Towards An Enabling Environment For Youth And Child Rights Civil Society Organisations: A Synthesis Report

This publication is a synthesis report which documents the level of preparedness for the Busan Agenda among Youth and Child Rights civil society organisations (CSOs) in four countries, namely: Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania and South Africa. The report was commissioned by Reality of Aid-Africa (RoA-A) as part of its oversight role over[RA1] monitoring the commitments of governments and their development partners over the Busan Agenda to[RA2] usher an enabling environment for effective development.

ROA-A is of the position that the capacity of Youth and Child Rights CSOs to engage in a multi stakeholder framework at the national level must be strengthened. To achieve this, African governments need to fully implement their commitment on enabling CSOs to exercise their role as independent development actors, with emphasis on improving their legal and regulatory framework. In this regard, relevant legal, institutional and structural frameworks must be reformed for this to take effect.

The continent’s CSO preparedness towards the implementation of the Busan Agenda at regional and national levels remains paramount. This is largely because the region has the largest concentration of countries that receive aid. It is also a region where the legal framework and the working environment for CSOs is increasingly becoming disenabling. Therefore, it is important to design relevant strategies to exploit the opportunities provided for in the Busan outcome context while simultaneously guarding against the threats it poses to CSO work in Africa.

Six years after the signing of the Busan Agenda Framework in 2011, and nine years after the Accra Agenda on Action Aid Effectiveness meeting[RA3] , presents an opportune moment to assess the progress made toward the two milestones’ commitments. This is undertaken through analysis of the working social, economic and legal environment in Africa. Africa remains critical for such a study because the region stands to benefit the most, should the Busan Agenda become a reality.

The first part of the report highlights the findings on the status of Universal Rights within each of the four countries. The study found that, because the four countries have freedoms and universal rights entrenched in their constitutions, this evidently had ushered in some degree of liberty for the Youth and Child Rights CSOs to form, register and operate. This was however juxtaposed with a steady shrinkage of operational space. The research[RA4] showed that his conjecture was related to how governments dichotomised CSOs into service providers, versus the governance and accountability organisations and categorized them under the friend/enemy binary. The result was a negative tension between government and those viewed as the enemy of the state.

The following section highlights CSO relations with government emphasising how government apparatus responded to criticism particularly from Youth and Child Rights CSOs. The study iterates the adverse actions that government took, which included intimidation, invocation of state security terrorism threats and/or public disturbance, as justification for suspension of CSO members’ human rights.

The section on Policy Influencing highlights how each of the governments has made progress in including CSOs in policy processes. While there was no contestation in terms of the goals set by the Busan Outcome in this context, the study illuminates the many challenges in optimising this undertaking. Key, are challenges pertaining to Youth and Child Rights CSOs’ capacity, organisational, geographic reach and location and inaccurate representation of CSO’ s policy input.

This is followed by a section on findings on Donor and CSO relations. These unveiled how the topic remains a highly-contested site, which evokes emotive narratives around difference and abuse of power, reminiscent of colonial and settlers’ dichotomy. Part of the contestation is evident around the alleged lack of commitment by multilateral and international donors in seeing the Busan Agenda through. Many Youth and Child Rights CSOs research respondents felt that donors had not taken any concrete transformative steps to meet the agenda requirements.

The last part of the report lists the recommendations directed at all stakeholders: governments, CSOs, constituencies, local and international donors and aims to elicit a reflective process at all stages, initiating some measure of redress to bring Busan Outcome’s objective of effective aid closer to reality.