Strengthening Popular Participation in the African Union
A Guide to AU Structures and Processes
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: African Books Collective
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This guide was researched and written by Rudo Chitiga, a development policy consultant, and Bronwen Manby, of the Open Society Institute’s Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP), with important contributions from Irũngũ Houghton, Pan-Africa Director, Oxfam, as well as...
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The African Union (AU) has committed to a vision of Africa that is ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful … driven by its own citizens, a dynamic force in the global arena’ (Vision and Mission of the African Union, May 2004). This guide is an...
Introduction - The purpose of this guide
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Part One - AU Organs & Institutions
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Assembly of Heads of State and Government
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The Assembly of the African Union comprises the Heads of State and Government of all Member States and is the highest decision-making body of the AU. Since 2005, the Assembly has met in ordinary session twice (previously it was only once) a year, in January–February and in June–July. The Chairperson of...
Chairperson of the African Union
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A Head of State is elected by the Assembly to serve a one-year term as Chairperson of the AU. The Chairperson of the AU chairs meetings of the Assembly and guides the proceedings. Between sessions, he or she represents the AU both within Africa and on the international stage, and may assist in conflict...
Executive Council of Ministers
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The Executive Council is composed of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. It takes some decisions in its own right, and also prepares decisions for and reports to the Assembly. The Executive Council has powers under the Constitutive Act to coordinate and take decisions...
Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC)
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The Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) is made up of all the ambassador-level representatives of Member States accredited to the AU in Addis Ababa. The PRC has oversight of the day-to-day running of the Commission, making it one of the most influential organs of the AU. It meets at least once...
Commission of the African Union
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The Commission of the African Union acts as the AU’s secretariat and is based in Addis Ababa. According to the Constitutive Act, the Commission is composed of a Chairperson, his/her deputy or deputies, Commissioners and staff. The Assembly determines the Commission’s structure, functions and regulations and elects the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson; the other commissioners are elected by...
Peace and Security Council (PSC)
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The Peace and Security Council (PSC) was established as an organ of the AU under a protocol to the Constitutive Act adopted by the AU Assembly in July 2002. The protocol defines the PSC as a collective security and early warning arrangement to facilitate timely and effective response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa. The PSC has the power...
Pan-African Parliament (PAP)
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The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) is recognised as one of the organs of the AU under the Constitutive Act, though its detailed legal basis is a protocol to the 1991 Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community. The PAP has its secretariat in Midrand, South Africa, where it holds its regular sessions...
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)
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The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) was established in 1986 in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and works to protect and promote the rights set out in the Charter. Its secretariat is located in Banjul, Gambia. The 11 Commissioners...
African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
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The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was established in 2001, with the mandate to protect and promote the rights set out in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (adopted in 1990, entered into force 1999). It usually meets twice a year to consider reports from member governments on the implementation of the Charter. It then...
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (to become the African Court of Justice and Human Rights)
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A 1998 protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to establish an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights came into force in 2004. The first judges were sworn in during the July 2006 AU summit, and the Court is based in Arusha, Tanzania. In addition, the Constitutive Act provides for a Court of Justice to rule on disputes over interpretation...
Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC)
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ECOSOCC is an advisory organ designed to give civil society organisations (CSOs) a voice within the AU institutions and decision-making processes. It is provided for in the Constitutive Act, but does not have its own protocol, relying rather on Statutes approved by the Assembly that have a lesser legal status and can more easily be amended. ECOSOCC is made up of civil society...
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
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NEPAD is a programme for Africa’s economic development that was first adopted in 2001 outside the structures of the OAU/AU. It was endorsed by the first AU summit in Durban in 2002. The NEPAD founding document champions good governance as a basic requirement for peace, security and sustainable political an...
African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)
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The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is a self-monitoring mechanism by which Member States of the AU can agree to independent review of their fulfilment of the governance commitments contained in African and international standards. Initially established as part of the NEPAD initiative, the APRM...
Specialised Technical Committees (STC)
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Both the Abuja Treaty and the Constitutive Act provide for the creation of Specialised Technical Committees (STCs) made up of African ministers. The STCs are to prepare projects and programmes of the Union and submit them to the Executive Council, with the aim of reducing the number of ad hoc...
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The Constitutive Act provides for the AU to have three financial institutions: an African Central Bank, African Monetary Fund; and African Investment Bank. These institutions are not yet in place, though discussions are underway with a view to establishing them. The Statutes of the African Investment..
Funding of the African Union
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Five of Africa’s wealthiest Member States each contribute 15 per cent of the assessed contributions: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa. These states are particularly influential in AU decision-making. The remaining 25 per cent is paid by the other Member States. The approved budget...
Regional Economic Communities (RECs)
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Both the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action for the Development of Africa and the 1991 Abuja Treaty to establish the African Economic Community proposed the creation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the basis for African integration, with a timetable for regional and then continental integration to follow. There...
Part Two - INFLUENCING AU DECISIONS & POLICIES
The AU decision-making process
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Decisions of the African Union Executive Council and Assembly are the result of work done months before each summit by the Commission and other organs, and in decision-making processes within individual member states. The majority of proposals presented to the Assembly have already been largely agreed before...
Civil society engagement with the AU Organs
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In addition to being members of the newly established ECOSOCC, NGOs may also apply for observer status with the AU (see below). Others have followed a different route and have signed memorandums of understanding with the AU Commission to provide technical assistance. Among these organisations...
NGO observer status with the AU
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The July 2005 AU summit held in Sirte, Libya revised the criteria and procedures for granting observer status with the African Union to nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs seeking observer status must be registered in an African state, managed by a majority...
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The major obstacle to engaging with the AU is the lack of publicly available, up-to-date and useful information. Though the AU website has improved, many documents are not posted there until they are already finalised, too late for civil society organisations...
Influencing national-level decisions on AU proposals
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Every decision taken by the AU must be endorsed by a majority of Member States. Lobbying in national capitals is therefore critical to getting a policy adopted at continental level. The civil law and common law countries have slightly different institutional structures and traditions in relation to handling...
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AU ordinary summits are held twice a year. Each summit consists of three two-day meetings that always take place in the same sequence. Usually there is a one-day break between these meetings. The PRC meets first, followed by the Executive Council and then the Assembly...
Part Three - The Union Government Debate
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Since the OAU was founded there has been debate among Member States over the framework for continental institutions and the balance between political and economic integration and national sovereignty. The early drive for a ‘Union Government’ for Africa led by President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was...
Appendix 2: Regional Economic Communities recognised by the African Union
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Page Count: 74
Publication Year: 2010