Civil Society Joint Memoranda to the African Union Heads of State and Government Meeting at the 35th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly.

Your Excellency, Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and Chair of the African Union

We, the civil society, commend and welcome your election as the Chairperson of the African Union. We write in solidarity, and in respect of the unique role the African Union (AU) plays on the continent and across the globe. In doing so, we affirm our commitment and role as civil society in the realisation of the “Africa We Want”. An Africa, whose development is people- driven; and an Africa where good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law thrives.

We welcome your leadership and commit to stand and work with your office and all relevant organs and structures of the AU especially in these challenging times for us all as a continent. We believe this is the time for Africa to stand together, and His Excellency’s leadership is critical to steering the continent to a just, green, and feminist recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. A recovery that puts the people and the planet above corporate interests.

Your Excellency, we the undersigned members of civil society, would like to express our deep concerns and bring to your attention and request for your leadership in mobilising fellow Heads of State and Government during and after the 35th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in addressing the following:

Peace, Security and Stability on the continent

While some progress in democratic governance has been made in some spaces, the continent faces myriad challenges as we settle into 2022. In many parts of the continent, there is a marked escalation of violent conflict, including inter-communal, internationalised internal conflicts, violent extremism and increased involvement of private military contractors. There is a steady return to military coups. In Western Africa, recent military coups have been followed by open defiance of the statutory responses from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as the AU. The entire Horn of Africa is steeped in crisis, including in Ethiopia, the seat of the AU. In Central Africa, wars continue to rage in Anglophone Cameroon, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other places. In Southern Africa, there is strife in Northern Mozambique and a violent stalemate between the government and the people in eSwatini, amongst other challenges.

At the same time, Northern Africa, the Sahel, most of Western and Horn of Africa is reeling under the weight of terrorist groups and other armed non-state actors. Over a good part of the continent, electoral processes and outcomes are contested and lack popular legitimacy. There is also widespread brutal repression of protests and misappropriation of emergency powers.

Over the last two decades, the AU and its Member States have formulated impressive laws (treaties, charters, protocols), rules and regulations. They have also rolled out the attendant organs, institutions and mechanisms for the implementation of regional standards. However, the established legal, policy and institutional frameworks are either weak, insufficient or inefficient and have not led to a demonstrable improvement on the status of democracy, good governance, rule of law or human and peoples’ rights. To the contrary, we are witnessing a rapid decline back to the pre-millennium state of conflict and instability. The promise of ‘Silencing the guns by 2020’ is proving to be brutally hollow. In this light, we call on African leaders to:

  1. Demonstrably recommit themselves to the principles and objectives that underpinned the transition from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the AU. In particular, and in accordance with Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitutive Act of the AU, the AU must move beyond mere rhetoric and assertions and place human rights, rule of law and good governance at the front and centre of all decisions and actions relating to peace, security and stability in Africa.
  2. Ensure uniform, consistent and prompt application of the statutory responses to and sanctions against unconstitutional changes of government wherever they occur in the continent.
  3. Promptly and resolutely respond to all forms of unconstitutional changes of government as defined under the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. In this regard, the AU must respond not only to military coup d’etat, but also to unconstitutional changes of government orchestrated by incumbent regimes including by manipulation of constitutions, or of judicial or electoral institutions or processes. The AU must be seen to implement its laws, rules and regulations equally between incumbents and other actors.
  4. Consistently demonstrate political will and determination to address human rights violations leading to and/or committed in conflict situations, including by taking urgent measures or bolstering existing efforts to fight impunity that undermines active civic and media participation in strengthening transparency and accountability in public affairs.

Health and Vaccine Justice for COVID-19

COVID-19 has been a tragedy that continues to ravage the continent, the pandemic has super charged inequality between and within countries. Countless unnecessary deaths have been witnessed and livelihoods lost. Many deaths could have been avoided if African leaders had stayed true to the Abuja declaration and rich countries, along with Big Pharma had not resorted to vaccine nationalism restricting and making the Covid-19 vaccine inaccessible to Africans. As Civil Society, we are appalled by the slow roll out of vaccines across the continent and the actions of rich countries who continue to block efforts to scale up manufacturing of safe and effective vaccines by refusing to agree to proposal at WTO sponsored by South Africa and India and has been backed by all African countries to suspend intellectual property rules (TRIPS waiver) for all COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment.

In this light, we call on African leaders to:

  1. Ensure every African gets a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, swiftly and free of charge. Address vaccine hesitancy by proactively investing in public health education, addressing misinformation and move away from militaristic approaches being adopted by many Africans.
  2. Unify African voices with those of other developing countries and regional blocs to boldly call out rich countries blocking a TRIPS waiver at WTO. African countries have faced an endless tide of inadequate gestures and broken promises from rich countries and pharmaceutical companies, who are failing to deliver billions of doses they promised while blocking the real solutions to ending the pandemic. African leaders should boldly call out rich countries blocking suspension of intellectual property rules (TRIPS waiver) for all COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment.
  3. Resist any attempts by wealthy nations to count donations of excess COVID-19 vaccines which were never purchased in the interest of African countries as part of their aid budgets at a price of USD 6.72 per dose. Accepting this move will undermine the quality, character and integrity of Official Development Assistance.
  4. Demonstrate political commitment to achieving universal health coverage by investing a significant share of their Special Drawing Rights to strengthening public health systems and procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. This should be followed by continued allocation and spending at least 15% of annual national budgets in publicly funded healthcare services as per the Abuja Declaration/Commitments.
  5. Take deliberate actions towards self-reliance in vaccine production by investing in research and development, strengthening the regulatory and financial environments, attracting and retaining skilled human resources and pursuing foreign policies that yield just and win-win cooperation.

A Just, Green and Feminist Economic Recovery

Covid-19 continues to place enormous pressure on African economies and citizens- including those in the lowest income quintile, particularly women and young people, with tax revenue collection showing little sign of bouncing back to pre-Covid-19 levels. Further to this, unsustainable debt continues to deplete African reserves leading to cuts in public services while illicit financial flows (IFFs) from the continent continue, with latest estimates approximating that $90 billion is lost annually to aggressive and harmful tax practises.

The failure of the global response to the pandemic has exposed the dysfunction and injustice of the current global financial architecture. 2021 saw global tax discussions championed by the G20/OECD countries resulting in outcomes that have marginal benefits for African countries. Similarly, global debt solutions have not gone far enough: they exclude private creditors; there is no access for middle-income countries; and credit rating agencies are “playing police” with sovereign rating downgrades. The expiration of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) in December 2021; the minimal Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation; and a less than favourable G20 Common Framework, means the African debt crisis risks are being postponed rather than fundamentally tackled. And without a comprehensive cancellation programme involving all creditors, African governments will continue to divert freed-up resources to external and domestic debt payments.

A just, green and feminist recovery ensures that care (of people and the planet) is at the centre of the economy and life. It includes the recognition and redistribution of women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work as well as access to decent, paid work for all workers.

In this light, we call on African leaders to:

  1. Adopt and voice a unified African stance on tax and illicit financial flows in the global financial architecture. Current discussions are being championed by the G20/OECD and do not reflect the concerns or interests of African countries.
  2. Continue to champion an inclusive global tax body under the auspices of the United Nations. This would ensure that all countries are able to participate in the decision- making of global tax rules.
  3. Boldly champion a global campaign for debt suspension and relief, including debt cancellation, so Africa can channel domestic resource mobilisation towards a just, green and feminist economic recovery.
  4. Call for transformation of the global financial architecture that governs public debt to incorporate the UN Principles of Sovereign Debt Restructuring that incorporates ALL creditors in the debt ecosystem
  5. Go beyond the current re-channelling of the Special Drawing Rights, and seek an additional General Allocation of SDRs closer to the US$3 trillion estimated by UNCTAD needed to cover the impacts of Covid-19
  6. Unify African voices towards ensuring non-conditionality of the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) mechanism being developed to re-channel SDRs
  7. Recall that since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and African Union, Africa’s aspiration has been to work collectively towards a common destiny, which has now been encapsulated under the Agenda 2063 as the “Africa we Want”. We ask Heads of State to honour the agreement from the 31st AU Summit held Mauritania (2018) to abstain from entering into bilateral trading arrangements until after the entry into force of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA.

Climate Justice for the People of Africa at COP27

The UN Climate Conference 2022 (COP 27) will be held on African soil-Egypt, and provides the opportunity for the continent to ensure that the needs of the climate vulnerable – rather than the interests of rich, polluting nations – are met. The Conference of the Parties in the past have seen a bias in favour of mitigation discussions, while neglecting the disruptions and harms already being suffered by climate change. An African COP must go beyond this bias. Egypt will welcome representatives from around the world at the end of 2022 and, as host, they have a crucial role in shaping the outcome and creating space for the correct priorities.

We call on African leaders working with Egypt’s COP Presidency that COP27:

  1. Places adaptation and loss & damage front-and-centre in the climate negotiations. COP27 could finally be the time that rich nations cough up the lifesaving cash that is essential to help vulnerable communities adapt to a changing climate. From building the right infrastructure, to creating early warning systems for extreme weather, to providing people with drought resistant crops, the adaptation needs of countries in Africa and elsewhere in the Global South are vast and only growing the longer we delay. COP27 needs to see a clear Global Goal on Adaptation agreed, at least 50% of climate finance committed to adaptation efforts, and the African Adaptation Initiative supported, and financed.
  1. Go beyond the planned workshops on operationalising a Loss and Damage Facility. Some climate change impacts, however, cannot be adapted to. You cannot adapt to your island home being submerged forever under rising sea levels, or your farmland turned into desert by rising temperatures. This suffering needs to be addressed. Parties must agree at COP27 to establish Loss and Damage as a clear standalone pillar in the negotiations, commit dedicated shares of climate finance to loss and damage, and provide dedicated support to affected countries attempting to access loss and damage financing.
  2. At minimum, doubles the $100 billion commitment at COP27 and begin discussions toward the trillions of dollars that reflect the true needs to keep global warming below 1.5°C. Richer countries have developed on the back of fossil fuels and colonialism and now owe a great debt to the poorer climate vulnerable countries who have been left behind. If Africa is to leave our fossil fuels in the ground and effectively leapfrog fossil- heavy development models, a great deal of financial support will be needed, which cannot simply come in the form of new debt.
  3. Secures meaningful commitments and investments into an African-led, decentralised, and democratised renewable energy economy. One that reaches those previously left behind and births new connections and opportunities. Hundreds of millions of Africans are left without affordable and reliable access to energy. COP27 must frame the mitigation discussion in a way that matters for Africa. Mitigation cannot simply be about decarbonising large, developed economies, or implementing carbon taxes, or worse, avoiding real change with carbon offsets. Mitigation in an African context needs to be about a renewable energy transition that can meaningfully meet the ever-growing energy demands of the continent.
  4. Calls out the dangers of geoengineering and ensures that the existing Convention on Biodiversity moratorium on geoengineering technologies is upheld. Discussions have emerged looking to make Africa the testing ground for dangerous geoengineering technologies. Geoengineering sells the false promise of being the last hope for climate vulnerable countries while, in reality, it threatens to further destabilise the earth’s natural systems, increase likelihood and severity of extreme weather events, and thwart any hopes of a real energy transition.

Finally, while the African Union recognises the pivotal role of citizens, civil society and the media in achieving Africa’s development agenda, its actions are far from reality. We call on the African Union whose mission is to build “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens” to reverse its decision to limit peoples’ voices in its affairs. The closure of the last nine summits to civil society and citizens’ is perceived to be an approach contradictory to its vision of a people driven Africa and Agenda 2063. As African governments meet from today to deliberate on key actions that will impact on the African peoples’ lives, the people themselves have been denied the opportunity to be part of these discussions. The ever-narrowing space for citizens to participate in the affairs of the AU remains a threat to achieving the Africa We Want.

With Copies to:-

  1. Office of the Chairperson, African Union Commission
  2. Office of the Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission

Signing Organisations:

  1. ActionAid International
  2. Africa Development Interchange Network (ADIN)
  3. African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD)
  4. African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)
  5. Akina Mama wa Afrika
  7. Budget Advocacy Network- Sierra Leone
  8. CAADP Non-State Actors Coalition (CNC)
  9. Centre de Développement pour la Femme (CDF) – RDC
  10. Christian Aid
  11. Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) – Malawi
  12. East African Budget Network (EABN)
  13. East African Tax and Governance Network (EATGN)
  14. EcoNews Africa (ENA) – Kenya
  15. Fight Inequality Alliance
  16. Initiative citoyenne pour l’environnement et le développement durable (ICED), Burundi
  17. Kalkal Human Rights Development Organisation (KAHRDO) ,Base In Somalia.
  18. Les Amis de la Terre TOGO
  19. Oxfam
  20. Pan Africa Lawyers Union (PALU)
  21. Power Shift Africa
  22. Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda
  23. Tanzania Coalition on Debt and Development (TCDD)
  24. Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA)
  25. The Institute for Social Accountability/The Okoa Uchumi Campaign
  26. Transparency International (T.I.)
  27. Uganda Debt Network (UDN)

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