PAC’s   History  on  Public Dialogue  and Consultations

Malawi   lacks debate on   contentious   issues. PAC’s   interventions therefore  aims  at  enhancing  public  dialogue in  order  to  develop  a  shared minimum  agenda on  contested  issues. Previously, public  dialogue  was being  enhanced  through  what  was  known  as  “Roundtable  Conferences”  on  Electoral, Political  and  Economic  issues  –  an  idea  that  UNDP-Malawi  bought   and  supported  PAC  in  1995. Since  then  PAC  held  such  public  dialogue  meetings to  allow  stakeholders   discuss  contentious  issues  under  one  roof.  In  2012  PAC  rebranded  the  Conferences  as  “ All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conferences”  with  three  main  objectives – to  hold  authorities  and ourselves  accountable; to  generate  issues  for  advocacy  and lobbying; and  popularizing  ideas  on  contentious  issues  such  as  third term constitutional bid  of  2001  and  calls  for  federalism. Since   then PAC   has generated   various recommendations and resolutions.  Most notable ones   are   those   documented   in 2016 which led to PAC-Government Technical Team dialogue   exercise. As  a result  of  the latter, an  agreement was secured  to  reform the electoral  law  in particular  to  bring to  bear  50%+1 electoral law  but  also  change  the Local  Government  Act.

This  component  entails enhancing  public  dialogue in  order  to  develop  a  shared minimum  agenda on  contested  issues  for  advocacy and lobbying. So  far  the  following  have  been  carried  out:

  1. First All-Inclusive  Stakeholder  Conference  , Limbe  Cathedral  March, 2012
  2. Second All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conference , Mount  Soche, October, 2012
  3. Third All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conference, Mount  Soche, February, 2014
  4. National Stakeholders  Forum   on  Inclusivity  and  Federalism, November, 2014
  5. Fourth All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conference, January 2015
  6. Regional Fora on  Inclusivity  and  Federalism , 15-24  June, 2015
  7. Firth All-Inclusive Stakeholder  Conference
  8. 5+1 All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conference

Selected Key Interventions

Securing a shared minimum agenda on contentious issues has been at the heart of PAC’’s policy influence.  Since 1992, PAC undertakes different forms of dialogue engagements. One of the forms of dialogue mechanism is public dialogue in form of holding All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference. Previously these were referred to as “Roundtable Conferences”.  Enhancing Public Dialogue/ Consultation has been one of the interventions that has characterised PAC as a last resort to provide free space for expression on economic and political challenges in Malawi.  Noting that Malawi lacks  debate on contentious issues, PAC  impressed upon itself  to take  responsibility  to  provide  safe  space  for  public  dialogue  by way  of  conference  consultations. Since 1995, at least four Roundtables  Conferences,  and  from 2012  six public consultations popularly  dubbed “All-Inclusive Stakeholders  Conference”  aimed  at  holding leaders  accountable, generating  issues  for  government’s  consideration and  letting stakeholders ventilate  their  anger – thereby  prevent  violent  conflict  among groups divided  on contentious  issue have  been  held under the banner of  PAC. Noting its gravitas, at times Government has publicly requested PAC to facilitate conversations and debate on a particular contentious issue as was in the matter of federalism debate in Malawi in 2014. As such, various positive strides have been realized out of these public fora. The High-Level  Development  Council ( HLDC)  established  under leadership of  former President Joyce  Banda made reference  to  PAC  resolutions  of   conferences  held  in  March  and  October, 2012 as a  response  to  the demands for establishing a permanent planning commission in Malawi.

Contentious issues  deliberated on from  PAC All-Inclusive  Stakeholders Conferences  have  been  a  stepping  stone  for most  stakeholders  to appreciate  issues, recommendations  and  specific  resolutions  submitted  to  the  Head  of  State  after the events. The  organisation has  achieved  a  certain level of  gravitas – having  the  power  of  convening stakeholders at  all levels. PAC maintained  national  dialogue  with  Government Technical  Team  through  which resolutions  were  adopted  for implementation. In 2017  government  attributed  implementation  of   PAC  resolutions such as – eenactment  of  the; Access to  Information  Act; Greenbelt Initiative Act  and  creation of  the Greenbelt  Authority; National  Planning Commission Act, and  establishment of  the National Planning  Commission – to PAC’s initiatives. Such positive strides were officially attributed by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Further, based on petitions to  the Head of  State and Speaker of  Parliament,  Government’s tabling  of  electoral  reforms  bill, and  lobbying Parliament Business  Committee to prioritize the bills – have been  registered  as  a  success  of  PAC’s  intervention , despite  the advocacy strategy  of  holding  peaceful  marches  was  postponed. Assertions  by  Daily  Papers  such  as  Nation   and Daily  Times (2017)  that  “PAC  gets thumbs  up but  analyst warn new bill details  pose fresh  threat” and  that “Government bows  down  to pressure – promises to  table  2 bills, 4  later”  (The Nation, 13 December, 2017  and  The Daily  Times, 6 December,  2017) demonstrated  appreciation despite  frustrations from the postponed  peaceful  marches.