Southern African Peoples' Alternative Perspectives and Proposals on Regional Cooperation and Development

01 June 2004

Following a three day conference, in August 2000, of twenty four independent peoples civil society organisations, sectoral networks and coalitions from many sectors and from all the countries of Southern Africa, the following declaration was produced. This expresses the perspectives of peoples organisations from across the region, and calls on other such organisations to endorse these positions on some of the broad economic dimensions of regional cooperation and integration that are being considered by the governments of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); and for other such peoples organisations to join together to add their own proposals and demands in other areas of concern which are all integral to a holistic program of regional development cooperation.


"Making Southern African Development Cooperation and Integration a People-centered and People-driven Regional Challenge to Globalisation

As members of community-based development coalitions, trade union and other labour organisations, faith-based social development organisations, campaigning networks for debt cancellation and reparations, alliances against the IMF and World Bank, a women and trade network, development NGOs and popular education, information and capacity building bodies - and as participants in the 'Southern African Peoples Solidarity Network' (SAPSN) gathered together in Windhoek on the occasion of the Summit of the SADC Heads of State, 1-7 August 2000, we as

Peoples' organisations state

  • We are united by our common history of colonisation and mutual support in our struggles for national liberation, as well as our shared experience of the depredations of apartheid and its destabilisation and devastation across the whole region. We are also conscious that we are part of a region enormously rich in human and natural resources which has the potential to become a community of nations enjoying peace and human security, guaranteed human rights and equitable human development. But these aims will only be achieved if peoples organisations give an effective lead to the governments of the region in order that they work together towards this historic goal.
  • We are committed to a vision of a united Southern Africa in which local and community-based development is the fundamental substance of national development programmes. These, in turn, will be strengthened by coordinated and combined programmes of people-based regional development, and the creation of an integrated development community in Southern Africa. Such an integrated region would also be a building block towards broader African peoples cooperation and unity, and could be an effective economic and political base from which to challenge capitalist globalisation.
  • We note, however, that the overwhelming majority of the people of our region are living in conditions of appalling poverty and already suffering the effects of an AIDS epidemic of potentially catastrophic proportions; but that the governments of our countries
    • have for long mainly engaged in rhetorical declarations about national development, and development cooperation and regional integration, with few effective achievements;
    • are mainly concerned with preserving and promoting their own individual and group status, power and privileges, and their personal and aspirant-class appropriation of our nations' resources; and, for these reasons, are frequently engaged in divisive competition and even dangerous conflicts amongst themselves at the expense of the interests of the people at national and regional levels;
    • are, at the same time, committed to supporting and defending each other whenever the interests and power of the ruling elites come into conflict with the human rights, and the democratic and development aspirations of their own populations; and are using SADC as a self-serving 'old boys' club' for such mutual support;
    • are increasingly responsive and subordinate to external inducements and pressures from governmental agencies in the richest industrialised countries, and their global corporations, banks and other financial organisations, and the 'multilateral' institutions dominated and used by them.
    We note also the grossly uneven development within and between the countries of the region caused by a long history of deliberate political and economic programs in favour of the needs of South African and international companies, and privileged (mainly white) elites; and that, with the increasing penetration of the region by South African business, the dominant role of the South African economy in the region has not diminished but actually increased since 1994.

Peoples' organisations demand

  • The Governments of SADC must reject claims that the transformation and development of the regional economy should (and can) be driven by national and regional 'market forces' and should be structured to serve and further the business interests of 'indigenous' private enterprise and 'national' capital in the countries of the region. This applies particularly to South African trading companies, banks and corporations, often operating in conjunction with their international partners, which will reinforce not reduce the inherited inequalities within, and imbalances between our countries.
  • The governments of SADC must desist from their collaboration and collusion with national and international political and economic forces and neo-liberal agencies, particularly the IMF and World Bank, to turn SADC into an 'open region' of free trade, free capital movements and investment rights, to the benefit of international traders, transnational corporations and financial speculators. This runs counter to the potential for full and effective, internally-generated and rooted national and regional development.
  • The governments of SADC must provide for the effective participation of organised forces of civil society, and respond to the voices and needs of the people of the region for peace and security, democracy and development; and actively commit all the governments of the region to multilaterally negotiated cooperation and equitable development throughout the region. This must go hand in hand with independent popular initiatives for the empowerment of people in their own organisations and communities and at all levels of the regional community.
  • The governments of SADC must insist upon the illegitimacy of our purported national 'debts' and the continuous outflow of our hard-earned national financial resources into the coffers of the governments of the richest industrialised countries, private banks and the IMF and World Bank. Our governments must actively prepare, together with other 'debtor' countries like ours - and with the support of international peoples movements against debt - for collective and concerted repudiation of those debts if they are not promptly and definitively canceled. This must be carried further with demands for reparations for the long-standing economic, social and ecological damages imposed by such agencies upon our countries.
  • The governments of SADC must unite and act together with other countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, and with democratic forces everywhere, to challenge and replace the currently dominant neo-liberal ideology and globalising capitalist system. This process must be started immediately by dealing with the dominant instruments of globalisation , particularly the IMF, World Bank and the WTO, whose policies and programmes are so manifestly detrimental to our economies, environments, societies, cultures and people.

Peoples' organisations propose

On trade

Our governments must drop their uncritical embrace of the arguments for 'free trade' within our region which are reflected in the SADC trade agreement; and, instead,

  • create a negotiated variable and graduated preferential trade area within and through which to create clear and effective production development and diversification strategies for communities, national economies and the region as a whole;
  • replace the liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation policies in national and regional programmes and create trade and development cooperation agreements for Southern Africa which address region-specific issues and are not predetermined or constricted by 'compliance' with WTO terms and trade-related conditionalities, or any similar terms in 'post-Lome' agreements;
  • convince the South African government to revise its free trade agreement with the European Union where it is in conflict with the declared priority goals of cooperation and development in the SADC region, including South Africa.

On investment

Our governments have to abandon the futile illusion that foreign investors will respond to 'positive macro-economic signals' and an 'open region'; and that such reliance on private capital will create development; and, instead

  • recognise that capital is a social relation not a neutral and disinterested financial instrument and, as the embodiment of social/class interests, any growth that such capital produces is distorted and incidental to its main aim of self-expansion (or profit);
  • build on the widespread experiences in the countries of the region, and elsewhere, that the free or 'liberalised' movement of capital is not conducive to financial stability and sound economic development, and requires strategic regulation;
  • base national and regional investment and production policies on the strategic direction of private national and international capital projects - where and in so far as they are required - for specific selected purposes, and clearly defined periods; but
  • prioritise the strategic mobilisation of inwardly-oriented and more varied and committed internal investment resources including public (governmental), parastatal, cooperative and community resources.

On labour

All the governments of the region have to recognise the vital role that labour plays in all economic projects/enterprises and national economic development, and recognise that governments have to adopt effective social and economic development policies that

  • bring to an end the forced migration of millions of workers in search of employment and survival resources for their families, for this is deeply disruptive of families and undermines community cohesion and stability;
  • tackle effectively and with urgency the dramatic growth of unemployment throughout the region, that contributes further towards the flows of economic refugees across borders and between rural and urban areas within all the countries of the region;
  • develop holistic and integrated urban and rural programmes to enable people to create their own incomes or obtain employment incomes, economic security and social and cultural fulfillment within their own communities;
  • incorporate in such social and development programmes, inter-governmental agreements to deal with the brain drain of precious skills from the poorer to the more developed and well-endowed countries of the region;
  • create economic, political and social conditions that will allow for the free movement of people throughout the region.

Peoples' organisations declare

  • We are committed to deepen and extend our experiences of cooperation and solidarity, our strong sense of mutual recognition as the people of this region of Africa, to build on our joint needs and shared aspirations for the common benefit of our people; and at the same time work to counter any negative or conflictual attitudes towards each other amongst some sectors of our populations.
  • We are also committed to deepen and extend our strategies for cooperation and joint action with other regional peoples cooperation initiatives in the rest of Africa, as well as Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean towards a people-driven challenge to the currently dominant processes and institutions of economic globalisation; that are anti-democratic in their functioning and effects, destabilising of weaker economies and communities throughout the world, creating ever-increasing polarisation, with inequitable and divisive effects amongst peoples, and destructive impacts upon the world's resources and the global environment.
  • Whether or not our governments accept and act on the above vitally important demands, we as members of peoples organisations from the whole of Southern Africa will continue to pursue these aims and deepen our work in and with existing and emerging mass movements to challenge and change our governments' policies and strategies; and - if that fails - to change our governments.