What is the African Union? Part I

What is the African Union? Part I

The African Union is one of the largest and most important regional organizations in the world, and in the future the union will become even more significant. What are the main objectives and how should these be achieved?

  • What is the African Union?
  • How is AU organized?
  • What are AU’s contributions in peace and security?
  • What has AU achieved and what are the biggest challenges?

The African Union (AU) is a partner organization in Africa.

Apart from the European Union (EU), the AU is the most well-developed regional institution in the world, with deep cooperation across 55 member countries in a continent with 1.2 billion people.

AU was established in 2002, and then built on the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was formed in 1963. OAU played an important role in the decolonization process , while AU’s purpose is to promote democracy, human rights and development.

Contrary to the OAU’s principle of “non-interference” in the member states’ “internal affairs”, the AU can, for example, send military forces to the member states if the civilian population is threatened. This was a conscious choice on the part of the AU, and happened for the first time in 2003 when the organization sent peacekeeping forces to Burundi.

AU’s vision is to create an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, run by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the world community. At the same time, there is a strong awareness that this goal cannot be achieved without creating stability, security and peace on the continent.

2: Management: The most important organs

AU has a total of six bodies. Some of the most important are:

  • The Assembly: The AU’s highest decision – making body. It is composed of the member states’ heads of state and government. The assembly meets once a year and adopts the annual work program. The leader today is the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is sitting until February 2021.
  • The Executive Council: All member states participate and are usually represented by foreign ministers. The board is responsible for coordinating and making decisions on policy in areas of common interest to the member countries and for monitoring the implementation of the AU Assembly’s decisions. Also directed by Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • Peace and Security Council: This is the most important body in peace and security, and works with conflict prevention, management and resolution. It consists of 15 selected Member States.
  • The Commission: The AU’s headquarters are in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The commission acts as AU’s secretariat and runs the organization. It consists of a chairman, deputy chairman and eight commissioners, plus employees. Since 2017, it has been headed by Moussa Faki Massamat, former Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Chad.

In addition, there are two other bodies called the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) and Specialized Technical Committees (STCs) that assist the Executive Council.

3: The relationship between Norway and AU

Norway and the AU have a long-standing partnership, and in 2015 this was formalized when they entered into a kind of agreement, a so-called “Memorandum of Understanding”, for peace and security, democracy and governance, sustainable development and job creation and organizational building. To strengthen further cooperation, Norway in 2018 sent a separate delegation to the AU in Addis Ababa.

AU is an important partner for Norway because Norway supports AU’s goal of creating a stable and conflict-free continent characterized by sustainable growth and development. Norway has great credibility in the world community, partly because we work closely with organizations such as the AU and the UN.

4: What does AU work with?

According to oxfordastronomy.com, AU tries to do a lot with few resources, something the organization has actually been criticized for.

Some of the main areas are:

  • Development
  • Integration
  • Create stronger cooperation across member countries
  • Strengthen a unified African voice
  • Promoting human rights
  • Establish democratic principles and good governance
  • Ensure female participation in politics and economics
  • Establish common policies for trade, defense and foreign relations
  • Create peace, stability and security

One of the most important campaigns for AU is Agenda 2063 , launched in 2013. This is in line with the UN’s Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. “Silencing the Guns” is one of the main goals in Agenda 2063, and should contribute to peace in Africa by 2020. Although this was a very ambitious goal, which in the end has not been reached, this will continue to be a main focus for AU going forward. They marked the new launch of this campaign at the assembly in 2020.

5: Peace and security

Armed conflicts are still one of the biggest challenges for Africa. Long-standing conflicts continue and new conflicts have emerged.

The AU has a number of mechanisms, bodies and guidelines that constitute a very ambitious framework for solving peace and security issues. Among other things, they have their own Peace and Security Council, which is similar to the UN Security Council, but which does not have permanent members or a veto function. They also have a wisdom panel of five people working on peace mediation, a peace fund, a mechanism for predicting and preventing conflicts, and they are working to establish a continental emergency response force.

Since its founding in 2002, the AU has assumed greater responsibility for maintaining peace and security in Africa, including through peace operations.

African Union 1