African Union Assembly
The African Union Assembly (the “AU Assembly”) is the highest decision-making body within the AU and consists of Ministers of Foreign Affairs from member states. It meets twice a year in ordinary session, usually taking place in January and June/July. The agenda for ordinary sessions (or ‘summits’) are usually prepared by the Executive Council. Each member state is given a single vote – no matter the size, wealth or power of the state – and a two-thirds majority quorum is required at any meeting.
The AU Assembly consists of Heads of State from each member state or their representatives, joined by staff and accredited civil society organisations, which can take participate in ordinary sessions as observers. To help accomplish its work, the Assembly has established high level committees and panels, including:
• New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC)
• Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the Reform of the United Nations Security Council
• Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC)
• High-Level Committee on African Trade (HATC)
• High-Level Committee of Heads of State and Government on the Post-2015 Development Agenda
• Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on education, science and technology in Africa
As a whole, the AU Assembly is responsible for (Article 6-9 of the Constitutive Act of the AU):
• Determining the common policies of the African Union
• Receiving, considering and taking decisions on reports and recommendations from the other organs of the African Union
• Considering membership requests
• Establishing any organ of the AU
• Monitoring the implementation of policies and decisions, as well ensuring compliance by all Member States;
• Adopting the budget of the AU;
• Giving directives to the Executive Council on the management of conflicts, war and other emergency situations and the restoration of peace
• Appointing and terminating the appointment of the judges of the Court of Justice
• Appointing the Chairman of the Commission and his or her deputy or deputies and Commissioners of the Commission and determine their functions and terms of office
How does it help tackle violence against women?
As the highest decision-making authority, the AU Assembly determines the AU’s policies, establishes its priorities and monitors the implementation of its policies and decisions. This means it has the ability to raise women’s human rights and violence against women as an area of international and regional concern, as well as adopting measures to address those concerns.
AU Assembly resolutions related to tackling violence against women include:
- Assembly/AU/Decl.1(XXVII), 2016: Declaration on 2016 African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women
- Assembly/AU/Decl.1(XXV), 2015: Declaration on 2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063
- Assembly/AU/Dec.383(XVII), 2011: Decision on the support of a draft resolution at the sixty sixth ordinary session of the General Assembly of the United Nations to Ban Female Genital Mutilation in the World
- Assembly/AU/Dec,333(XVI), 2011: Decision on the Continental Launch of the African Women’s Decade
In July 2001, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Framework was adopted by the OAU Assembly of African heads of State and Government (predecessor to the AU Assembly). Following the precedent set by the Millennium Development Goals, the NEPAD Framework was developed to address poverty and foster “sustainable growth and development” for each country and for the continent as a whole. As part of the Framework’s initial ‘Programme of Action’, specific goals were established to help direct future action. Among these goals (and echoing the MDGs) included: “…make progress towards gender equality and empowering women by eliminating gender disparities in the enrolment in primary and secondary education by 2005…”
Since its adoption, the NEPAD Framework has led to the development of specialised agencies to oversee its implementation – notably, the NEPAD Agency (2010). One of the Agency’s Investment Programmes is focused on Human Capital Development – which includes women’s empowerment. For example, the NEPAD Spanish Fund for African Women’s Empowerment has provided grants to organisations working in areas, such as the elimination of gender-based violence.
The African Peer Review Mechanism (2002) is another specialised agency within the AU created by the NEPAD framework. It is one of the platforms within the AU where states are expected to hold each other accountable. During this process, states provide a report of their progress to… And, with the adoption of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, states are now expected to deliver updates on their implementation of the SDGEA framework during the review.
Civil Society Engagement: AU Gender Pre-Summit Consultations
The AU Gender Pre-Summit Consultations are organized before each AU Assembly Summit (ordinary session), bringing together key actors involved in gender equality and women’s empowerment to discuss critical issues impacting women throughout the region. Initially conceived as a platform for civil society, the Pre-Summit Consultations now also include African Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs, Regional Economic Communities, AU organs, AUC Departments, the private sector, UN agencies and development partners – all participating with the aim of influencing the decisions and debates that will take place during the AU Assembly’s Summit.
Building on the AU’s obligations on gender equality and women’s empowerment outlined in its legal instruments, these preparatory meetings serve as an important vehicle to incorporate gender perspectives into the highest decision-making body of the AU, the AU Assembly. This ensures that the protection and promotion of women’s rights – which includes the elimination of gender-based violence – remains a priority for AU member states.
Pre-Summit Consultations are organised by the AU Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD) in collaboration with other Departments of the AU Commission and Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) – an international NGO that collaborates with civil society organisations throughout Africa and oversees the ‘Gender is my Agenda Campaign’ (GIMAC).
Want more? Visit the AU’s website for information on upcoming on upcoming Pre-Summit Consultations or go to GIMAC’s website to learn more about how/what role civil society organisations can play during the Consultations