The 22nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union opened on Thursday January 30, 2014 under the theme of Agriculture and Food Security, launching “2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security, Marking 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP)”.
In its two days of deliberation (January 30-31) the Assembly, which has elected the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as the Chairperson of the Union for 2014, will adopt decisions on the basis of the recommendations of the Executive Council and consider reports of the various bodies of the AU. These will include the Progress Report of the Commission on the African Union on Agenda 2063, and the Report of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) on its activities and the State of Peace and Security in Africa, including the activities of the Panel of the Wise and renewal of its membership, as well as the Report on the assessment of the African Standby Force (ASF) and the Operationalization of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).
The Assembly will also consider the Reports of President Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC); President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Chairperson of the Committee of Ten on the UN Reforms; President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), including the outcome of Climate Change Negotiations at the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Other reports considered will include the Report of the Commission on the Implementation of previous decisions on UNCCD and the outcomes of COP 11 held in Windhoek, Namibia, in September 2013; the Report of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia and Chairperson of the High Level Committee on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Proposed Draft African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda; and the Report on the International Conference on Maternal, New-born and Child Health, Johannesburg, South Africa in August last year.
The Chairperson of the Commission will also present her report on the Implementation of Decision on Africa’s Relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC), to be considered by Heads of State and Government. The Assembly will adopt the appointment of the ten members of the Peace and Security Council elected for a two year term. Ethiopia along with Burundi, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Libya, Namibia, Niger, Tanzania and South Africa were elected. It will adopt the decisions and recommendations of the 24th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council as well as the decisions and declarations of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minster Hailemariam, as the outgoing chair of the AU, noted the theme of this year’s African Union summit, “Agriculture and Food Security” marking the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and said that it was time for Africa to celebrate the progress made over the past decade in implementing CAADP’s goals and objectives and renew commitments to do more in the future. Emphasizing that agricultural transformation holds the key to the success of collective efforts to realize its vision, Prime Minister Hailemariam said more and more countries were allocating 10% of their national budget to the agricultural sector.
Reflecting on Ethiopia’s Chairmanship of the past year, the Prime Minister said Ethiopia has achieved most of the priorities it set when it took over the chairmanship in January 2013. Top on the priorities was the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the OAU/AU. “As a proud host of our continental organization for the last 50 years,” he said, it was a special time to assume the Chairmanship and mark this anniversary together with the Commission, member States and other relevant stakeholders. The Jubilee celebration had been marked by a collective reflection of the past, present and future under the overarching theme of “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”.
Prime Minster Hailemariam said Ethiopia had assumed the chairmanship at a time when multilateral negotiations have started in earnest to formulate a global development framework for the post 2015 era. During this formulation process, he said, it was imperative for Ethiopia “to ensure that the progress made thus far in achieving the Millennium Development Goals is sustained and that Africa’s development priorities are fully taken on board in the post-2015 Development Agenda as well as in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals.” Stressing the need for Africa to speak with one voice on the basis of an African Common Position, he said the Post-2015 development Agenda “is currently perhaps the most important process with respect to defining the nature of international development cooperation for the next decades.” The Committee of African Heads of State and Government to lead efforts in canvassing support for Africa’s development priorities in the context of the post-2015 development agenda under the chairmanship of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a critical element in this. The Committee report will urge the Assembly to take the necessary action soon as negotiations on the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals is going to commence in March.
Prime Minister Hailemariam told the Assembly that there had been enhanced cooperation and partnership between Africa and its strategic partners during the past year. He cited the 3rd Africa-South America Summit, the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), the 3rd Afro-Arab Summit and the 12th Annual AGOA Forum. These partnership forums, he said, served as platforms to advance Africa’s development agenda and further strengthen its partnerships to ensuring mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. Ethiopia had also participated at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (COP-19) representing Africa, he said, and delivered Africa’s key messages on the on-going global climate change negotiations at the G-8 and G-20 Summits held in Northern Ireland and St. Petersburg, advancing the continental development agenda.
The Prime Minister noted that the other major preoccupation during the past year was the issue of peace and security. While he was encouraged to note the progress that Africa has made in resolving some of the conflict situations in the continent, “I am nevertheless deeply concerned by the emergence of new conflicts which, if not addressed urgently, will have a potential to seriously threaten our collective peace and security and undermine the gains that we have made in recent years.” He referred the unfolding situation in South Sudan and Central African Republic and emphasized the need to find urgent solutions “to rescue these countries from falling into the abyss”. He said: “Failure to do so will have serious implications for peace and security in the region and indeed the whole continent.”Helping these two States in restoring peace and stability and addressing their internal challenges was primarily the responsibility of Africans, he underlined. In South Sudan, he emphasized that “both protagonists should know that the problem cannot be resolved through the barrel of the gun and they should be fully committed to seat at the negotiating table without any preconditions so as to find a political settlement to the crisis.” He called on South Sudanese political actors to rise to the occasion and avoid the country from falling over the precipice. The parties should demonstrate the necessary political leadership and compromise in order that the peace process initiated by IGAD and supported by the African Union, the United Nations and other international partners should succeed and achieve peace and durable reconciliation.
On the Central African Republic, he said “the senseless violence that has taken a heavy toll on the civilian population” remained a matter of concern for Africa. He emphasized the necessity to take urgent action to avert the further escalation of the problems. The African-led Peace Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) faced daunting challenges in restoring peace and security and ensuring a successful transition towards a constitutional order. He urged the international community to remain fully committed to support the Central African Republic in the difficult task of stabilizing itself and organizing elections to ensure a successful political transition.
Prime Minister Hailemariam commended the conduct of legislative and presidential elections in a number of countries pointing out elections had certainly helped some member States to come out of political crisis and others to consolidate democratic governance. In this regard, he welcomed the restoration of constitutional order in Mali, and urged ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations and other partners to continue their support to help consolidate the gains made and enable the country address its many challenges. He also commended “the people of Madagascar for conducting a successful presidential election, which is critical in ending the country’s political crisis.” Looking forward to the holding of elections which are expected to facilitate the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea Bissau in March, he expressed his appreciation of ECOWAS and other international partners for their sustained efforts to assist Guinea Bissau.
Prime Minister Hailemariam cited the adoption of the Strategic Plan of the Union for the years 2014-2017 and emphasized the need to mobilize all necessary efforts of member States, the Commission and other organs of our Union to ensure the implementation of the eight priorities identified in the strategic plan to make a difference in the lives of people. He indicated the importance of elaborating the Framework for Agenda 2063 through a consultative process involving all sections of African society and called on the leaders at the Assembly to add their input and contribution. This would provide a guide to Africa’s efforts over coming years as the AU strives to achieve the socio-economic transformation of the continent. Emphasizing the need to build on the progress achieved in the past year and calling for more effort to address some of the still emerging challenges of the continent, Prime Minister Hailemariam handed over the Chairmanship of the African Union to the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. He pledged his full support for future work on these issues and for advancing the objectives of the Union.
In his acceptance speech, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz expressed his gratitude for being elected the Chairperson of the African Union for 2014. He pledged to work achieve the noble objectives to which Africans aspire, including the strengthening of the role and place of Africa in the world, the preservation of its unity in the context of democracy, freedom, peace, security, stability and good governance. President Aziz said he proposed to hold a major international conference, under the auspices of the African Union, devoted to migration and its impact on African economies and societies as well as the countries of destination, to draw up a shared vision on this phenomenon and minimize its tragic dimension.
UN Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Jan Eliasson, in his statement to the Assembly said the Summit was being held at a time of advancement and impressive growth for Africa while the rest of the world still struggled to recover from the economic crisis. He reminded the Assembly that this growth should now be translated into transformative economic development, more jobs, greater equality and better living conditions and said “the United Nations is your unwavering partner in this pursuit.” He said that the AU Agenda 2063 could serve to mobilize Africa to fulfill its potential. It was a fitting tribute to the OAU/AU jubilee, and he noted Africa had already made major strides towards the Millennium Development Goals, especially in education, maternal and child health, and in gender equality, but many MDG targets remained unfulfilled. The Deputy Secretary General expressed his admiration for the leadership Africa had shown in formulating the post-2015 agenda and applauded the emerging African Common Position’s focus on structural transformation and inclusive economic growth. There was hardly any higher priority for the United Nations than tangible and sustainable development in Africa, he said, and he pledged UN support to African-owned and African-led efforts to achieve this objective.