“AU must be accessible to its citizens”- New guide on the Pan African organization declares
Addis Ababa, 27 January 2010- A new guide to the African Union launched today by the Africa Governance and Monitoring Project (AfriMAP) of the Open Society Institute and Oxfam International aims to ensure that Africa’s citizens can contribute more fully to the work of the inter-governmental organisation. The guide, which comes at heels of a period of major reforms in the AU, aims to encourage civil society to fully engage with the African Union, whilst at the same time calling for greater openness and tolerance of public participation in the affairs of the organization.
“African civil society organizations must work to support the African Union in its work, using the openings that exist to contribute to its decision-making processes and advocate for people-friendly policies.” said Ozias Tungwarara, AfriMAP Director. “It is also essential that the AU leaders embrace the idea of opening their doors and allow citizens to come to engage them. This guide allows for such a crucial exchange,” he added
It has been almost a decade since the AU was established, and feelings remain mixed about its effectiveness and purpose. The Pan African organization has established two crucial organs enabling citizen participation (the Pan African Parliament, and the Economic Social and Cultural Council), but much work remains to be done to make them as effective as they could be. The Peace and Security Council has also recently adopted procedures enabling civil society organizations to appear before it, but few have yet done so.
Meanwhile, the energy seems to have left the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), once among the most promising initiatives for a new commitment to good governance and participatory development on the continent.
With the renewed commitment in 2008 by incoming Chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, some civil society organizations consolidated their efforts to engage with the AU, to a point where some had reoriented their programmes around AU priorities. As a result, the new guide adds to such a renewed commitment to engage with the AU as the primary inter-governmental organization for the African continent.
“The guide aims to help civil society groups and ordinary citizens understand the workings of the AU, and assist them to positively and constructively engage with the organization,” said Oxfam’s Désiré Assogbavi.
The guide looks at three key areas around the AU : a description of its organs and institutions ; suggestions on influencing AU policy decisions and processes ; and finally a summary of the debate on a Union Government.
As the African Union expands to a bigger and more complicated organization, issues surrounding the union have expanded with it. The talk of a Pan African Parliament that is empowered to legislate, a stand by African Defence Force, an ever widening membership to the APRM and finally a Union Government, makes it fundamental for the AU to become more transparent and accountable to its citizens. After all, the ambition to accelerate African integration cannot be achieved by continental polices alone, but by African people. This has been the vision behind the birth of the AU, and the guide acts as a catalyst toward achieving such a vision.
The African Union (AU) has committed to a vision of Africa that is ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful … driven by its own citizens, a dynamic force in the global arena’ (Vision and Mission of the African Union, May 2004). ‘The guide to AU structures and processes’ is an effort to take up the challenge of achieving this vision. It is a tool to assist activists to engage with AU policies and programmes. It describes the AU decision-making process and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the AU institutions. It also contains a sampling of the experiences of those non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have interacted with the AU.
Much of the information in ‘The guide to AU structures and processes’ is drawn from the report Towards a People-Driven African Union : Current Obstacles and New Opportunities (AfriMAP, AFRODAD and Oxfam GB, January 2007, updated November 2007) available on the websites of the publishing organisations. Additional information is derived from the report of the Audit of the African Union presented to Heads of State and Government in January 2008 and information collected by consultant Rudo Chitiga, who prepared the first draft of the Guide.
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