The Africa’s Change Dynamics Programme facilitates dialogue between African and European actors on governance and development agendas. We work to improve the understanding of interests and challenges on both sides. The new African Perspectives Series is a platform that casts light on African development perspectives. Our third blog comes from Abdoulaye W. Dukulé of the Office of the President of Liberia….
Some 15 months ago, during the 50th anniversary of the African Union (and its precursor the Organisation of African Unity) leaders of the continent decided to set up a committee of ten heads of state and government to craft a common African position in preparation of the Post-2015 development agenda. The African Union High Level Committee (HLC) was chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who had also co-chaired the UN High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons, along with four other African leaders, who submitted their report to the UN Secretary General.
Recent Progress for Africa in Speaking with One Voice
The HLC held it’s first meeting in New York in the margins of the September 2013 UN General Assembly. It set up an ambitious but realistic agenda to put in one basket all of Africa’s major developmental issues and craft a strategy of negotiation and consultation to get those priorities into the new global development framework. Africa had been handed down the MDGs with little say in its formulations. The lack of ownership in the MDGs arose in many instances because African countries felt that they were coerced in many instances to prioritise development projects that did not meet their most urgent needs. Creating a high level was in response to this situation, and it’s committee was charged with a mandate to put forward an Africa vision for its own development agenda and ensuring that these priorities were incorporated into the new global development agenda.
After partner agencies and regional economic bodies conducted consultations throughout the continent in every region and with a broad spectrum of stakeholders that included academia, civil society, private sector as well as governments, a great mass of priorities was put together. The HLC task was to narrow down these priorities to their most common denominator, without compromising the ambitious vision at the core of the project.
The HLC met several times to refine and redefining the document. There were a variety of interests amongst AU member states themselves and the HLC had to take into account what priorities other regions would put forward and how those priorities may affect Africa and in turn how Africa’s vision may affect other parts of the world.
In the end, the HLC narrowed the priorities to five pillars which included: Economic Transformation and Inclusive growth; Science and Technology; Human Centered Development; Environmental sustainability and Financing and Partnership for Development. The March 2014 AU Summit in Ndjamena adopted the document but made one important amendment: that Peace and Security be added as a pillar. Thus the Common African Position (CAP) was launched.
There was no doubt from the outset (and voiced by certain AU member states) that the inclusion of peace and security in a development agenda would create a certain uneasiness, especially at the UN, where the Security Council has the absolute authority to decide on issues regarding peace and security. However, for African leaders there could be no tangible development project without a conducive atmosphere for peace and security.
A Chance for Africa to Overcome Historical Inequality
Starting with the slave trade, then the colonial era, the early years of independence when African priorities were subject to the whims of one (or the other) Cold War camp, to the years of military dictatorships, the continent has failed to pick up and meet the needs of its people because it never had a conducive atmosphere for peace, security and safety that would allow its citizens to develop their full potential. This situation led to the ironic and historical dichotomy of a rich continent with people living in abject poverty.
Africa does not look at the issue of peace and security from the perspective of peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping, rather as a situation where those needs never arise. The African vision of peace and security means an emphasis on the issues that lead to conflict. This invlolves factoring into the development process issues of inequality, governance and trade fairness at both the local and global level and everything that has so far kept the continent in a position of dependency, leading to conflict and social strife.
As negotiations start towards a new framework Post-2015, new articulations of these same peace and security issues have started to emerge. In many instances, there is an attempt to avoid using the phrase “Peace and Security.” It will be a long and arduous negotiation process to reach an agreement on this matter, but the African continent as a whole (representing 27% of UN members) is certainly the largest single block with a cohesive agenda at the new frontier for development, and will keep its eyes on the ball.
On issues such as climate change, Africa has made it known in various forums that although it is not the primary cause of global warming and its consequences, it is ready to play its role to sustain the global consensus on common but differentiated responsibilities.
Abdoulaye W. Dukulé (PhD) is the AU-HLC and Post-2015 Coordinator at the Office of the President, Liberia
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM
Photo Courtesy of Phil Hemmis
Abdoulaye W. Dukulé