recognised as a credible actor. They chose a network structure for their initial organisation and operating mode because they needed to enter the field without creating an institution–an additional formal structure–and they needed to mobilise actors by giving them a feeling of belonging to a joint project constructed around shared values and objectives. So a network of members was set up as a distinct entity without legal status or formal structure.
The need for recognition was satisfied through four major actions:
An inclusive approach to mobilise the real actors in governance. Colleges were set up as a means of identifying, bringing together and organising actors with experiences to share and analyse.
Although these colleges corresponded to the various communities and socio-professional categories, they were somewhat limited by their homogenous makeup (individuals), irregularity of operation (funding), and difficulties expanding (new members brought in by current ones).
Definition of pertinent themes for reflection and action: the Network used the different levels of governance (local, national, regional and worldwide) to guide the development of its work. The linking (articulation) of these levels was one of the main benefits of its reflection.
Quality production valued by actors in governance, in particular States: after painstaking collection and analysis of experiences, the Network established a diagnosis of governance in Africa (Bamako report) and made 15 concrete proposals on how to start changing Africa (proposals booklet).
Development of its own identity: through these phases–that the Network undertook alone–it has unquestionably acquired its own character and credibility. It has proven its efficacy–and above all its originality–with a tri-fold ‘action-reflection-action’ process, articulation of levels of governance and emergence of the ‘legitimate governance’ concept.
These things having been acquired, and in accordance with the ‘process’ idea announced at the outset, a new phase has begun. This new phase corresponds to the Alliance, which represents both a continuation of the process and a break with some elements of the Network.
From collecting experiences we have moved on to forming an alliance of initiatives, even though experience collection must continue in order to sustain reflection and prevent initiative-supporting organisations from taking the place of the basic actors in governance. As a result, we have moved on from a logic of physical persons with experience to a logic of organisations with initiatives–initiatives that correspond to the voice of real actors in governance.
From a feeling of belonging (membership) we have moved on to sharing with others a commitment to bring an initiative to a successful conclusion (alliance). The Alliance constitutes a working mode for independent organisations with shared concerns.
AN ALLIANCE FOR REBUILDING
In addition to the Network’s organisational and operational constraints, our idea of governance and goal to rebuild were also major factors in determining the change. Indeed, for the goal of legitimate governance to be achieved, three challenges must be met:
Link initiatives and supporting organisations: The ‘Governance Network’ shares African public space with other initiatives that have the same concerns and consequently reflect and act on the same issue (governance) but with different angles of attack. So getting closer to as many initiatives as possible, and forming alliances, just makes sense. Such a strategy is also likely to strengthen the legitimacy of these initiatives and make us all more efficient. Change will not happen by itself: it needs to be a common goal and have the support of as many influential actors as possible, so it must be extended to all of Africa.
Significant effort must go into identifying and contacting these initiatives in each country, so that strong, credible magnet centres can be set up. This is where the idea of initiative groups comes in: these groups should act as frameworks for convergence amongst initiatives.
Our experience with colleges has shown that, to be viable and legitimate, initiative groups must be led and composed primarily of initiative-supporting organisations that, like the Network, have proven not only their commitment to governance in Africa, but also their credibility and capacity to act, by striking a balance between action and reflection.
The Alliance should also allow us to link existing initiatives in regions across the continent, particularly in those the network was unable to reach as a result of its scant resources. Regional magnets should be set up. ‘Leader’ organisations should be identified as soon as possible so that these magnets can be created.
Promote, enrich and validate our proposals: opening up to others provides an opportunity for mutual enrichment. It is also a way to make shared convictions come out on top. It is, however, an approach built on the concrete contributions of each entity. For this reason–and also as a means of supporting it–we are submitting our proposals booklet to allies. In return, we have a right to expect other initiatives to discuss our proposals and complete them (in pertinence and in number) with their own production. Thus from Network production we will progress to Alliance production validated by all.
Implement our proposals and have an impact on public policy: since our final objective is to rebuild governance, we need to identify initiatives supported by organisations whose presence in the field or contact with real actors in governance provide opportunities for trying out the Alliance’s principles and proposals. In the same manner, the Alliance should bring together initiatives supported by organisations with a well-known capacity for mobilisation and national and international scope. Such organisations can constitute an influential force to help overcome future resistance.