• Embassy of Ethiopia

The 26th African Union Summit opens in Addis Ababa

The 26th AU Summit opened this week on Thursday (January 21) and will continue until Sunday (January 31) at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa.

The theme of the 26th Summit is: “2016: African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women”. It concludes at the end of next week with the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government. The Summit brings together all the African Union’s policy making organs, with representatives from the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the private sector, the Diaspora (the 6th region of the union), civil society organization, partner organizations, continental and international media, invited guests and dignitaries worldwide.

The 26th AU Summit begins with the 31st Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) which opened on Thursday (January 21) and lasts until Saturday (January 23). The Committee, whose opening was addressed by the Chairperson of the PRC and which heard welcome remarks from the Chairperson of the AU Commission, then considered the reports of the activities of the African Union sub-committees.

These include the reports of the advisory Sub-Committee on Administrative, Budgetary and Financial Matters; the Sub-Committee on Structural Reforms; the Sub-Committee on Programs and Conferences; the Sub-Committee on Refugees and Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. Other reports cover the conclusions of the Sub-Committee on Economic and Trade Matters; the Sub-Committee on NEPAD; the Sub-Committee on Contributions and the Sub-Committee of the Special Emergency Fund for Drought and Famine in Africa. The reports of other AU organs such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR); the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR); and the Economic, Social and Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC) are also discussed. The Permanent Representatives, after adopting the reports of the Sub-Committees, deliberate on the draft agenda to be presented to the Executive Council of Foreign Ministers for consideration before it is submitted to the Assembly of the Union for adoption. 

The 28th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of Foreign Ministers takes place on Wednesday and Thursday next week (January 27-28). The session will be preceded by a Ministerial retreat of the Executive Council in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray Regional State between Sunday (January 24 and Tuesday (January 26). The session on Wednesday will be opened by the Chairperson of the Executive Council, the Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe, and will hear statements from AU Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The Ministers deliberate in closed session the report of the PRC, the annual report of the Chairperson of the Commission for 2015, and the revised African Union Commission budget for the 2016 Fiscal year. Among the reports the Executive Council will consider are the Report of the Ad-hoc Ministerial Committee on the Scale of Assessment; the Report of the Ministerial Committee on Elections of the Members of the Commission in June/July 2016; the Progress Report of the Ministerial Committee on the Challenges of the Ratification/ Accession and Implementation of the OAU/AU Treaties, and the Ministerial Committee on African Candidature in the International System.

The Executive Council meeting will also include the election and appointment of the fifteen members of the Peace and Security Council, and of one member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). The session will debate and forward the draft agenda and decisions to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government whose 26th Ordinary Session takes place on Saturday and Sunday next week (January 30 and 31). The particular focus on the rights of woman follows on from last year’s declaration of 2015 as the “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. The Session of the Assembly will as usual begin with the election of the New Chairperson of the African Union for the year 2016, to succeed Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe.

Prior to the opening of the 31st ordinary session of the Permanent Representative Committee, the African Union also held the 8th African Union Gender Pre-Summit attended by over 400 women worldwide. With participation from 45 African countries, delegates reiterated their commitment to ensure that the recommendations stipulated in the Addis Ababa Communiqué on women and youths’ development be fully implemented by their respective governments. Addressing participants on behalf of the AUC Chairperson, Commissioner Aisha Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs, said she believed that the communiqué adopted during this Summit would achieve the main goals of gender development which is to mobilize women around common continental issues, and to ensure that gender remain high on the AU Agenda. She congratulated all the Women and Gender Ministers following the successful outcome of their Specialised Technical Committee, stressing the importance of focusing on the mobilization of women from all works of live, to participate in the implementation of Agenda 2063, in its entire dimension. The Commissioner joined delegates in congratulating the two African Union Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards; Laureates for the Regional Awards for Women, Professor Merzouk Hafida from Algeria, and Professor Yalemtsehay Mekonnen from Ethiopia. The Commissioner highlighted the importance of Science, Technology and Innovation as valuable opportunities to empower women, noting that AU Agenda 2063 lays emphasis on Science, Technology and Innovation as tools for achieving continental development goals.

Recognizing and congratulating the two laureates of the AU Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards, De Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources Science and Technology noted that the Award was a holistic and deliberate measure taken by the AU Commission to maintain science and technology at the top of Africa’s development, cooperation and political agenda. He urged Member States, Regional Economic Communities and key stakeholders to promote and support the participation of African citizens particularly women in achieving the goals of this award and become involved fully in Africa’s sustainable development.

Ambassador Gary Quince, Head of Delegation of the European Union to the African Union commended the commitment of the African Union to the support of gender equality, and underscored the importance of prioritizing science and technology and the continuous involvement of women. These, he said, were key pillars of development.