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Home / Sadc Related documents / Parliament


The SADC Parliamentary Forum

SADC does not have a parliamentary body like the European Parliament. However, SADCPF aspires to develop into a regional parliamentary structure. Established in 1996, it was approved by the Summit in 1997 as an autonomous institution of SADC, not officially belonging to SADC. The SADCPF is an international organisation in its own right but linked to SADC. According to its constitution it is a Parliamentary Consultative Assembly, striving to involve people and parties in SADC in the regional integration process. Among other things, it aims to strengthen SADC’s implementation capacity by involving parliamentarians, their parties and NGOs in SADC activities, promoting the principles of human rights and democracy and educating people on SADC. SADCPF is constituted by representatives of national parliaments, four parliamentarians per country. The Plenary Assembly is the main policy-making body and makes recommendations to SADC how to improve its operation, giving policy advice and scrutinizing the SADC budget. It has the right to send observers to the SADC Summits. Assembly decisions are implemented by an Executive Committee, administratively supported by a Secretariat based in Windhoek, Namibia.

SADCPF is considered one of the most important structures in the region that brings national parliaments together across party lines. It is the only forum that brings together political parties across national boundaries. However, it remains to be seen if parties can transcend their still national focus and make serious inputs to the regional integration process. Parties could make a meaningful contribution to integration and SADCPF is an important platform for that.

However, the success of SADCPF depends on to what extent it can be acknowledged by SADC. At the moment, the relationship between the two is far from smooth. SADC is very reluctant to transform the Forum into a proper regional parliament with powers to hold the SADC Summit accountable. It seems as if the SADC members are not interested in having their decisions scrutinized and power circumscribed by a supranational parliament. In fact, notwithstanding the non-evolvement of the Forum into a parliament, the Forum has not even managed to establish a formal relationship with the Executive. Instead the current informal links are reproduced and strengthened. This goes against the fact that as a parliamentary institution, even though not a formal parliament, the SADCPF should be distinct from an executive institution like the Secretariat. The official SADC rationale for not establishing a SADC Parliament is twofold: it would put too many financial and resource constraints on the members and the ceding of sovereignty by national parliaments. SADCPF acknowledge these arguments and believe that the financial problems could be solved by the secondment of staff from national parliaments and donor funding. Also, regarding the fear of giving up national sovereignty, SADCPF claim that the new parliament could perform its legislative functions in full consultation with SADC authorities without infringing on national legislation power. According to one scholar, the great difficulties of creating a regional parliament is a strong indication that Southern Africa is very far from supranational political integration. It remains to be seen what the prospects are for a regional parliament.




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