By Desire Assogbavi
The year 2015 has been declared by the Assembly of the African Union as the “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. Both bi-annual Summits of the AU will then be organized around this theme. In the practice, the theme will be symbolically launched during the January Summit but a number of related activities will be organized throughout the year 2015. However, some other burning issues will dominated the various policy discussions during the Summit.
The Summit will be as usual organized in 3 steps:
– The Permanent Representatives Committee (Ambassadors): 23 – 24 January
– The Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 26 – 27 January
– The Assemble of the AU (Heads of State and Government) 30 – 31 January
A number of other parallel/side meetings will also normally be held by states and non-state actors.
What is likely to dominate the Summit?
Beside the official launch of the theme of the Summit “Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, no major decision is expected to be taken on this issue. The Assembly usually organizes a public debate and adopts a declaration/commitment on the main theme but this normally happens during the July Summit. The following issues are expected to dominate the Summit:
Ebola Crisis: Ebola has already claimed close to 7, 500 lives in Africa. Response to Ebola is on the right path. The recent move of AUC Chairperson Mrs. D-Zuma raising fund from the private sector within the continent is excellent, but there is a long way to go with the number of cases still increasing exponentially. Beyond transmission rates, there is already a crisis in non-Ebola health, and major concerns around food security, livelihoods, vulnerability and long term economic impact. There is a need to prioritize prevention of further infections and the AU member States must revive the AU Abuja Declaration by which they have committed to allocate 15% of their national budget on health. AU policy organs will consider a report of the AU Commission on the crisis and take a decision on it. Read my address to the PSC on Ebola wp.me/p4ywYV-2w
African Union Agenda 2063: The drafted 50-year plan of the continental body is expected to be adopted during the January Summit. A previous decision taken in Malabo this year by the Executive Council strongly recommended to member states to organize systematic national consultations on the Agenda but this had not happened in many countries. The AU Commission however conducted some targeted stakeholder consultations over the year. Priority programmes and projects of the Agenda 2063 include: An Integrated High Speed Train Network, the Continental Free Trade Area, the African Passport and Free Movement of people, Unification of African Air Space, the Grand Inga Dam Project etc… The AU Commission has been asked to propose concrete steps towards the implementation of these priorities. See the June 2014 version of the Agenda 2063: http://issuu.com/assogbavi/docs
Alternative Sources of Financing the African Union: There is still no consensus among AU Members on how to stop or at least to reduce the current financial dependency of the African Union from external donors. Currently, external donors pay more than 70% of all AU expenses (including peace and security budget). Proposals made by President Obasanjo, if implemented will generate over USD 750 Million annually to the AU (more than the current budget which is 522 Million USD excluding Peace and Security). Discussions will continue on this but I suspect member states are far from reaching a full consensus on this.
Presidency of the African Union for 2015: Will the AU elect Robert Mugabe as its Chairperson for 2015? The Chairmanship of the AU shall normally go to Southern Africa for 2015 and the established tradition is that the region presents a candidate. Speculations indicate that Robert Mugabe is likely to be the candidate of Southern Africa… I wish he is not! – Read my blog on this next week on: https://assodesire.wordpress.com/
Observers (including CSOs)’s participation in the AU Summits: Observers are now receiving invitation for the January Summit. – Great news!!!
In July this year, the African Union did not invite African non-state actors to the Summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. There is an unfinished discussion on whether observers should be invited to both the January and the July Summit of the Union. There is a growing number of member states that stand for observers to be invited only to the January Summit in order to reserve the July Summit for closed and quiet discussions within member States only. Of course CSOs and donors/partners are not in favour of any restriction of access to the Summit. I suspect this is becoming the practice.
Peace and Security: The Summit will review the state of peace and security in the continent and will adopt decisions on each situation. Hot spots include South Sudan, Sudan, DRC, Somalia, CAR and Mali. It is also expected that terrorisms including the situations in Nigeria and Kenya will come up. The Situation in the DRC will be particularly discussed in a special meeting around the DRC Framework Agreement at Heads of State level.
Illicit Financial Flow and unfair exploitation of mineral resources of Africa: Illicit outflows from Africa are estimated for about $ 50-60 billion per year. This represents 1 billion per week, leaving the continent through extractive industries, tax evasion and trade mispricing. President Tabo M’beki, Chair of the AU High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa is now confirmed to present a report on the issue. This issue should be definitely linked to the financing for the development of the continent which will bring solution to numerous other problems. See my blog on this: https://assodesire.wordpress.com/
There will be elections for the following organs of the African Union
- 11 Members of the Advisory Board of Corruption
- 7 Members of the African Union Commission on International Law
- President and Vice president on the Pan Africa University
- Selection of the Host Country of the Pan African University
AU Summit: An influencing and Networking Opportunity
The upcoming Summit presents an important advocacy opportunity on some of the issues I have mentioned above. These include Ebola response and priority actions, Financing for Africa Development and Illicit Financial Flow, Africa Agenda 2063, Peace and Security, CSOs space etc. Even though the AU summit is not the best moment to influence actual policies, it creates a unique opportunity for various actors to raise some priority issues trough media work, direct lobby and advocacy. The Summit is also a unique networking moment for future collaboration between actors from various backgrounds.