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AU 37th Summit: promoting governance, peace, security and development

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African leaders take a family photo at the 37th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, where they made critical considerations to move the governance, peace and security agenda forward. The decisions were particularly critical because of the Continent’s complex development and other challenges, the writer says. – Picture: Paul Kagame / Flickr

By Linda AO Darkwa

Since this is the highest decision-making body of the AU, the decisions of the Summit are critical as they set the agenda for addressing challenges on the Continent. Yet, as with all multilateral institutions, the decisions of the Summit are negotiated and diplomatically framed to accommodate the interests of most of the member states as all decisions are adopted by consensus.

The decisions of the 37th session were particularly critical because of the Continent’s complex development, governance, peace and security challenges. The decisions of the Assembly are interlinked and geared towards realising the goals of the continental agenda – creating the Africa We Want.

Sustainable Development

A significant decision of the AU was the announcement of the ten-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 and the recommendation of an Extraordinary Summit at the Level of Heads of State and Governments for further engagement to enhance ownership, awareness and visibility of the Plan. Whilst such a meeting provides an opportunity for awareness creation, early, close engagement with national institutions and African civil society organisations will be critical. They need to be sensitised to the Plan so that they can be empowered to implement it, exercise national-level oversight and demand accountability from their governments for its implementation.

Governance

In the area of governance, the Assembly recognised that ineffective governance is the bane of the Continent’s peace and security challenges and it reached several decisions. The call for State parties of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) to submit their governance reports is a step in the right direction, as reviewing such reports offers the Commission the opportunity to provide support in relevant areas. It is, however, worrisome that whilst the Assembly condemned unconstitutional change of governments, there was no reflection of related developments that threaten democracy and governance, such as the instrumentalisation of legal measures to exclude political opponents from democratic processes and other related actions that undermine governance.

The decisions of the 37th session were particularly critical because of the Continent’s complex development, governance, peace and security challenges.

Peace and Security

On peace and security, the Assembly guided the AU Commission and other relevant stakeholders to develop concrete actions to address some of the continent’s seemingly intractable conflicts. Reaffirming states’ territorial integrity and political independence and calls for de-escalation between Ethiopia and Somalia was a step in the right direction. Similarly, whilst the encouragement given to the High-Level Ad Hoc Panel on Sudan is commendable, the rapidly deteriorating situation in Sudan requires a much more hands-on approach by the AU. Given Sudan’s history, it is essential to avert state collapse, which could facilitate the country becoming a haven for terrorists. African leaders need to provide a much more robust political backing to accompany the work of the High-Level Panel.

The Assembly has encouraged dialogue on the worrying developments in West Africa, particularly concerning the announced withdrawal of the three crisis-affected countries from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). This pronouncement paves the way for the Commission to explore meaningful and practical measures of working collaboratively with Ecowas and affected member states to find solutions to address the impasse. Again, the Assembly could have provided more strategic guidance on the issue. The geostrategic location of the three countries makes their security critical to that of the entire Continent, and as such, addressing the challenges to their security must be a priority for all African leaders.

Given the interrelated nature of the security challenges in the Sahel region and Sudan and the implications for the further deterioration of the rest of the Continent, there must be much more robust engagement by African leaders in these conflicts. The failure to make headway in these conflicts is not due to a lack of trying. The inability to de-escalate the conflicts in these regions, despite the multiple efforts deployed, suggests a need for a much more robust and sustained political engagement. African leaders should consider hosting either an extraordinary session of the Assembly or a meeting of the Peace and Security Council at the heads of state and government levels to discuss pragmatic ways of addressing the humanitarian catastrophe and ending the insecurity in the affected countries.

Financing African-led Peace Support Operations

A discussion and pronouncement on United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2719 (2023) on financing AU-led peace operations was expected. The Summit’s request for the Commission to provide an update on the implementation of the Resolution ensures that the momentum on the file is recovered. It also allows the Commission and the Secretariat to finalise the UN-AU Joint Planning Guidelines, which provide processual guidelines for when the UN and AU collaborate on a given situation of conflict or insecurity.

Since the AU is expected to contribute to the implementation of the Resolution, there is a need for clear pathways on how Africa will generate its part of the funding need. In addition, since the Resolution provides that implementation will be on a case-by-case basis, there will be instances where the UNSC will not reach agreement on providing assessed contributions for an AU-led operation. African leaders should maintain sight of this possibility. They should request the Commission to develop various scenarios and provide options for funding AU and African-led operations in instances when the UNSC cannot reach agreement to provide funding to AU-led operations.

[…]whilst the encouragement given to the High-Level Ad Hoc Panel on Sudan is commendable, the rapidly deteriorating situation in Sudan requires a much more hands-on approach by the AU.

Climate Change, Peace and Security

The reiteration of the call for developing a Common African Position on Climate Change, Peace and Security is timely. Perhaps nowhere else in the world has climate change had so much impact on development, peace and security as on the African Continent. Developing a Common Position that reflects the Continent’s peculiar needs, but also draws on its formal and informal institutions, processes, and values, is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change and enhancing customised adaptation measures that harness the agency of African traditions and norms.

Conclusion

The Assembly pronounced itself on many issues. It is now up to the Commission to unpack the decisions and provide innovative actions that translate the decisions’ objectives into reality. Strong leadership at the Commission is needed to facilitate practical cooperation among all relevant stakeholders to foster collaboration, co-operation and effective multilevel partnerships – elements that are needed now more than ever to address Africa’s governance, peace and security challenges.

Dr Linda AO Darkwa is the co-ordinator of the Training for Peace programme and a senior research fellow with the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy at the University of Ghana

This article was first published on ACCORD