A peer to peer Civil Society support for an Inclusive Validation of Sao Tomé & Príncipe Fragility Assessment
As part of the New Deal implementation and strengthening of civil society organizations (CSOs) role in Sao Tomé & Príncipe, FONG-STP in collaboration with CSPPS and Voz di Paz (Guinea-Bissau) organized consultation meetings taking on board previous experience of Voz di Paz in the Guinea-Bissau Fragility Assesment process in 2017, aimed at (i) preparing civil society and ensuring its full participation in the New Deal process and (ii) consolidating its contribution into the process of the validation of Guinea Bissau Fragility Assessment report. Specially on the role and on the possible involvement of civil society in the validation process, and how to contribute to the position of civil society in the forefront and to participate in a dialogue around this issue and to bring perspectives from the civil society of Sao Tome & Principe.
On 30 June, the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe, through the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Blue Economy (MPFEA), with financial and technical support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), organized a virtual workshop to validate the results and conclusions of the national report on the fragility assessment in São Tomé Príncipe. The results of the evaluation aimed to inform an international support roadmap for the country's efforts to transform itself into a resilient state with strong and inclusive institutions capable of leading the country to the desired economic and social development and prosperity, having the objectives of Sustainable Development (SDG) subscribed and the African Union Agenda 2063. During the workshop, the national consultant made a presentation on the methodology followed in the evaluation process and on the findings, the conclusions and recommendations inferred from the participation and contribution of the different groups involved in the process and the interpretation and synthesis itself made by the consultant.
Eduardo Elba from FONG – STP, CSPPS member, presented the civil society perspective on the fragility assessment report presented by the government. Demonstrating that inclusive political issues are not exactly unknown in Sao Tomé & Príncipe, as civil society has been discussing since 2013 the need to develop civil society involvement in the development process in the country, as there can be no talk of a democratic rule of law of governance without the involvement of the citizen, the civil society organisations. Eduardo approached the local situation very much based on further studies, on the existence of many diagnoses and that in most cases does not go beyond diagnosis, and questioning what will happen after the validation of the report, as this should be the next step.
Eduardo spoke about the civic space in Sao Tome and Principe, which compared with Africa and even the sub-region is good, because there is freedom of expression, information and press. There is no persecution, no death, no arbitrary arrest of civic agents as there is on the continent. The mechanisms and instances of participation there do need to be improved. There are some institutional mechanisms of political participation, but in the traditional format, i.e. constitutional and theoretical, others unregulated and associated with the fact that the way decision makers act does not allow a link between power and civil society. The prevailing situation requires regulating these mechanisms and introducing innovative mechanisms that allow for real participation.
Therefore, according to the report of the IBP on the open budget of 2017, Sao Tome and Principe had a score of 31 points, on a scale of 0 to 100 points and in 2019 fell to 24 points, and the point that weighed negatively has to do with the participation of the citizen in the budget cycle that the country always recorded 0 point, because there is no citizen involvement in this matter.
Eduardo refuted the idea linked in the Fragility Report that civil society is fractional, claiming that CSOs are making their way, giving an example that the FONG is the only institution that at the moment made the study on the flows of international cooperation to Sao Tome and Principe and demanded the fact that the country does not have a public office that does the coordination and management of public aid and not only, when the economy depends heavily on external support. Finally, he mentioned the difficulty that civil society experiences in terms of access to information when carrying out budget monitoring exercises.
It should be stressed that root causes of conflicts cannot be adequately identified without active participation and inclusion of civil society in Fragility Assessment processes. Since its inception, the Civil Society Platform (CSPPS) has supported the inclusion of civil society actors in Fragility Assessments and New Deal processes. Through CSPPS support, civil society in the g7+ member states has played an important role in the development of global Fragility Assessment process. A Fragility Assessment is a diagnostic tool that helps fragile and conflict-affected states identify the causes and characteristics of fragility and resilience in order to establish a transition towards stability and development.