SADC Regional Symposium on Democracy and Elections
March 30, 2024
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Regional symposium on Moving Beyond Rhetoric: The Role of Regional Economic Communities and Normative Frameworks in advancing democratic governance and Electoral Integrity in Southern Africa

Normative instruments guide Africa as a region to advance democratic governance in its member states. Indeed, this is the essence of African shared values, defined as those norms, principles and practices developed over time to serve as the foundation for collective actions and solutions to address the political, social and economic challenges that impede Africa’s development and integration. One principal instrument developed at the continental level by the African Union is the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which emphasises the significance of democracy, good governance, popular participation and the rule of law as shared values on the continent.

Regional Economic Communities (RECs), including the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), have expanded beyond their economic integration role to promote continental norms on democracy and governance. This is in line with the vision of the 1991 Abuja Treaty, which establishes RECs as critical pillars to furthering democratic governance by requiring them to cascade from the continental to the regional level, key ingredients such as human and people rights, accountability, economic justice and public participation in state affairs.

SADC has even developed its normative frameworks for holding democratic elections, recognising that elections are critical in advancing the democratic agenda. Whilst these normative instruments exist at continental and regional levels, and their adoption by countries signifies a formal commitment to promoting democratic principles and electoral integrity, adherence to these remains a challenge in the AU member states.

With this in light, the Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) has organised The Southern Africa regional symposium, a significant initiative to address critical challenges in advancing democratic governance and electoral integrity in the region.

The regional symposium is being organised under the auspices of the Charter Project Africa, funded by the European Union, and the USAID-funded programme called Political Parties for Resilient and Inclusive Democracies in Southern Africa.

This gathering will focus on the role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and normative frameworks, particularly those outlined in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), in promoting democratic values.

Objectives of the Symposium

Raise Awareness and Share Knowledge

The symposium aims to create awareness and share knowledge about the AU and SADC norms on advancing democratic governance and electoral integrity. This is crucial for political actors, civil society, and other stakeholders to understand and effectively implement these norms in their respective countries.

Facilitate Peer-to-Peer Learning on Civic Technologies

Systematic peer-to-peer learning on using civic technologies will be facilitated during the symposium. This focus acknowledges the evolving role of technology, including social media and digital tools, in enhancing citizen engagement, strengthening democratic processes, and ensuring electoral integrity.

Identify Mechanisms for Advocacy and Engagement

Establishing meaningful collaborations is essential for promoting democracy and good governance in Southern Africa. Hence, this symposium seeks to identify effective mechanisms for advocacy and engagement between civil society, political actors, and members of the African Governance Architecture (AGA), including SADC.

Target Stakeholders

DWF Grantees (Charter Project Africa): Civil society organisations from four African Union member states focused on promoting democracy through civic initiatives, particularly those led by under-represented groups.

Political Party Representatives (Political Parties for Resilient and Inclusive Democracies in Southern Africa): Political party representatives from Southern Africa who are part of the Political Parties for Resilient and Inclusive Democracies in Southern Africa programme.

AGA Members: Selected members from the African Governance Architecture platform, including AGA Secretariat, APRM, ECOSOCC, and SADC.

Donor and Project Partners: Representatives from the European Union (EU), USAID, Charter Project Africa Consortium

Partner CSOs and Affiliates: Representatives from partner CSOs and affiliates, such as the Data for Governance Alliance Project, African Governance Architecture Support Project, UN Women

The symposium provides a unique platform for diverse stakeholders to collaboratively address challenges and leverage normative frameworks and regional structures to advance democratic governance and electoral integrity in Southern Africa. By focusing on awareness, peer learning, and effective advocacy, the symposium aims to foster a shared understanding among participants, ensuring a collective effort toward achieving the goals of Agenda 2063 for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa.

Participation is strictly by invitation.

Download the Symposium Info Pack

Public viewing invite: The public is invited to watch sessions on 12- 14 March from 9:30 to11:30 CAT on Livestream at

About The Political Parties for Resilient and Inclusive Democracies in Southern Africa

Political Parties for Resilient and Inclusive Democracy in Southern Africa is a five-year regional programme that DWF is implementing with the support of USAID (Southern Africa).

The programme presently covers Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. It recognises that inclusive, issues-based democratic political parties are critical to a successful democratic system. This is because political parties provide the main channel for articulating issues of public concern, linking the public to their government. The programme seeks to promote representative multiparty systems with democratic and responsive political parties and electoral integrity in Southern Africa.

The programme further recognises the importance of political parties understanding better how they can meaningfully and constructively participate in elections and advance electoral reforms that contribute to effective democratic governance and electoral integrity. Against this background, the overall goal for POPRID is to support a trend toward representative multiparty systems with political parties that are responsive to citizens while providing targeted assistance to promote electoral integrity.

This is a successor project to the Southern Africa Political Parties and Dialogue (SAPP&D) Programme, which DWF implemented between 2017 and 2023 in Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia, focusing on similar objectives.