Briefing by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe to the Heads of Mission accredited to South Africa on the Outcomes of the 9th Ordinary African Union Summit, CSIR Convention Centre, 16 July 2007

Your Excellencies

Introduction

Thank you for responding to our invitation to address you on the Outcomes of the 9th African Union Summit that was held in Ghana this year under the theme "Grand Debate on the Union Government."

African leaders chose this theme because of their unanimous desire for our continent to move rapidly towards the improvement of the human condition experienced by all our people informed by the belief that this can best be achieved through unity.

This theme is a clear testimony of the progress and growth that the African Union is making as the premier Continental organisation to realise the vision of the rebirth of Africa.

It is also testimony of the commitment of our leaders to the goal of an African continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.

At my last briefing, we were very upbeat in reporting on the good progress made with regards to the vision we have set for ourselves, of the idea that Africans could come together as a united federation of nations and states.

These ideas were captured most notably in the words of Kwame Nkrumah when he said, "We must endeavour to eradicate quickly the forces that have kept us apart. The best means of doing so is to begin to create a larger and all-embracing loyalty which will hold Africa together as a united people with one government and one destiny."

We have long realised that our strength lies in our unity and it was thus proper that on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of one of the first African countries to achieve its freedom from colonialism, Ghana, that the 9th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union was held under the theme "Grand Debate on the Union Government", in Accra, Ghana from 01 to 03 July 2007.

The Summit was preceded as is custom, by the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Council (PRC) on 25 to 26 June and that of the Executive Council on 28 to 29 June respectively. The PRC considered administrative and financial matters, legal and institutional matters, political, economic, social and cultural matters while the Executive Council adopted a number of decisions and considered a number of reports including those of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and that of the PRC.

For its part, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government met from 01 to 03 July and devoted its time to the "Grand Debate on the Union Government" with a view to providing a clear vision for the future of the African Union and the framework for continental integration. I will deal with these issues in some depth and with the assistance of officials from the department provide further elaboration during the questions and answer session.

The Grand Debate on the Union Government

Your Excellencies, I think we can all agree that the notion of a United States of Africa has evoked within us a keen sense of inquisitiveness. By its very nature it has stimulated a sense of wonder about its nature and for some even a wait and see attitude as to what we as Africans hope to achieve.

What the Assembly of Heads of State and Government sought to realise during the most recent Summit in Accra, was to give concrete expression to this vision by adopting the outcomes of the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council and the Brainstorming Session of Foreign Affairs Ministers on the Union Government that took place in Durban, South Africa, from 08 to 10 May 2007.

At the Summit in Ghana, the Assembly adopted the Accra Declaration on the Union Government, which reiterated the conviction of the United States of Africa, with a Union Government as the ultimate objective of the African Union. The Heads of State and Government reiterated the need for common responses to the major challenges of globalisation facing the continent, as well as the need to boost regional integration processes through effective continental mechanism.

Through the Declaration, the Assembly agreed to accelerate the economic and political integration of the continent, including the formation of a Union Government for Africa, with the ultimate objective of creating the United States for Africa.

With regards to the specific modalities for attaining this objective, the Assembly agreed on the following steps:

a. To rationalise and strengthen the Regional Economic Communities and harmonise their activities, with a view to the creation of an African Common Market, within a reviewed shorter timeframe;
b. To conduct immediately, an audit of the Executive Council, the Commission and other organs of the African Union; based on the terms of reference adopted at the Zimbali Brainstorming Session of AU Foreign Ministers,
c. To establish a Ministerial Committee charged with the following functions:

  • Identification of the contents of the Union Government concept and its relations with national governments;
  • Identification of domains of competence and the impact of the establishment of the Union Government on the sovereignty of Member States;
  • Definition of the relationship between the Union Government and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs);
  • Elaboration of the roadmap, together with timeframes, for establishing the Union Government; and
  • Identification of additional sources of financing the activities of the African Union.

Relationship between the Union Government and the Regional Economic Communities

You will recall, Your Excellencies, that during last year's briefing we mentioned the important role assigned to the Regional Economic Communities with regards to supporting the agenda of the AU towards African Unity. Towards this end, the AU called for the rationalisation of the RECs, which was the focus of its 7th Summit in July last year. Following on this, the Accra Assembly adopted the Protocol on Relations between the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities. This Protocol was originally finalised in 2005 and is intended to facilitate the harmonisation of policies and ensure compliance with the Abuja Treaty and Lagos Plan of Action time frames.

The Assembly therefore affirmed the integration process as envisaged in the Abuja Treaty, based on Regional Economic Communities, working towards Common African Market within shorter timeframes.

A decision was also taken with regards to the Report on the Status of OAU/AU Treaties. The Commission was requested to implement its previous decision of reviewing OAU/AU Treaties that have not entered into force. Member States were also requested to submit to the Commission their ratification/accession procedures.

Finally, the Commission was requested to resolve inconsistencies in linguistic texts and to appoint an Arabic speaking legal expert to assist.

The outcome of the audit and the work of the Ministerial Committee will be submitted to the Executive Council, to make appropriate recommendations to the next Ordinary Session of the Assembly.

Already, within this month, Ministers responsible for integration will meet in Kigali, Rwanda to further guide and give impetus to the need to rationalise and harmonise Regional Economic Integration and to ensure that the building blocks are strengthened to enable us to achieve the African Common Market in shorter timeframes.

The Assembly also agreed on the importance of involving the African Peoples, including Africans in the Diaspora, in the process leading to the formation of the Union Government.

Regarding the Diaspora, you will recall that the African Union took a decision in January 2006 that South Africa should host the global Africa-African Diaspora Summit, scheduled for 2008. The proposed theme of this Summit is: "Towards the realisation of a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora" and the aim is to produce a shared vision of sustainable development for both the African continent and the Diaspora.

The Preparatory meetings have already started in South Africa, London, Brazil and New York. Further meetings will take place in the Bahamas, in Paris and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

The Ministerial Conference will take place in November this year in Gauteng followed by a Global Summit of the African Diaspora Heads of State and Government in 2008. There will be a civil society component as well.

The effort by our country on behalf of the AU is a part of our own contribution to rekindle the flames of solidarity, inspired by the establishment of the first black republic in Haiti. As part of our ongoing engagements with CARICOM, the AU and the UN, we will continue to monitor political developments in Haiti.

South Africa's APRM Report

Your Excellencies, allow me to remind this forum that at a meeting of the APR Panel and the NEPAD Steering Committee on 29 June 2007 in Accra, concern was raised regarding the slow pace of the peer review process. This was attributed to the unfulfilled funding promises of some of the G8 countries. To this end South Africa and Nigeria emphasised the importance of sourcing funding from donor partners but reiterated the imperative of upholding the Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee decision to continue to provide the core funding for the African Peer Review Process.

Of the twenty countries that have acceded to the APRM, thirteen have been engaged in the peer review process. Of these, five countries have completed the process.

The Panel agreed that a brainstorming session to reflect on the lessons learnt is necessary and a decision was taken to have such a session in Algiers towards the end of October 2007 to coincide with the 9th African Peer Forum in Algiers.

As you are aware, South Africa's Peer Review Report was discussed during the Summit and amongst others, the following recommendations were made:

§ that South Africa should give greater attention to accelerating the pace of land reform and should step up the fight against racism and crime, and
§ that there is a need to strengthen the integrated and holistic approach to combating HIV and Aids, TB and malaria plus other communicable diseases.

South Africa has noted the concerns raised in the report and will endeavour to address the recommendations made by the African Peer Review Panel through the Progamme of Action containing actions to deal with challenges identified.

As President Mbeki noted on the outcomes of our report, "we must feel inspired that, among other things in its report on South Africa, the APR Panel identified 18 best practices in our country, which it recommended should be emulated by other African countries as we, together, strive to improve overall governance and accelerate our advance towards meeting the goal of a better life for the masses of the peoples of our continent."

Infrastructure in support of Trade and Development

Last year we also highlighted attention that the Summit gave to the importance of infrastructure in the support of trade and development. To this end the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund was established.

The vision for the Fund is to create a financing platform for infrastructure development that will accelerate Africa's growth. The Fund estimates that over the next ten years at least US$150 billion of infrastructure investment opportunities are expected to be created due to infrastructure demands in energy, water and sanitation, transport and communication technology.

The Fund represents investment opportunities to African States and Private investors on the continent and is structured to offer:

  • a range of investment instruments to offer opportunities for African pension fund portfolios to invest on the continent;
  • competitive instruments based on public-private infrastructure investments to increase returns;
  • flexible long-term investment horizons;
  • the mitigation of risk at key levels;
    a opportunity to participate in an initiative for Africa's post-colonial reconstruction that will help to put in place the drivers for Africa's future growth.

Again, the important role of Regional Economic Communities was highlighted in spurring trade and development ahead.

During the most recent Summit, the Heads of State and Government noted the Report on Assessing the Progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. They called upon the AU Commission, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the Regional Economic Communities to continue monitoring the implementation of the MDGs and submit a progress report to Assembly at least once a year.

The Assembly also mandated the AU Commission and the African Development Bank to strengthen the capacity of the Regional Economic Communities, national statistics bodies as well as other organisations in the development of statistics for Africa. A process on African statistics harmonisation has already been initiated.

Intra-continental travel is an important element for trade and integration. The Summit endorsed the resolution entrusting the functions of the Executing Agency of the Yamoussoukro Decision to the African Civil Aviation Commission. It also endorsed the Addis Ababa Declaration on Civil Aviation as well as the 2007-2010 Air Transport Plan of Action.

The Summit also endorsed the Abuja Declaration and Plan of Action on Maritime Transport. All stakeholders were requested to ensure the implementation of the Action Plan for the development of the maritime transport. The Summit recognises the important role that international partners can play in supporting this Plan. Towards this end, international partners were requested to support the implementation of this Plan. The Summit requested that the AU Commission submit periodic progress reports on this issue to the Executive Council.

Sustainable Development

Your Excellencies,

Again last year, we emphasised the progress that we are making as a continent with regards to human development. Development in all its forms should ultimately translate into the improvement of the lives of our people. The AU is very much alive to this priority and continues to give prominence in its discussions to these issues.

During the Summit, the Report of the 8th and 9th Sessions of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was noted. Concern was expressed over the deteriorating situation of children on the Continent and Member States, who have not yet done so, were urged to ratify the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The Executive Committee was requested to play an active role in convening the Second Pan-African Forum on Children to be held in September 2007. The outcomes of this Forum will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in December 2007 as Africa's position.

The Summit also endorsed the Africa Health Strategy as a framework in which Member States will address the health challenges facing the Continent.

It further endorsed the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa, the Plan of Action on Violence Prevention in Africa and the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism for the Outcomes of the May 2006 Abuja Special Summit on HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria. The AU Commission was requested to submit a status report on implementation to the Executive Council. I am glad to inform you that the Africa Health Strategy was welcomed by the World Health Organisation.

A decision was also taken on the management of Africa's natural resources. The Report of the ECA and the African Development Bank on the "2007 Big Table" on the theme of Africa's natural resources was noted and the AU affirmed its commitment to Africa's ownership of its natural resources and to the efficient management of these resources for the achievement of sustainable development with a strong emphasis on local value addition.

The AU Commission was requested, in collaboration with ECA and the African Development Bank, to organise a meeting of the AU Ministers Responsible for Natural Resources to reflect on major issues pertaining to the exploitation and management of Africa's natural resources as a catalyst for development, and to submit a report to the next Ordinary Session of the Executive Council in 2008.

WTO Negotiations

Trade remains one of the key milestones in facilitating the continent's development. Towards this end, the opening up of markets, particularly those of the developed countries for products coming from the continent remains a priority.


Africa-European Union Dialogue

As I indicated earlier on, we do not do these things naively but do them conscious of our own current realities. As a continent functioning within the current realities of globalisation, partnership with the international community, particularly the European Union, remains important. I am glad to report that Africa - European Union discussions towards the next Africa-EU Summit are progressing well.

At the Summit, the Heads of State and Government adopted an Outline of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy as the basis for a fully-fledged Joint Strategy and Action Plan for the Lisbon Summit. It also decided that a Joint Ministerial Preparatory Meeting would be held in Egypt in November this year. The AU Commission was requested to ensure that in preparation for the Africa-EU Summit, Africa's development needs are taken into account, particularly in the areas of agriculture and food security.

The Summit also noted the Report on the Commission on the Status of Negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union as well as the decision of the 85th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers on EPAs held in Brussels, Belgium from 21-24 May 2007. Deep concern was expressed at the slow progress in the EPAs Negotiations on the development aspects and the European Commission was called upon to reflect in their negotiating positions the political commitment of EU member States in making EPAs instruments of development for ACP countries.

The EU was requested to consider putting in place transitional measures to safeguard the continued flow of African exports to the EU market beyond December 2007, given the low likelihood of satisfactorily addressing all outstanding EPA issues as well as the impossibility of completing the EPA ratification by the end of 2007.

The Commission and the African Negotiating Regional Groups were requested to prepare and submit for the consideration of the AU Ministers of Trade a comprehensive report on the progress, problems and way forward in trade and economic co-operation with the EU. It is within this context that it becomes increasingly important for African Nations States to maintain unity and forge common positions in the interest of the continent.

Afro-Arab Co-operation

Beyond the Africa-EU partnership, the Summit also noted the Report of the Chairperson of the Commission and commended the Commission and the General Secretariat of the Arab League for the Initiative to transform the Afro-Arab Cultural Institute in Bamako, Mali, to an Afro-Arab Institute for Culture and Strategic Studies. The Summit endorsed the conclusion of the General Agreement on Cooperation between the African Union and the League of Arab States signed in 2007 and called upon the parties to take all necessary measures to ensure successful implementation of the provisions of the Agreement.

Peace, Security and Post Conflict Reconstruction

The Summit considered and took decisions on the conflict situations in the Middle East and Africa. Regarding the situation in the Middle East and Palestine the Summit reiterated its support to, and solidarity with, the Palestinians in their struggle for self determination, return to their land and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international principles of international law, UN Resolution 194 and other pertinent resolutions of the OAU/AU and all UN resolutions.

The Summit also reaffirmed its support for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the Arab Peace Initiative to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The UN was urged to take concrete measures to protect the people of Palestine by providing international protection forces to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to compel Israel to allow the UN fact-finding Mission to discharge its duties. The International Community and Quartet Committee were urged to spare no efforts in invigorating the negotiations to salvage the peace process, and AU support was expressed for the organisation of an International Peace Conference on the Middle East Conflict.

I reiterate the statement made by my colleague Deputy Minister Pahad that the South African government does not believe that you can have reconstruction and development without peace and security and that will not be possible until the situation in Israel and Palestine is solved on the basis of a two-state solution.

Regarding the establishment of the Palestinian Government of National Unity, grave concern was expressed over the deteriorating situation between the two main components, the Fatah and the Hamas, resulting in the dissolution of the Government. The International Community was called upon to lift the siege, boycott and blockade against the Government so as to ease the difficult living conditions of Palestinian people which stir up tension and violence. Grave concern was also expressed regarding the tension and violence in Lebanon and the Council called upon the Lebanese parties to resolve their differences through negotiations.

On Darfur:

The Summit welcomed the outcomes of the United Nations-African Union Technical Consultation with the Government of Sudan and the subsequent decision of the Peace and Security Council on the Hybrid Operation in Darfur and the renewal of the AMIS mandate. It expressed satisfaction with the efforts of the Special Envoys of the African Union and United Nations, Messrs Salim Ahmed Salim and Jan Eliasson respectively, to re-energise the Darfur Peace Process.

On Somalia:

On the issue of Somalia, the Summit appealed to Member States and partners to provide the requisite support for the full deployment and sustenance of AMISON. IGAD, the League of Arab States, the United Nations and other stakeholders were encouraged to support the early convening of a national reconciliation congress in Somalia.

On Comoros:

The Summit welcomed the decisions adopted by the Peace and Security Council on 9 May and 9 June, as well as the Communiqué adopted by the countries of the region at the meeting held in Cape Town. It encouraged the countries of the region to intensify their efforts to enable the Peace and Security Council to meet as soon as possible to take the required decisions. The Summit supported the initiative by South Africa to host a meeting.

South Africa is still involved with the Comoros in their effort to consolidate their democracy and deal with post-conflict and development challenges.

On Policy Frameworks on Peace and Security:

The Summit noted AU Commission efforts to operationalise the Continental Peace and Security architecture, including the Continental Early Warning System, the Panel of the Wise and the African Standby Force and requested it to intensify efforts. The AU Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council were encouraged to strengthen their cooperation.

Related to the matter of conflict and the consequences thereof, the Summit also took a decision with regard to dealing with the challenge of refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa. It noted the Report on Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons and called on the international community to increase its assistance to victims. It also called on the AU Commission to reactivate the Committee on Assistance and Protection to Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, to finalise its terms of reference and to submit it to the Legal Counsel for validation and approval at the next session of the Executive Council.

South Africa believes that there is an urgent need for the AU and its Member States to take greater ownership of this issue and to develop a comprehensive strategy, with support from partners, in order to ameliorate this situation.

Free movement of people and border control

The free movement of people within the continent is one of the building blocks of integration and eventually Union Government. While this is still a process in the making, the recent Summit noted the Report on this matter as well as the symbolic launching of the African Union Diplomatic and Service Passports. It underscored the need to de-link the issue of the African Union Diplomatic Passport from that of Free Movement in Africa. The Summit further decided to convene a forum, bringing together African officials at national, regional and continental levels and the PRC to hold consultations and making recommendations on issues of common interest that would facilitate free movement in Africa.

A decision was also taken regarding the Conference of African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues held in Addis Ababa on 7 June 2007. The Summit took note of the Report of the Conference and endorsed the Declaration on the African Union Border Programme and its Implementation Modalities as adopted by the Ministerial Conference. The AU Commission and Member States were then requested to take appropriate measures to implement the Declaration and to submit regular report thereon to the policy organs of the Union.

Human Rights

The respect for human rights remains a fundamental pillar of our approach to the Consolidation of the African Agenda. It therefore remains critical for us as Africans to jointly commit ourselves as governments and civil society to entrench the protection and promotion of a culture of human rights for all our peoples.

The AU Summit adopted and authorised the publication of the 22nd Activity Report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Accordance with Article 59 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Member States, who had not yet done so, were also urged to present their State Party Reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in accordance with Article 62 of the Charter. Also, Member States who had not yet done so were requested to take urgent steps to ratify Protocols to the Charter on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples Rights.

I am pleased to report that five new members were appointed to the Commission and of these, four are female. This reaffirms the AU's commitment for 50/50 gender representation within its structures.

Good Governance, Finance and Administration

The AU continues to grapple with issues of good governance within its own structures and institutions as well as in its Member States. The Summit expressed concern at some of the findings of the external Auditors and endorsed recommendations of the Permanent Representative Committee as contained in the report. A decision was also taken to establish a Committee of the Executive Council charged with the formulation of proposals on the implementation of the recommendations.

The recommendations of the Executive Council were adopted in their entirety including the recommendation to extend the term of office of the current Executive team of the AU Commission as well as recommendations of the Pan African Parliament and the Dakar Conference.

Furthermore, increased emphasis on performance, as proposed in the decision should be encouraged.

2010

You're Excellencies, as you are aware, we are well on track with regards to our preparations for 2010 as evidence by regular inspection visits by FIFA and the positive reports that have come out of these visits.

We are encouraged by the decision of the AU to encourage Member States to implement activities programmed to lead up to 2010 and to popularise the International Year of Football and the FIFA World Cup Legacy Programme.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude by reiterating our commitment to the vision of an African continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.

I thank you.

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