The African Union
Meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia
The African Union (AU) was founded in 2002 as the successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU). According to its founding charter, the AU mandate covers all fields of political, economic and social co-existence in Africa, particularly the advancement of economic and political integration, safeguarding peace and security, sustainable development as well as the promotion of democracy, human rights and good governance.
The African Union is in addition authorized to speak on behalf of Africa at a global level and also to coordinate the activities of the African regional organizations.
The AU has 53 members, meaning all countries of the African continent are represented, except Morocco, which is not a member of the AU owing to the conflict over the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic, which is not recognized by many States.
The most important organs of the AU are:
- Assembly of Heads of State and Government: convenes every six months; presidency rotates annually (currently Malawi).
- Executive Council: prepares for the meetings of Heads of State and Government at foreign minister level.
- Pan-African Parliament: comprises 265 representatives elected by the parliaments of the AU member states. Has an advisory and supervisory function. Head Office: Midrand, South Africa.
- AU Commission: executive organ/secretariat of the AU with headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. President (since 2008, Jean Ping) and eight Commissioners elected by AU Assembly every four years.
- Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC): mouthpiece for African civil society with advisory function and 150 members.
- African Court on Human and People’s Rights: headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
- Peace and Security Council (PSC): fifteen rotating members meet on a regular basis in Addis Ababa; practical decision-making organ with extensive powers in the areas of peace and security.
Financial institutions (African Investment Bank, African Central Bank and African Monetary Fund) are also planned or being developed.
African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA)
Headquarters of the AU in Addis Ababa
With the transformation of the OAU into the AU in 2002, the foundations were laid for a peace and security architecture for the whole continent (APSA: African Peace and Security Architecture). With it came the understanding that the Africans and their regional organizations should take increased responsibility for peace and security on the continent.
The AU is duty bound to intervene in severe cases of human rights abuse or when there is a threat of genocide. The AU is also committed to the principle of ostracizing regimes that have assumed power in violation of the constitution and imposing sanctions on them. Accordingly, the AU membership rights of the Niger, Guinea and Madagascar are currently suspended.
As a collective security and early warning system (in line with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter), it is intended that ASPA should facilitate prompt and effective reactions to crises and conflict situations. Its central organ is the Peace and Security Council (PSC). The Council is supported by a Military Staff and a so-called “Panel of the Wise”, whose function is to offer mediation.
The African Standby Force (ASF) will provide the central pillar of the architecture in future and a framework concept was agreed in 2004. The Department for Peace and Security of the AU Commission combines the functions of executive and secretariat. A Pan-African Early Warning Unit is also attached to the Department to steer ongoing AU peacekeeping operations.
Back in 2003 the AU began with a peacekeeping force in Burundi (AMIB), followed by the AMIS mission in Darfur (now UNAMID) and AMISOM in Somalia. These missions are not yet based on the idea of a standby force, but depend on voluntary undertakings by the troop contributing nations.
The Federal Foreign Office supports the development of APSA by, amongst other things, helping to develop the police component of the ASF and construct a building for the Department for Peace and Security of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa.
EU-African Union relations
14th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly
The EU is the AU’s most important partner with regard to financial support and capacity building. The Commissions of both organizations work closely together and meet on a regular basis. The EU is also the key partner for the development of an African peace and security architecture.
In order to do justice to the growing significance of Africa for Europe, the first EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in 2007 adopted the Joint EU-Africa Strategy and Action Plan, which was renewed at the second summit in 2010. The Strategy placed the relationship between the neighbouring continents on a new footing and extends beyond development issues. The next EU-Africa Summit is due to take place in Brussels in 2013.
Since 2009 the African Union has been planning to set up a Pan-African University (PAU). The aim of founding the PAU is to promote science and technology on the African continent, coordinate research and development and improve general and vocational education. Other objectives are closer cooperation among scientists and researchers, greater mobility for African students and also the establishment of a regional and continental platform for scientific cooperation.
It is expected that the PAU will in the future have more than five campuses spread across the whole of Africa, each with its own different specialities. In February 2010, in response to a request by the AU, Germany declared its willingness in principle to participate in the PAU project. The AU is particularly interested in German support for the planned North African campus with its research focus “Water and energy, including climate change”.
Last updated 30.03.2012