The Thirteenth Annual EISA Symposium 2018

Realising democratic gains through social cohesion in Africa

Report Cover: Thirteenth Annual EISA Symposium 2018

Johannesburg, South Africa

20-21 November 2018


Proceedings Report
Concept Note


Since 2006, a growing body of evidence suggests that a period of democratic consolidation has begun to falter and that, in some places, states have begun to move away from democratic norms and values. Measures of freedom and democracy in the world show evidence of stagnation or in some cases even regression. There has been no net expansion in the number of electoral democracies - which has oscillated between 114 and 119 since the 1990s. In 2017 International IDEA suggested that this trend has continued and that democracy in many countries seemed 'fragile' - citing the rise of populist movements, corruption, vulnerable state institutions and the erosion of rights and electoral processes.

The stalling, and in some cases, the regression of democracy globally has serious implications for the ethnically and economically diverse populations of African states. It is unsurprising that this global context characterised by economic downturn, tensions associated with migration, and ethnic or cultural conflict - all of which exacerbate pre-existing divisions and cleavages within African societies - has prompted interest and research in the idea of 'social cohesion'. Social cohesion has been linked to positive outcomes such as "democratic stability and participation, economic growth and greater productivity, and an overall good quality of life for citizens".

The Thirteenth Annual EISA Symposium will be conducted over two days to share experiences, harness lessons, and explore the concept of 'social cohesion' as a means to building more resilient and sustainable democracies. The symposium will provide a platform for dialogue among key democratic governance stakeholders such as representatives of political parties, members of parliament, civil society organisations, academia, as well as the African Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The symposium aims to generate policy-oriented recommendations with a view to shaping future direction in fostering and contributing to the consolidation of democracy in Africa.

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