The Mandela School and the Kofi Annan Foundation host successful conference on democracy

17 Sep 2019 - 10:45

Cape Town – The University of Cape Town’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation, with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), held a successful two-day conference titled: “Democracy in Central and Southern Africa: The Road Ahead”. The conference was held at the UCT Graduate School of Business conference centre from 4 to 5 September 2019.

“This conference is inspired by the leadership and legacy of Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. Nelson Mandela taught us that the first step towards a solution of intractable challenges is to develop the capacity to hold diametrically opposite ideas in our heads at the same time and to feel comfortable with these ideas,” said, Mandela School Director, Professor Faizel Ismail. 

Outgoing Chancellor of UCT and member of The Elders, Graça Machel delivered a keynote address at the conference. In her address, she highlighted the contributions made by both Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. “Reflecting on the lives of these two remarkable men, I believe that to celebrate the lives of Madiba and Kofi and their contributions to the world, is threefold: to take inspiration from the values they embodied, emulate their unwavering commitment to freedom, equality, justice and dignity for all, and support the younger generations still fighting for the causes they held so dear for so long.”

Photo: Michael Hammond

The aim of the conference was to take stock of democratic development in the region and equip democratic forces with ideas and tools to deepen democracy across the region. “Elections without integrity cannot provide the winners with legitimacy, the losers with security and the public with confidence in their leaders and institutions”, said Alan Doss, President of the Kofi Annan Foundation.

The conference included representatives from governments, political parties, civil society organisations, academia and the media from countries across the region. Consisting of six panels, the conference examined different facets of democratic life in the region, including: the strengths and weaknesses of Southern Africa’s Governance, the obstacles to electoral integrity, the role of civil society and youth for democratic life across the region and the challenges and opportunities of the digital age for elections and democracy. 

Key recommendations that emerged from the conference include the need to promote and create safe spaces for intergenerational dialogues; the importance of civil society in protecting the values and principles of democracy; the need to re-engage youth in political spaces to increase youth representation in influential positions; and a commitment to host an annual convening, which takes stock of democracy in the region.

The Mandela School is honoured to have partnered with the Kofi Annan Foundation for such an important and timely conference and hopes to partner with the foundation in the near future.

Photo: Michael Hammond

Read an Op-Ed jointly written by Alan Doss and Faizel Ismail about the conference: here.
The conference was on livestream and is available: here.