The formation of the African Union (AU or EU depending on the language) was heralded as an event of great magnitude for the continent. In September 1999, African Heads of State issued a declaration calling for the formation of the African Union. In July of 2002, at the Durban Summit, the AU was officially launched and the first Assembly of the Heads of State of the African Union was convened. The AU consists of 54 African States, the exception being Morocco, which declined to join because it opposes the membership of Western Sahara.
The Vision and Mission
The AU was formed with the overall mission of speeding up integration in the continent in order to enable Africa to play its rightful role in the global economy while at the same time addressing a myriad of economic, political and social problems currently plaguing its member states. The AU succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which had failed due to multiple reasons.
The AU is based on the common vision of a united and strong Africa and on the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector, in order to strengthen solidarity and cohesion amongst the peoples of Africa. It focuses on the promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent as a prerequisite for the implementation of the development and integration agenda of the Union. Ultimately, the AU is building towards a greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and its people.
Article 3 of the Constitutive Act of the AU provides the following as the objectives of the African Union:
- To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa;
- To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of its Member States;
- To accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
- To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples
- To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
- To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
- To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
- To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations:
- To promote sustainable development at the economic, social, and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
- To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples;
- To coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union;
- To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular science and technology;
- To work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
Principles establishing the AU:
- Sovereign equality and interdependence among Member States of the Union;
- Respect of borders existing on achievement of independence;
- Participation of the African peoples in the activities of the Union;
- Establishment of a common defense policy for the African Continent;
- Peaceful resolution of conflicts among Member States of the Union through such appropriate means as may decided upon by the Assembly;
- Prohibition of the use of force or threat to use force among Member States of the Union;
- Non-interference by any Member State in the internal affairs of another;
- The right of the Union to intervene if a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity
- Peaceful co-existence of Member States and their right to live in peace and security;
- The right of Member States to request intervention from the Union in order to restore peace and security;
- Promotion of self-reliance within the framework of the Union;
- Promotion of gender equality;
- Respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance;
- Promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic development;
- Respect for sanctity of human life, condemnation and rejection of impunity and political assassination, acts of terrorism and subversive activities;
- Condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes of government.
The AU consists of the following organs:
Composed of Heads of State and Government or their duly accredited representatives. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government is the supreme organ of the Union.
The Executive Council
Composed of Ministers or Authorities designated by the Governments of Members States. The Executive Council is responsible to the Assembly.
The Permanent Representatives' Committee
Composed of Permanent Representatives of Member States accredited to the Union. The Permanent Representatives Committee is charged with the responsibility of preparing the work of the Executive Council.
The Court of Justice
A Court of Justice of the Union shall be established. The statutes defining the composition and functions of the Court of Justice have been prepared and will be submitted to the Assembly in Maputo.
Peace and Security Council (PSC)
By decision AHG/Dec 160 (xxxvii) of the Summit of Lusaka, July 2001, a decision was made for the creation within the African Union of the Peace and Security Council. The Protocol establishing the PSC is in the process of ratification.
A Pan-African Parliament, and organ to ensure the full participation of African peoples in governance, development and economic integration of the Continent. The protocol relating to the composition, powers, functions and organization of the Pan-African Parliament has been signed by Member States and is in the process of ratification.
The Economic, Social and Cultural Council. This is an advisory organ composed of different social and professional groups of the Member States of the Union. The statutes determining the functions, powers, composition and organization of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council have been prepared and will be submitted to Maputo Summit.
The AU Commission
The Commission is the key organ playing a central role in the day-to-day management of the African Union. Among others, it represents the Union and defends its interests; It elaborates draft common positions of the Union; It prepares strategic plans and studies for the consideration of the Executive Council; It elaborates, promotes, coordinates and harmonizes the programmes and policies of the Union with those of the RECs; IT ensures the mainstreaming of gender in all programmes and activities of the Union.
Members of the Commission
- Deputy Chairperson;
- Eight (8) Commissioners.
- Staff members
The Specialized Technical Committees
The following Specialized Technical Committees are meant to address sectorial issues and are at Ministerial Level:
- The Committee on Rural Economy and Agricultural Matters;
- The Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs;
- The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters;
- The Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment;
- The Committee on Transport, Communications and Tourism;
- The Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs; and
- The Committee on Education, Culture and Human Resources.
The Financial Institutions
- The African Central bank
- The African Monetary Fund
- The African Investment Bank