How SADC works

WINDHOEK – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has various instruments through which it actualises and effects its principles, objectives and general undertakings in terms of its 1992 Treaty, and as amended subsequently in 2001. These instruments are variably referred to as either protocols and declarations, or memorandums of understanding (MoUs) as the case may be. There are many definitions of protocol depending on the field concerned. For instance, protocol may be defined as forms of ceremony and etiquette observed by diplomats and heads of state. But for the purposes of SADC and the instruments governing cooperation between member states, the definition: “a supplementary international agreement”, suffices. Likewise a declaration may be defined differently and variously. Webster’s dictionary defines declaration thus: “A written statement submitted to a court in which the writer swears ‘under penalty of perjury’ that the contents are true.” “An explicit, formal announcement, either oral or written,” it is further defined. Thus for the purposes of a declaration as an instrument of SADC, it can be defined as a “written or verbal explicit formal statement and announcement” to which its member states submit and commit. Known declarations are the United States Declaration of Independence, a statement announcing that the 13 American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress voted on July 2, 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. Then there is the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The Wikipedia encyclopedia defines a memorandum of understanding thus: “A document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in situations where the parties cannot create a legally enforceable agreement. It is a more formal alternative to a gentlemen’s agreement.” In terms of the protocols, member states need to ratify them. Protocols are provided for under Article 22 of the Treaty. “Member states shall conclude such protocols as may be necessary in each area of cooperation, which shall spell out the objectives and scope of, and institutional mechanisms for cooperation and integration,” reads the Article. The Summit on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers shall approve each protocol which must be signed and acceded to by member states. A protocol shall come into force 30 days after the deposit of the instruments of ratification by two thirds of the member states. Once the protocol has entered into force a member state may only become a party thereto by accession. Each protocol shall be binding only on the member states that are party to it. Decisions concerning any protocol that has entered into force shall be taken by the parties to it and no reservation shall be made regarding any protocol. Close to two dozen protocols exist today in SADC with varying degrees of ratification by member states. They include the Protocol on Immunities and Privileges; the Protocol on Shared Watercourses; Protocol on Trade; Protocol on Education and Training; Protocol on Tourism; Protocol on Health; Protocol on Energy and Protocol Against Corruption. The declarations include: Declaration on Gender and Development; Declaration Towards a Southern Africa Free of Anti-personnel Landmines; Declaration of Productivity; and Declaration Concerning Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials. Through these instruments SADC strives at implementing its Programme of Action (SPA), which encompasses its total sectoral programmes as per the various protocols, some of which have been enumerated previously. One of the important protocols is the SADC Protocol on Trade. The objectives of this protocol are: To further liberalise intra-regional trade in goods and services on the basis of fair, mutually equitable and beneficial trade arrangements, complemented by protocols in other areas; ensure efficient production within SADC reflecting the current and dynamic comparative advantages of its members; contribute towards the improvement of the climate for domestic, cross-border and foreign investment; enhance the economic development, diversification and industrialisation of the region and to establish a Free Trade Area in the SADC Region. The SADC Protocol on Trade has been in effect since January 25, 2000. By January 01, 2008, most customs duties (on 85% of tariff lines) had been eliminated for goods originating from SADC member states. The intention is to establish a customs union in which all SADC member states will have no tariffs on good originating from each other and have a common external tariff. As of August 13, 2008, 13 SADC member states had acceded to the Protocol on Trade, that is, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Committee of Ministers Responsible for Trade Matters (CMT), the Committee of Senior Officials, the Trade Negotiating Forum (TNF) and the Sector Coordinating Unit are responsible for the implementation of the Trade Protocol. The CMT supervises the implementation of the protocol by providing oversight of the Committee of Senior Officials and sub-committees established under the protocol. The CMT appoints the panels that resolve trade disputes between member states. The Committee of Senior Officials acts as a technical advisory body and is composed of permanent secretaries responsible for trade. It reports to the CMT on matters relating to the provisions of the protocol, monitors the implementation of the protocol and supervises the TNF. The TNF is responsible for conducting SADC trade negotiations, monitoring the effects of trade liberalisation and linking trade liberalisation to regional cooperation in other sectors. The forum reports to the Committee of Senior Officials. A number of technical committees and sub-committees have been established for specific technical areas for monitoring the operations of specific provisions and elements of the protocol. SADC member states have begun to enjoy the benefits of regional trade cooperation with more than 85% of the Harmonised System (HS) tariff lines now at zero, and waiting times for commercial traffic at several major border crossings reduced through a reduction in the number of documents required for imports and exports. -adapted from New Era

August 2010
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