The origins of the need and mandate to develop a Non-State Actor (NSA) engagement mechanism by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are in recognition that NSAs are an important stakeholder in the implementation of the SADC Agenda. This recognition is enshrined in Article 5 (2b), 16A and Articles 23 of the SADC Treaty. The same recognition is evident in the architecture of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, especially the revised version (2015 – 2020). Some SADC Protocols and Summit Communiqués also emphasise the need for a more profound and effective engagement mechanism. Key protocols which provide for engagement with non-state actors include the Protocol on Trade in the SADC Region (1996), SADC Protocol on Mining (1997) and SADC Employment and Labour Protocol (2014). Furthermore, SADC Council Decisions from the August 2004 Grand Baie Council Meeting in Mauritius, the September 2009 Kinshasa meeting in the DRC and the August 2011 Council Meeting in Luanda, Angola underscore the need for more formalized and institutionalized engagement between SADC and Non-State Actors.
In the areas of peace and security, the history of SADC cooperation with non-state actors has taken many forms, from ad hoc arrangements to loosely defined collaborations. Over the years, non-state actors in their various forms have helped SADC implement programmes aimed at promoting regional integration and cooperation including in areas of democracy, governance and conflict resolution. At the same time, the changing of SADC over time is a reflection of the changing regional political and security context. However, as it currently stands, SADC does not have an explicit consolidated policy framework for engaging NSAs in its peace and security affairs. Rather, it has various policy documents that emphasise the need for their involvement, and these include the Protocol on Politics Defence and Security Co-operation (OPDSC Protocol). The Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020 adds that to date, SADC has continued to consolidate democratic values and institutions towards peace and security in the region. The Revised RISDP lists these to include intra-state conflict, the consolidation of democracy and good governance and challenges to do with migration, including refugees, illegal migrants and internally displaced persons. Nevertheless, these often lack explicit guidance on the approach to be followed in involving non-state actors to add value to the process of SADC regional economic and political integration.