Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

The COMESA maintains regular dialogue with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on various issues related to international trade. The aim is to enhance cooperation and increase NGOs’ awareness of COMESA activities and the role of the rules-based multilateral trading system.


At the creation of the COMESA in 1995, COMESA members established a legal basis for consultation and cooperation with NGOs.

In July 1996, the General Council clarified the mandate, which acts as the basis for COMESA-NGO relations today.

Members recognized “the role NGOs can play to increase the awareness of the public in respect of COMESA activities” and agreed “to improve transparency and develop communication with NGOs” by giving the COMESA Secretariat the authority to establish direct contacts with NGOs. They identified a number of communication channels, including the organization of a symposium (now known as the Public Forum) and briefings. The COMESA’s Information and External Relations Division has a team dedicated to working with NGOs.

How can NGOs keep up to date about COMESA issues?

  • The COMESA website

The COMESA website contains information about the latest COMESA activities, such as trade negotiations, the implementation of COMESA agreements, new COMESA publications, the latest trade statisticis as well as dedicated pages for NGOs, parliamentarians, businesses etc.

  • Registering for COMESA news alerts or RSS news feeds

Registering for COMESA news alerts or the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) news feeds enables you to receive COMESA news directly to your device. It helps keep you informed about specific areas of interest to you by receiving the latest related COMESA news without having to visit the COMESA website.

Click here to register for our news alerts.

See more about how to start using the RSS news feeds.

  • Following COMESA on social media

The COMESA is active in a range of social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. This allows you to follow and comment on our news, videos, and photos.

  • Geneva NGO briefings

The COMESA gives informal briefings after major meetings at its headquarters. These briefings may be attended by registered NGOs based in Geneva and its surrounding region.

How can NGOs attend COMESA events?

As a general rule, NGOs should register for public events beforehand. However, local NGOs can also request a COMESA-NGO badge which is valid for one year. This gives access to the COMESA building and facilitates participation in events that are public or dedicated to NGOs, such as COMESA Secretariat briefings. Authorization is not automatic and each application is considered on an individual basis. Events/briefings open to NGOs will be announced in the “Meetings” calendar on this page.

As of February 2017, 45 local NGOs representatives are registered to the COMESA.

  • Attending ministerial conferences

NGOs can be accredited to take part in ministerial conferences, the highest decision-making body of the COMESA which meets every two years. During a Ministerial Conference, NGOs receive regular briefings from the COMESA External Relations team on the progress of discussions between COMESA members.

  • Attending dispute settlement proceedings

NGOs can attend the public hearings of some dispute settlement proceedings. As and when such hearings are public, information will be provided in the Events calendar on this page

How can NGOs contribute to the COMESA debate?

  • Participation in the Public Forum

The Public Forum is the COMESA’s largest annual outreach event. It provides a platform for public debate across a wide range of COMESA issues and trade topics. The Forum is also an opportunity for the COMESA to listen and exchange views with NGOs.

More than 9,000 representatives of NGOs, academia, business, media, government, parliamentarians and intergovernmental organizations have participated in the Public Forum since it was first launched in 2001 (until 2005 it was known as the Public Symposium). The Forum gives participants the opportunity not only to take part in discussions, but also to organize their own sessions. Previous public forums have focused on various trade issues, ranging from the future of trade to harnessing globalization.

  • Submitting position papers

Position papers are written statements asserting the position of an NGO on a particular COMESA topic. Position papers must be related to the activities of the COMESA and are circulated to all COMESA members. They can be submitted at any time, including at ministerial conferences.

The latest position papers are available here.