Background

What is the Southern Africa Trust?

The Southern Africa Trust was established in 2005 to support civil society organisations in southern Africa to participate effectively and with credibility in policy dialogue so that the voices of the poor can have a better impact in the development of public policies.

The Trust supports processes that deepen and widen participation in policy dialogues with a regional impact on poverty. It:

  • Is an independent, regional, non-profit agency registered in South Africa;
  • Supports organisations and processes with regional impact;
  • Supports deeper and wider engagement in policy dialogues;
  • Supports public policy development to overcome poverty;
  • Supports voices of the poor to be heard in policy dialogue.

Why was the Southern Africa Trust established?

In southern Africa, there is a high level of official commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and overcoming poverty, both by governments and by continental and regional organisations such as the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Linked to achieving the MDGs, most governments are engaged in the development and implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies. Policies to promote growth, democratic governance, and social and economic justice are part of these strategies. To be effective, however, many of these processes require more integrated regional approaches and stronger engagement by civil society and the private sector, at both national and regional levels.

With this challenge come opportunities for new partnerships and alliances, and new forms of advocacy for better public policy. Effective policies that have strong popular support are a political outcome of negotiation and bargaining amongst many different interests and constituencies in society. These processes are crucial to building democratic participation and to creating accountable, responsive governance. However, if the voices of the poor are not asserted in these processes, other interests are likely to dominate in both the design and implementation of policies.