On 31 January 2019, IPSS hosted a briefing session on ‘ the 32nd AU Summit: What’s on the Agenda?’. Mr. Désiré Assogbavi, the Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to the AU and UNECA led the discussion. The session was moderated by Dr. Solomon Dersso, Founder of AMANI Africa.
The 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government will take place at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on 10-11th of February, 2019. The Citizens’ Pre-Summit Gatherings include: The Gender is my Agenda (GIMAC) Conference on 3-4th February and the 7th Citizens’ Continental Conference 4-7th February. The Executive Council meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs will be on 7th-8th February, and the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government will take place at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on 10-11th of February.
According to a decision adopted in January 2017 by the Assembly of the Union, “external parties shall only be invited to AU Summits on an exceptional basis and for a specific purpose determined by the interests on the African Union”, making the gathering a ‘closed summit’.
Representatives of the non-African Union Member States and International Organizations accredited to the African Union will attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summit. Organizations involved in AU summit side events will only have access to the specific event and not to other meetings of the Summit.
What’s on the Agenda?
The 32nd AU Summit theme is “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”. Africa is home to a third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons including more than 6 million refugees/asylum seekers and 14.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 OAU convention on specific refugee problems and the 10th Anniversary of the Kampala convention allowing for a timely address to one of the continent’s top priorities. At the summit, a road-map of activities will be ratified for implementation throughout the year and beyond.
A much anticipated main event to take place at the summit is the annual exchange of AU chairpersonship. This year the current chair H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda will be succeeded by H.E. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of Egypt. It is expected that Egypt will prioritize peacebuilding in Africa through the revitalization of the AU Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) framework policy as part of the solutions to forced displacement in the continent. African citizens and external partners are interested to see what other agendas will be championed by the new leadership and what, if any, new agendas will be brought in.
Main mandates to be addressed at the AU summit will include a series of legal instruments, statutes and reports that will be deliberated upon for adoption, including the draft AU Transitional Justice policy. Also to occur during the summit is the election of five new members to serve on the PSC council for a three-year tenure from the following selected Member States: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Algeria, Lesotho and Nigeria. Other noted elections include the selections of one member for the AUC on International Law, one member for the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and seven members for the AU Advisory Board of Corruption.
Other potential topics to be discussed at the summit alongside this year’s theme include:
- The AU Institutional reform and its implementation. This could ensure commitment from the Member States;
- State of Peace and Security and the implementation of the AU Road-map of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns by 2020;
- The criteria of the new African passport for the Free Movement in Africa. Added to this is that a design of the new African passport will be shared and possibly endorsed by the Heads of State;
- The African Peer Review Mechanism and the State of Governance of Africa;
- Post-conflict reconstruction and development;
- The Post-Cotonou negotiations;
- DRC post-election situation;
- Peace and Security Council (PSC) reform: logistical implementation of the merge between the PSC and the Political Affairs Commission;
- Implementation of the AfCFTA: what good will be traded and how will capacity development be prioritized?
- The shrinking space for CSOs and AU partners: “Citizen participation in the Union is key to having a people-driven entity”.
In summary, the anticipation builds as the dates of the AU Summit approach. The participants emphasized that, in light of the new theme, the AU should work to ensure that “the [momentum] of efforts and investments towards implementation of commitment, policies, and roadmaps adopted under the theme of previous years” should not grind to a halt”.