The modern African Union (AU) was established in 2002 as a successor to the older ‘Organisation of African Unity’ (OAU). The AU is an ‘intergovernmental organisation’ – that is, an organisation composed of countries. Every country on the continent of Africa is a member of the AU.
WHAT ARE ITS OBJECTIVES?
The AU has many goals; some of the most important are:
- Promoting co-operation, unity, and integration on the African Continent – encouraging ‘Pan-Africanism’ (the ideal of a united Africa)
- Defending the independence of African countries and promoting peace and stability – sometimes through economic or military intervention
- Defending and promoting African interests across the globe
- Encouraging economic growth and sustainable development
- Promoting good governance, democracy, rule of law, and human and peoples’ rights
- Working towards higher living standards, and better public health for citizens
Broadly; the AU seeks to create “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”
The AU attempts to ensure that its members pursue these goals through the creation of specific institutions, the use of persuasion and sanctions, and a ‘peer review mechanism’ – through which states can encourage other states to ‘follow the rules’.
HOW IS IT ORGANISED?
The AU is composed of several organisations, each with their own unique role.
The most important is the ‘Assembly’ – which is made up of heads of state or heads of government – that is, Prime Ministers or Presidents from all the states in Africa. The current chair of the assembly is Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda.
The AU also has a parliament – the ‘Pan-African Parliament’ – which has 265 members elected by the parliaments of each county in the union.
The ‘Executive Council’ prepares the meetings of the assembly and decides which issues will be discussed in assembly meetings. It is made up mostly of foreign ministers from each country in the union.
The ‘Economic, Social, and Cultural Council’ is responsible for advising the leadership of the Union on how best to represent the people of Africa.
The AU commission manages the day-to-day running of the Union – it is the Union’s ‘secretariat’ – that is to say, it manages the administration of the organisation.
In short, the AU is a large and complex intergovernmental organisation, with a number of core tasks and objectives, which are pursued by a number of departments.