Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma will lead a South African delegation to the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).
The summit is scheduled to take place on 30 – 31 January 2016, in Addis Ababa, under the theme “2016: African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on Women Rights”.
The year 2016 marks important milestones in the continental and global women’s agenda for gender equality and women empowerment.
Continentally, it is the 30th anniversary of the coming into force of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in 1986 and the beginning of the second phase of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020.
The African Women’s Decade is the AU’s implementation framework which aims to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Globally, 2016 commemorates 36 years since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the 21st anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the key global policy on gender equality.
Considering that 2015 was declared the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, the 2016 theme thus marks the second consecutive year that gender equality and women’s empowerment are adopted as the highest priority on the continental agenda.
The theme is also of importance to South Africa as the country marks 16 years since the adoption of the Constitution of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) and the Bill of Rights and 60 years since the historic Women’s March to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956.
“Human rights, especially women’s rights, remain a cornerstone of South Africa’s legal framework and policies, such as the National Development Plan, which is in line with AU Agenda 2063 vision that there will be gender equality and women’s empowerment in all spheres of life,” said South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Thursday.
The summit will look into the status of peace and security in Africa, particularity the readiness of the multi-dimensional African Standby Force (ASF) and its Rapid Deployment Capability for Sustainable Peace, which the AU hopes will be operating this year.
The establishment of the ASF is seen as a step towards curbing reliance on foreign powers, whose forces are deployed in Africa’s conflict zones, which often causes tensions as African leaders seek African solutions for African problems.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said the summit will also look into the financing of the union, especially in the tough economic times.
The AU has been struggling to be financially self-sufficient, with it still being heavily dependent on international and development partners for funds. Analysts have warned that this posed the risk of the funding partners dictating the AU’s activities.
The leaders will be looking at ways to manoeuvre the economic crisis while not compromising their notion of African solutions for African problems.
The summit, according to Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, will also look into issues of governance, elections and constitutionalism, as well as the implementation of NEPAD projects and the African Peer Review Mechanism.
“The summit is also expected to consider the reports on Aids Watch Africa, African Trade, United Nations Reform, Climate Change, as well as Accelerating Water and Sanitation Goals in Africa.”
Southern African countries are faced with poor harvest, caused by the El Nino weather pattern, which has caused drought. This is likely to cause starvation as most still depend of agriculture for food production.
Peace and security
The continent’s hotspots like Burundi, Libya, South Sudan and the DRC as well as terrorism will also receive attention.
Asked about the AU’s role in Burundi, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said the AU had proposed the deployment of an African Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU) in that country.
The Minister said the AU has no agenda other than to assist the government and people of Burundi in their hour of need, consistent with its commitment to promote African solutions to African problems.
Burundi has been in the midst of a political crisis that has driven countless people to flee to safety in neighbouring countries since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term earlier this year.