CIVIL SOCIETY DECLARATION ON THE SHRINKING SPACE FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND PARTICIPATION IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE AFRICAN UNION

Civil society have responded to the Africa Union's restriction of public engagement in its next meeting which they believe is contrary to the underpinning principles of the organisation. Read the full statement here.

The statement as supported by the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) and its partners reads:

We, the citizens of Africa represented by Civil Society Organisations and Coalitions, are concerned by the decision of the African Union Commission (AUC) to deny the participation of African Citizens in the African Union (AU) processes particularly during this 21st AU Summit.

In a recent press conference, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson of the AUC was quoted saying that member states have requested that the AU Summit remain closed and in her opinion this is a reasonable request.

We, the undersigned, are convinced that the decision is contrary to the underpinning principles of the African Union—as demonstrated in the AU’s Constitutive Act—which was conceived as a union of all African people.

Furthermore, this decision to deny African CSOs access to their leaders comes at a critical moment when the agenda for the Summit is focusing on developing the vision and agenda for Africa for the next 50 years—agenda 2063. In addition, the theme for this year’s summit is Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance and the Campaign by the AUC is: I am African, I am the African Union. Both of these emphasise the need for public engagement and ownership of matters of the African Union. With this decision, we are concerned that both the agenda 2063 and changing narratives for Pan Africanism will be limited between African leaders and no citizen to hold them accountable.

Added to that, the 50th Anniversary celebrations have also been closed to African citizens. This means that only African leaders and a select few invited guests will be part of this milestone event.

The AU is an important standard and norm setting institution in the continent, and hence any move to curtail the participation of people is sending the wrong signals to its member states on the important issue of people’s participation in governance affairs.

We seek reassurance from the Chairperson of the African Union and the African Union Commission that after more than 10 years of progressive growth towards opening up spaces for engagement, they are not going back on the commitment for a People Driven African Union as this will be a grave reversal of gains made.

We therefore ask the AUC to:
  • Adhere to the AU’s own provisions that recognise need for public engagement stipulated in. In July 2010, the Executive Council in Decisions 566, 568 and 571 of July 2010 among others. 
  • The AUC and members states should ensure they create spaces and opportunities for meaningful engagement with their citizens to impact on the development of frameworks such as the Post 2015 Agenda, the Agenda 2063. 
  • Ensures that ECOSOC re- engages with CSOs and/ or the AU works with member states and CSOs to devise an alternative mode of public engagement. 

Press Statement supported by:
African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) is a network of 225 -local and national NGOs working on water and sanitation.
State of the Union (SOTU) is a coalition of Civil Society Organisation working to promote and advocate for the ratification, domestication and implementation of AU decisions and legal instruments.
Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) is a coalition of 43 civil society organizations working to ensure the ratification & implementation of the African Women’s Rights Protocol.
The Darfur Consortium is a coalition of more than 50 Africa-based and Africa-focused NGOs dedicated to working together to promote a just, peaceful and sustainable end to the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur.
IDEA is an intergovernmental organization that supports sustainable democracy worldwide.
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is a nonprofit independent research and training organization.

Updated on 31 May 2013

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