Peer Review Takes the Concerns of SA Civil Society to the Heart of Its Report

Cape Times (South Africa), December 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

Peer Review Takes the Concerns of SA Civil Society to the Heart of Its Report


The much-maligned African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) seems to have redeemed itself by issuing a report on South Africa which reflects the concerns of ordinary South Africans rather than the government.

There is a degree of irony in that. And a degree of hope, that the institutions which the new Africa is launching to try to change the continent's ethos might succeed, in spite of the efforts of African government to thwart them. Even the South African government, it seems.

The APRM, a key programme of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), was very much a product of President Thabo Mbeki's efforts to uplift the continent.

The idea is for the "peers" - fellow African leaders and countries - to assess the political and economic governance of each other.

Throughout the peer review process in South Africa, which began more than a year ago, the ANC government and civil society conducted a running battle over the control of the process. The government tried to keep the process pretty much in its own hands while civil society protested that, since government was the key player, it should not also be the referee.

Though government did make concessions, in the end most civil society people were still unhappy with the self-assessment report which South Africa produced after a long process of consultation with all segments of society. They felt that the government had managed to impose itself finally by dominating the writing of the final self-assessment report.

Public service and administration minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, who chaired the South African APRM governing council, handed over the self-assessment report to Nigerian economist Professor Adebayo Adedeji, the chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons, a few months ago.

This panel of impartial and honourable Africans is the key to the peer review process. Yet Adedeji caused some concern on receiving the report, because his flattering remarks about all the good things South Africa had done in the field of governance suggested he might not be so impartial after all.

Now it seems that Adedeji was simply being smart and diplomatic. …

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