January 31, 2012

AU wants peace, security and bigger global role in 2012

The African Union (AU) has unveiled an ambitious wish-list of priorities for Africa that would give the continent a stronger global voice, boost democracy and encourage peace and security. AU Ambassador to the United States, Amina Ali of Tanzania, presented the list of top priorities at a conference held at Washington think-tank, the Brookings Institution. Among them were the regulars - peace and security, enhanced democracy and good governance – as well as improved regional trade and greater involvement of the continent’s large diaspora in African affairs. The first priority for Africa was the AU's resolve to review its international partnerships to ensure they bring greater benefits to Africa. “We are working to be able to build closer partnerships with our international partners so that Africa can really attain a sustainable economy,” Ali told the conference.

The AU wants Africa to manufacture and export finished products to its trading partners rather than just selling them the raw materials as it does now. She cited China, India, the EU and US and other rising stars in trade with the continent, including Turkey and Latin America, and said the AU had held talks on the new breed of partnerships with some of them.

The AU also wants Africa to have a veto-wielding seat on the UN Security Council, and a place at the G20 negotiating table, Ali said. The peace and security that have eluded Africa for decades continue to be high on the list of problems that the continent needs to resolve, but she spoke only of conflict in Sudan. “The AU will continue to look into issues for Sudan,” Ali noted. And the AU will press member states to sign a charter ratified by the AU assembly in 2007, which aims to strengthen democracy and good governance in Africa, she said.

The charter was inspired in part by concern that “unconstitutional changes of governments” are a key cause of insecurity and “violent conflict” in Africa, and by a determination to “strengthen good governance through the institutionalization of transparency, accountability and participatory democracy”. As of November 2011, 38 of the AU’s 54 member states had signed the charter, but only 10 had ratified it. It is notable that nearly all the countries in the areas of Africa that are “likely to experience increasing instability and warfare” have signed the charter, with the exception of Somalia and Eritrea in the east and Cameroon in the west. (IRIN)

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