CONGOMA in collaboration with State of the Union (SOTU), Malawi Economic Justice Network and Eye for Development held four regional conferences in the Northern Region, Southern Region ,Eastern region and Central Region of Malawi in October and November 2015. The meeting attracted participation from civil society leaders at regional level. The conferences were aimed at disseminating the African Union Charters and Protocols (Policy and Legal Instruments) which Malawi has ratified and not ratified, level of compliance (domestication and implementation) and building capacity of the CSO leaders in holding Government institutions (e.g. District Councils) accountable.
It was noted that Malawi performs well on ratification of African Union Charters and Protocols (Policy and Legal Instruments). For example, out of the 16 legal and policy instruments reviewed, Malawi has ratified 12, representing 75% compliance level on signing and ratification. However it was further noted that not much is being done on domesticating and implementing.
District Civil Society Network members drawn from all Districts in the Northern Region, (with the exception of Likoma), Southern Region, Eastern Region and Central Region came together to find out how much they know about the legal instruments, what they have been doing, what they intend to do to make sure there is compliance and accountability, and how their respective Councils have been handling issues locally.
It was further noted that non-compliance and accountability in development projects even at District level poses a challenge. It was therefore agreed the CSOs should fight non-compliance and accountability issues through community based advocacy.
As a way of building capacity of the CSO leaders in engaging the District Councils on the African Union (AU) instruments, a training session on advocacy was done. The training focused on ways of conducting a good advocacy campaign, collaboration and networking in advocacy and communication in advocacy. Participants described the conference as an eye opener and called upon all Civil Society Organizations to practice community/people centered advocacy, as opposed to CSO centered advocacy. As such, it was emphasized that communities or citizens should be given the platform to champion advocacy campaigns to make it more relevant.
Among other issues, the participants raised problems like lack of information sharing on projects being implemented at District level, exorbitant market fees which disadvantage small-scale entrepreneurs, breaching procurement procedures, procurement committees at district level being exclusive (i.e. do not comprise all district development stakeholders), non-participatory budget processes, using out-dated District plans, lack of access to information on income and expenditure of the District Councils, Government officials demanding allowances on every developmental meeting and allegations of mismanagement of public resources.
These need to be tackled at District level if the Districts are to attain development, including AU instruments.