The African Union: Building common responses for the people of the region

JOHANNESBURG COUNCIL- The Progressive Agenda, 15-16 November 2004

Africans have a common and shared destiny. Together, they must redefine their own future for a better life for the people of the continent. This will involve creating the conditions for an African renaissance. In this regard, the first task we face is to achieve unity, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation among the peoples of Africa and African states. Peace and stability must prevail in the African continent. Thus, Africans must build the institutions necessary to deepen political, economic and social integration of the continent. They must deepen the culture of collective action in Africa and in the relations with the rest of the world.

The second task is that of developing new forms of partnerships at all levels and segments of African societies and governments. We must mobilise civil society, including women, youth, labour and the private sector to act together to maximise our impact and change the continent for the better.

In forming the African Union, the peoples and leaders of the continent made the unequivocal statement that Africa must unite. The vision of an African future freed from the injustices of the past will require:

• The establishment of democratic political systems to ensure the accomplishment of the goal that "the people shall govern", to be guaranteed by free and fair elections, and that all countries live up to the principles and guidelines of elections established by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

• Establishing the institutions and procedures that would enable the continent collectively to deal with questions of democracy, peace and stability.

• The promotion and protection of human rights as well as building democracy are fundamental pre-requisites in eradicating poverty

• Achieving peace, security and stability for the people of the African continent. The senseless conflicts and wars on the continent must be ended. They have caused so much pain and suffering to the people and turned many of them into refugees and have displaced and forced others into exile. This requires that the people must accept that dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts are the only way to guarantee enduring peace and stability, respect for ethnic, cultural and religious differences and for human rights. We must strive for a culture of peace among Africans.

• Achieving sustainable economic development that results in the continuous improvement in the standard of living and the quality of life of the masses of the people. In this context, the implementation and support of all NEPAD objectives and initiatives are of paramount importance

• Qualitatively changing Africa's place in the world economy, so that it is free of the yoke of the international debt burden and no longer merely a supplier of raw materials and an importer of food and manufactured goods. In this context, the debt cancellation is still a priority.

• A rediscovery of Africa's creative past to recapture the peoples' cultures, encourage artistic creativity and restore popular involvement in both accessing and advancing science and technology.

• Strengthening the genuine independence of African countries and the continent in their relations with the major powers, and enhancing their collective role in the determination of the global system of governance in all fields, including politics, the economy, security, information and intellectual property, the environment and science and technology.

Despite the many advances that have been achieved by the collective effort of Africans since liberation from colonial rule, Africa remains the poorest continent in the world. Overcoming the poverty and underdevelopment that the African people continue to suffer will require a concerted global effort to overcome the legacy of colonialism. As was the case with the Marshall Plan and similar successful interventions that succeeded in defeating poverty and underdevelopment, ending Africa’s exclusion from the global economy will require that the affluent make available the resources necessary to achieve this end.

Currently, the resources required to effect this transformation have not been forthcoming. Rather, the developed countries have argued that underdevelopment and poverty should be combated in terms of the policy package referred to by many as the ‘Washington Consensus’. The main assumptions that underlie the ‘Washington Consensus’ are as follows:

• Development of the poorest countries should largely be financed through private capital rather than public sector funds.

• The conditions for overcoming poverty and underdevelopment can best be established by reliance on the market, and that minimal state intervention is required.

• In order to secure the benefits of market-led developments, these countries should become fully integrated with the global economies, inter-acting with all other countries through unfettered free trade and relying on the global capital markets for the investments they require.

It is a matter of fact that this developmental model has not produced any success with regard to sustained development. Despite all the efforts by developing countries to create the political, policies and other conditions that the developed countries set as pre-conditions for an economic take-off, this has not happened. The Millennium Development Goals in Africa are still a priority to be achieved with full support from the international community as agreed.

As Africans work to seize their destiny it is vital that the Socialist International contributes towards the elaboration of a new development paradigm, which recognises that the future prosperity of all humanity is intimately entwined with the defeat of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa.

This will require that we place the battle against poverty and underdevelopment at the centre of the global agenda. This will mean that we support strongly the African Union and its development agenda - NEPAD.

The Socialist International calls on the UK Presidencies of the G8 and the European Union to use the Commission for Africa and other North-South Partnerships to ensure the implementation of commitments to Africa’s development given at previous summits.