According to the provisions of articles 123, 124, 130, 131, 208 and 210 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo ("DRC") of February 18, 2006 as amended to date ("Constitution"), the National Assembly has recently passed the law governing the organization and functioning of the Economic and Social Council which was introduced at the initiative of the Parliament.
The contemplation of an Economic and Social Council in the DRC by Article 208 of the country’s Constitution, mainly stemmed from the absence of a well-organized framework for consultation on improving the everyday life of the people. This absence was an obstacle to achieve the expected development. This was the case because the need for DRC integral development requires, as far as the socio-economic management is concerned, the involvement of all levels of the Congolese population for the design of social and economic programs that affect them.
The establishment of the Economic and Social Council reflects the Government's desire to see all DRC socio-economic population layers share responsibility for the qualitative development of the country. This will be achieved through these population layers providing answers to issues that are not only complex but also fundamental to the socio-economic sector. The Economic and Social Council is also important as the legislative and executive powers are often tempted to receive advice of an advisory body before taking any actions within their jurisdiction.
Moreover, it is worth underlining that this is not DRC’s first experience envisaging such consultative body. Consultative powers are often vested in specialized bodies such as the economic and social councils in certain countries, high councils of the magistracy, high councils of education, etc.
Such was the case with various economic and social councils provided for in Article 204 of the Fundamental Law of 19 May 1960 on the structures of the Congo ("Fundamental Law"). The councils comprised amongst others councils, general and provincial councils of economy, the high council of labor, and the high of education. Pursuant to Articles 205 and 207 of the Fundamental Law, these councils had to be imperatively informed, both at national and provincial levels, of bills on matters within their jurisdiction and submitted by the Government to parliament houses. These councils also needed to give their opinions on regulatory bills that the Government submitted to them. They could also be consulted by the Government on any matter falling within their jurisdiction.
Thereafter, the constitution of 1 August 1964, also known as the Luluabourg Constitution, retained only one category of consultative bodies, namely the Economic and Social Council. This council was established at national and provincial levels, while previous councils were converted into subdivisions. Unfortunately, the Economic and Social Council never got up and running due to political instability caused by the coup d’état of 24 November 1965. No constitution had since provided for the existence of an economic and social council.
In 1989, President Mobutu, by ordinance No 89-029 of 26 January 1989, established the Permanent Development Advisory Council (“CCPD”). CCPD aimed at the same objectives as those set forth by the organic law recently passed. Devoid of any force of law, this ordinance had not been applied either.
It is in the same sense that the Decree 008/01 of February 23rd, 2001 on the establishment and organization of the Permanent Framework for Economic Dialogue (“CPCE”) was taken. CPCE was meant to be a forum for consultation and exchange of views between, on the one hand, the Government and, on the other hand, the associations of Congolese companies, workers and consumers on the guidelines, options, and decisions related to national economic activities. This Decree never got published in the Official Gazette.
The Law recently passed shall determine the organization and functioning of the Economic and Social Council. This council is meant to be a consultative body composed of the categories of people working in all areas that contribute to DRC integral development and boasting proven expertise in economic and social matters.
Under this Law, the Economic and Social Council is an independent institution endowed with legal personality. Its mission is to provide advisory opinions on economic and social issues submitted to the Council by the President of the Republic, the National Assembly the Senate, and the Government. The Council may also issue such opinions at its own initiative. On the other hand, the Council is tasked with promoting democratic dialogue amongst main economic and social actors in order to allow sharing of their respective experiences and analyzes.
The Council will also be tasked with:
-analyzing the economic situation and monitoring national, provincial, and international economic and social policies as well as impact of such policies on the lives of the Congolese people;
- contributing to informing citizens on the evolution of the economic and social situation in the DRC;
- providing advice on the general guidelines of the national economy; drafting proposals in various economic, social, cultural and environmental areas;
- fostering cooperation between economic and social partners and contributing to the development of a social charter; and
- publishing quarterly report on the economic and social situation of the country;
Composed of three bodies, namely the General Assembly, the Board and the Committees, the Council will be headquartered in Kinshasa, DRC capital.
The Law recently passed provides that members of the Council shall be appointed for a five year renewable term and will be referred to as Advisors. According to the Law, any person under discharged of bankruptcy or under liquidation cannot serve as Advisors.
Further, the Council shall hold two ordinary meetings in the year, respectively from April 15 to May 15 and from October 15 to November 15. The financial resources of the Council will consist of allocations included in national budget.
The President of the Council shall be the approver of the budget allocations made to the Council and shall apply the rules of management of public accounting.
Finally, the Law recently passed provides that the audit of the financial accounts of the Council shall be done by the Office of the Auditor and/or the Finance Inspectorate General.
The Law recently passed includes 31 articles grouped in five chapters namely: Chapter 1 on general provisions, Chapter 2 on the organization and Chapter 3 on the operation, Chapter 4 on resources of the Council, and the chapter 5 on the final provisions.
Contemplated several times over the past, the installation of the Economic and Social Council first failed in 1964 because of political instability. The Permanent Consultative Council for the Development of 26 January was a fiasco because no law was taken in determining its organization and its operation. Finally there was also a Permanent Framework for Economic Dialogue "CPCE" created by the decree of 23 February 2001 to be a consultative body and information sharing between the Government, Congolese companies grouped in associations, workers and consumers. This body met the same fate, more-so as the broad guidelines, options and decisions related to national economic activities were never published in the Official Gazette.
Through this Law, which will undoubtedly be promulgated by the President of the Republic and published in the Official Gazette, the DRC is determined to embark all the social levels of the Congolese population upon the development of socio-economic programs which directly affect them. This is a way to consolidate participative democracy.