ARUSHA - The East African Community (EAC) in collaboration with the East African Law Society (EALS) will this week convene a forum aimed at increasing the participation by civil society and ordinary people in the regional integration process.
The meeting dubbed; “Strengthening civil society in the EAC: Sharing experiences with other regional economic blocs” will be held in Arusha beginning Friday.
According to a statement issued by EALS, the idea is to drum up support for efforts aimed at strengthening civil society to ensure that the needs and aspirations of East Africans are taken care of in the proposed economic integration programme.
About 100 delegates and representatives of civil society organisations in the region, are expected to attend the forum to be opened by EAC Secretary General, Juma Mwapachu.
The forum will also attract participants from the West African Civil Society Organisation Forum (WASCOF), the Southern African Development Community-Council of NGOs and the Addis Ababa Centre for Citizen Participation at the African Union.
Participants will share views on the integration, challenges and lessons learnt by civil society in other regional blocs and come up with practical recommendations for the EAC.
Matters to be discussed will include the envisaged EAC Common Market and its effect on citizens in the regional integration process, while also seeking long term linkages between different regional blocs in Africa.
Meanwhile, the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the EAC Common Market is expected to wind up its work at the 9th and last round of negotiations scheduled for late this month in Uganda.
It will thereafter submit its report (draft EAC Common Market Protocol) to the sectoral council on the Common Market, which is scheduled to meet next month in Uganda.
There is still need for bold steps to be taken while negotiating and resolving critical issues in the proposed Common Market Protocol.
It is hoped the two-day forum will among other things result in a policy and legislative agenda that is more responsive to citizens’ priorities for presentation to the EAC.
It also envisages mobilising a critical mass of civil society organizations who will engage effectively with EAC organs and institutions.
The EAC treaty and development strategy takes into account the fact that the process of economic and social integration is complex and its attainment depends on the collective efforts of the partner states.