Wednesday, October 20, 2010

AU Move Towards Adopting Charter On Democracy...


Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) The Commissioner for Political Affairs African Union
has said that the Technical Meeting with African Regional Economic Communities,
African Union Organs, Experts and Stakeholders is meant to
reflect and work towards
establishing a more collective approach on the popularisation and ratification
of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
African Regional Economic Communities, African Union Organs, Experts and Stakeholders ended a three-day Technical Meeting on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in Banjul on 20th March 2010. The objectives established for this Meeting.

Your gathering is conceived to provide a space for information sharing on popularisation and ratification strategies and assess their efficacy as a basis for identifying the opportunities for further action. Most importantly, it is to re-establish a focused
collective Action Plan for Popularisation and Ratification and identify the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in the implementation of the Plan.

Commissioner Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner added that the intended reflections, coming as it were, three years since the adoption of the Charter by the African Union Summit, are
not only necessary, they are strategic.

“It reflects a commitment towards moving from adoption to the full ratification and domestication of our African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,” Gambian born Mrs. Joiner said.

She prophesised that an opportunity would unfold within the next year and that to her mind would be of immense significance to the Charter. During the February 2010 Summit, the Assembly of
Heads of State and Government decided that the Summit for early 2011 will be
centred on Shared Values. Shared Values and the work it embodies, as many would
know, is one of the central Pillars of the 2009-2012 Strategic Plan of the
African Union Commission.

In establishing Shared Values as a focus for the 2011 Summit, Commissioner Joiner said, “our Heads of State and Government have taken a decision that the values and norms that they have espoused and
that reflect themselves in some practices, need to be a subject of further
deliberation.”

However, Joiner argued that it is evident to her that such a dialogue would or should have at its centre, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance since in all that has unfolded in the
African Union, the Charter stands as the most authoritative expression of the
collective commitment of the Union to Governance and Democracy and indeed to
shared values.

“When the Charter was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in January 2007, it reflected the commitment to collective actions that is embodied in the Constitutive Act of the African
Union. The Constitutive Act embodies a willingness
to move beyond the ‘non-interference’ approach
that characterized the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to that of
preventative intervention,” Joiner noted.

Mrs. Joiner also added that the decisive shift towards a shared values approach is embodied in Articles 3 and 4, which emphasises the significance of good governance, the rule of law and human rights. As an
embodiment of shared values and indeed of the norms and principles that the
Continent espouses in Governance and Democracy, the Charter and the anticipated
Shared Values Summit provides us all with an immense opportunity.

“It would be strategic if we could all think of this important milestone and aspiration point in the Shared Values journey, as a useful space and time to reinforce the commitment of Member States to the
adopted Charter. Without being
simplistic about the realities of varying and complex ratification procedures
in Member States, it would be significant if we collectively commit ourselves
to securing Member State ratification by the minimum required for the entry
into force of the Charter,” she suggests.

Nonetheless, she said the complexities and the opportunity to achieve such an objective are evident in the number of signatories that they have and the completed ratifications.

A review of the signatories and ratification reveals that thirty-five (35) Member States have signed, three (3) have completed the ratification process and one Member State is in the final stages
of depositing an original copy of the instrument of ratification, she observed.


During the last Summit, she said a number of Member States also made commitments to ratify in the course of the year. ‘If we are to sustain this momentum, I am hopeful that the objective of entry into
force of the Charter by early 2011 could be attainable.’ Whilst the overall
burden of responsibility falls with the Commission, we have and will always
approach this process as a matter of partnership and with full recognition that
the Charter is and should be an African-owned document and not a document of the
African Union.

She recalled that one of the first post adoption meetings on the Popularisation and Ratification of the Charter took place in Windhoek, Namibia from the 28th to 29th October
2007. This meeting, attended by Experts and various stakeholders served as the
foundation for establishing a collective Action Plan for popularisation and
ratification.

However, she reminded participants that a major challenge for all collective processes is to secure accountability and ensure that commitments are translated into actual demonstrable actions.

“All too often, we engage in collective initiatives with a view that actions will follow, only to realise eventually that, the propensity to articulate views on what should be done often
outstretches capacity and will amongst all of us,” the AU Political Affairs
Commissioner stressed. Adding that it is important that we have a focused
orientation and that articulated views on what should be done are backed by
actual resources and a willingness to move beyond words to actions.

On the part of the Commission, she said the major recommendation from the initial Experts and Stakeholders Meeting was that Regional Meetings be held with Member States and a Meeting be held with
representatives from regional economic communities (RECs). These activities
have indeed taken place but it is imperative that we reflect beyond the holding
of particular events to look at the overall impact of these processes.

According to her, meetings alone do not necessarily produce desired results. There are bound to be many explanations for not attaining the specific objectives articulated in the initial Action
Plan.

“We must however move beyond the simplistic apportionment of responsibility towards recognising that we must be realistic in the objectives we set and find ways of ensuring that all stakeholders live
up to the commitments made,” she stressed, adding that they need to guard
against the tendency to use a commitment to be part of a process, purely for
the resource mobilisation opportunities it accords to them.

For her, the Charter remains the most authoritative expression of the collective African Agenda in Governance and Democracy, ‘and I hope that our partnership efforts will be driven by the value
the Charter holds for the Peoples of this Continent.’ She said whilst the
Charter emerges from collective processes, it has not necessarily permeated
dialogue amongst the Citizenry of Member States or indeed interactions in
National Parliaments or Civil Society engagements. “The challenge of
communication and popularisation is real and it would be prudent that this
meeting focuses on how popularisation can be deepened in a substantive manner.
Careful thought should be given to the scale of the challenge and the diversity
we have to engage with across our Continent,” she implored.

“Bold assertions of what needs to be done and who should do it have to be coupled with a sense of realism of what is possible. If we fail in this endeavour, chances are that we will have a Plan
that does not work and the next time we meet, a level of blame-shifting for
non-performance will be experienced. We cannot afford not to succeed!” she
outlined.

She further urged all parties not to lose sight of the overall governance challenges they face in the Continent, “I have said on many occasions that we are at a crossroads.” We are witness to both a demand
for universalism (Africanism) in democracy and governance, with a concomitant
and perhaps contradictory demand for appreciating the particularities of individual
Member States.

As we reflect on these contradictions, we are obliged to be creative and innovative in our approach to move forward in the Shared Values space. The current conjuncture and the challenges embodied in the
popularisation and ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections
and Governance, demands this of us.

Indeed, she admitted that it would be naive of them to move forward without recognising that there are inherent difficulties in Charter ratification and that the collectively articulated Shared Values
might not always concur with realities
in Member States and the perspectives of the People of our Continent.

However, she pointed out that even as they grapple with the tensions and contradictions, they cannot, but conclude, that despite all of the complexities, the
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance represents the most
attractive opportunity to do well in the Governance and Democracy space. Vol:2
Issn:139

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