AFRICAN EXPOSURE AND TRAINING (AFEXT) PROJECT
The idea of Catholic Parliamentary Advocacy is applicable to all countries where the Church is present and which have a democratic (or even semi-democratic) parliament. Since the CPLO started in South Africa in 1997, many other Episcopal Conferences in Africa have started similar offices. The following countries all have either a dedicated CPLO, or an advocacy desk within their Justice & Peace or Caritas departments: South Africa; Lesotho: Namibia: Zimbabwe; Zambia; Malawi; Kenya; Uganda; South Sudan; DRC; Congo Brazzaville; Nigeria; Liberia.
CPLO South Africa offers an annual advocacy training course which is open to the staff of all Episcopal Conferences in Africa. It is an opportunity to learn more about the principles and techniques of Catholic Parliamentary Advocacy, as well as the theological and constitutional basis of this work. Some of the themes covered in the training course are:
1) Engagement: It has been said often and in various different ways that democracy will not fulfill its potential if it is not nurtured by the active involvement of the people. It is simply not enough to elect representatives every five years, no matter how perfect the elections, and leave them to get on with the job.
2) Offering expertise: No Parliament or government has a monopoly on sound analysis, practical experience, or useful insights. NGOs have a lot to contribute, and have often built up more expertise than government agencies in some areas. The Church, as a universal organization with a longer history than any other, is sometimes able to offer a unique perspective.
3) Holding to account: Civil society groups and individual citizens have every right to call their elected representatives to account, to demand that they justify the policies and laws they propose, and to require them to explain past failures.
4) Monitoring implementation: The oversight function of civil society is of great importance. Good legislation and policy initiatives should lead to noticeable improvements ‘on the ground’, especially in areas such as socio-economic development and respect for human rights. Governments will seldom draw attention to their failure to implement laws and policies; it is up to civil society to do so.
5) Criticizing the bad: Civil society – and in particular the Church – must never shy away from speaking out against anything that harms the common good or that is otherwise unjust or morally unacceptable. Sometimes it is only civil society that can give voice to the concerns and needs of the most marginalized and those who are excluded from the centres of political power and debate.
6) Affirming the good: We have an equal duty to support and encourage good legislation and policy. This is particularly so where government may be moving in directions that are unpopular with the privileged or elite sectors of society. Government has a right to expect that the Church, and others in civil society who claim to uphold the interests of the poor and the marginalized, will show solidarity with such efforts.