Civil society and regional governance : knowledge production and issue-framing around SADC

15 Apr 2016

Scholars have recently begun to study civil society on the regional level more systematically. When regionalization of civil society is studied, it is often understood within processes of regional governance in which state actors craft regional institutions and policy frameworks to solve common problems. Yet, most studies dealing with civil society in regional governance has a statecentric approach, focusing on the marginalization of civil society organizations (CSOs) in such processes, treating them as rather passive actors. This is especially true for research on southern Africa. Contrary to previous studies, this article shows under what circumstances CSOs are granted space in regional policy-making related to the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It is concluded that, in light of CSOs’ material and economic weakness, one of the key factors determining their advocacy success on the regional level is production of knowledge and strategic use of communication tools. Even though many challenges remain, for example the power structures inherent in the SADC, the case of civil society advocacy around the SADC is a sign of a new form of participatory regional governance in the making, which is more democratic than present modes of regional governance in Africa.