Great Lakes Project facilitates civil society representation to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region

The Great Lakes Project (GLP) has worked closely with the Regional Civil Society Forum of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to structure itself at national level. The ICGLR offers the opportunity for formal participation of non state actors from the region through its various Fora. The ICGLR has a Women's Forum, which successfully lobbied for a pro-active and strong stance on Sexual and Gender Based Violence. It also has a Youth Forum, which prompted ICGLR Heads of States to hold a special summit on the issue of unemployment and economic inequality. The ICGLR also features a Regional Civil Society Forum. This Forum was provisionally established at a regional level in 2011 but has been unable to formalise itself at national level in most of the ICGLR member countries.

This has made it difficult for the Forum to play an active actor in being a voice for regional civil society at the ICGLR and advocate for specific issues, as some of the other fora. The GLP therefore partnered with the Civil Society Forum and the ICGLR to facilitate elections in at least four countries. These elections have now taken place in Rwanda (on the 28th of May) and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (on the 29th of June). These elections were jointly hosted by national civil society organisations, the current chairperson of the Forum, Mr. Joseph Butiku and the respective ICGLR national coordinators. The GLP partner organisations, NPI-A and ACCORD played the key facilitation role in the preparation and organisation of these elections, which were attended and observed by the ICGLR secretariat and other fora, embassies and international organisations. 

The GLP plans to facilitate at least two more elections in the coming months. We hope that this can be extended to at least two more countries, which would enable the Civil Society Forum to obtain a quorum. Beyond those two countries the GLP partners would want to work with the Forum to finalise this process in all the ICGLR member countries. The current crisis in Burundi shows that a regional platform for engagements and coordination on key issues for Civil Society from the region is needed. The GLP partners, GPPAC, NPI-A and ACCORD will continue to support the Forum and the ICGLR in this process. 

DRC elections of the national civil society forum