Welcome Remarks by
HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Chairperson of the African Union Commission - Opening session of the 24th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC)
Addis Ababa, January 21, 2013
Your Excellency, the Ambassador of the Republic of Benin, Chairperson of the PRC,
Your Excellency the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission and Commissioners,
Distinguished Ambassadors, members of the PRC,
Your Excellencies the AU Officials,
Excellencies and Officials from the Capitals
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of the African Union Commission and on my own behalf warmly welcome all of you, Excellencies, members of the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) and Officials from the Capitals to this important meeting, the 24th Ordinary Session of the PRC. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all the members of the PRC, individually and collectively, for their warm welcome since the Commission assumed Office just over three months ago.
I also wish to express our sincere appreciation to the host of the AU Headquarters, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for the measures it has taken to ensure conducive working conditions for the Commission and all of us.
On our part, no effort will be spared to fulfill the contract of trust that we need to develop between us, along with the respect of each other's mandates. We look forward to the PRC and the Commission Retreat we talked about last year and hope it will be sometime soon, to exchange views on the collaboration modalities.
Your meeting, in preparation for the upcoming Executive Council and Assembly, is taking place during interesting times on the continent. Africa is increasingly seen as the continent of the future, as a place of enormous possibilities, thanks to a young and growing population, our natural resources, but also because of the improving business climate and opportunities, and the strides made in the consolidation of democracy and governance.
We are also proud of the more prominent role that women are playing in the running of the affairs of the continent and shaping its destiny. Indeed, there is general consensus that these are times of boundless opportunities for Africa. These are also reflected in changes in the headlines in the media about s.
We do however still have challenges that need to be overcome urgently and collectively.
Our continent still has to contend with huge infrastructure backlogs, backlogs in education (especially higher education), health and other basic services, including responding to rapid urbanization, youth development and the need for food security.
At the same time, it is a matter of concern that negotiations on global trade issues and climate change have almost collapsed, with very serious consequences for Africa.
It is therefore important that Africa remains resolute and determined to overcome these challenges. Central to this, is the institutional and other capacities to implement our plans at national, regional and continental levels.
As members of the PRC you are in a unique position. On the one hand, you represent the direct mandates, and the progress and innovations of your countries in taking forward the continental drive for people-centred integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
At the same time, being Permanent Representatives to the headquarters of the Union gives you an understanding of how those national dynamics express themselves and contribute to the continental agenda. This dual role also means that you are keenly aware of the institutional strengths and weaknesses at national levels, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of our continental and regional institutions.
I therefore find it critical to have this frank conversation with you about what we need to do to strengthen the institutional capacities of the African Union and its organs.
We must be resolute to meet our vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa by 2063. Amongst the critical areas in which we are required to speed up implementation, as Member states and the RECs, and supported by the Commission and other continental institutions, must necessarily include, but not exclusively:
• Building Africa's human capacity through the prioritisation of Primary Health Care and Prevention; Social Security; Education, Higher education, skills development and investment in Science and Technology, Research and Innovation.
• Expanding Agricultural production, developing the Agro-processing and businesses sectors, increase market access, and attaining Africa's collective Food security and nutrition.
• Promoting inclusive economic development and industrialisation through the acceleration of infrastructure development projects that will aid economic integration, expand intra-Africa investment and trade, and Africa's global market access, value addition, enhanced private sector engagement, effective and sustainable utilization of the continent's mineral and other natural resources and of course promoting intra-continental tourism.
• Promoting peace and stability, good governance, democracy and human rights as a foundation for inclusion, security and the development of the continent and its people.
• Mainstreaming the participation of women and the youth in all priorities and activities of the Union and the continent,
• Implementing strategies of resource mobilization, including alternate sources of funding, to enable Africa to finance its programmes and development.
• Building a People-centred Union through active communication of the programmes of the African Union, the branding of the Union and participation of all stakeholders in defining and implementing the African agenda.
• Strengthening the institutional capacity of the AU Commission, including its working relationship with other organs and institutions.
• Working together so that we develop and strengthen coordination and cooperation with the RECs and Member states.
• Strengthen cooperation with continental strategic partners, like the ECA and ADB, so that we build on our different, but complementary roles, working together towards the realisation of a common continental agenda.
We should work with our partners from across the world, cooperating on the agenda of the continent as set by our Union, so that Africa takes responsibility for of its development and in the process, contributes to the building of a more just and equitable world.
These issues, and the pillars of our continental vision, should form the basis of the AU Commission's Third Strategic Plan (2014-2017) that we are developing, and, in consultation with the RECs and consulting with the PRC during our retreat, to be completed by the end of March.
These consultations are critical, because at the end of the day, all the above programmes are implemented primarily by the RECs and Member states, whilst the AU Commission plays a coordinating, integration, facilitating and advocacy role.
We must continue to build a more effective, efficient and responsive Commission. We should recall following the High-Level Panel Review of 2007, a lot of work was done to respond to the challenges expressed in the Review.
The High-Level Panel recommended a review every five years, this was due in 2012, but was not possible. We should therefore consider doing this second review in 2013, so that we can assess progress with implementation of the first set of recommendations and ensure continuous improvement.
The ongoing strengthening of the Commission's core functions, processes and human and other resources must remain a key focus. This must of necessity include all aspects of the Commission - from the Bureau of the Chairperson to our representative offices across the world.
The Commission must furthermore ensure that its human resources are effectively deployed and that its organizational culture contributes towards effectiveness as a continental instrument. We must ensure that the AU Representative offices have the necessary capacity to effectively represent the Union and that the working conditions of AUC staff enable them to be proud servants of our continent.
Regional Economic Communities play a central role in the acceleration of our integration and developmental agenda. The RECs are the building blocks of the Union. The Commission must therefore provide the cement that enables us to plan and implement together, and learn from each other's experience. We will therefore look at our modalities of working with the RECs and make proposals on how to make these more dynamic.
All these measures must help us to improve the implementation of decisions adopted by the executive organs of the Union. On our part, the Commission will continue to collaborate with Member States and all key stakeholders to promote the culture of results, internal good governance and meticulous and transparent management of the organization's modest resources, through the use of effective tools that ensures transparency, effectiveness and accountability.
While the majority of countries in the Continent are enjoying peace and stability, sadly there are still a number of countries mired in conflict, whether ongoing, re-emerging or new.
We are registering steady progress towards the operationalization of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which has played a critical role in the management of these conflict situations. As a result, progress has been registered in Somalia, Sudan/South Sudan, Madagascar.
However, we have seen the re-emergence of conflict in the eastern DRC, Guinea Bissau and the Central African Republic, whilst in Mali and the Sahel we are now facing new, multi-faceted challenges with broader regional and continental implications. Member States, RECs and the Union must continue to join efforts towards achieving sustainable peace in Africa, with the assistance of the international community.
It is my fervent hope that we maintain a proper and healthy balance between achieving peace and advancing development. It is evident that the Continent cannot advance without succeeding on both fronts simultaneously.
This balance can most effectively be achieved through an active African citizenry participating in governance and development, and through active mobilization of all sectors of civil society and the Diaspora, especially during this year of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Union.
This is a watershed year for Africa, which marks 50 years of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the jubilee of the Pan African Women's Organisation (PAWO) that was established in 1962, as well as 10 years since the launch of the African Union.
These anniversaries are observed and organised under the theme: "Pan Africanism and African Renaissance", providing us with opportunities to take stock of the key milestones of the past 50 years and to project to the future.
Africa is well placed to develop innovative solutions to the challenges it faces. We have our genius, our shared values and resources, to invent and reinvent models of equitable growth and sustainable development that will provide a better life for the current and future generations. Indeed Africa can be innovative, because with the economic crisis and other developments of the last few decades, there is no single model that can claim superiority, so we can develop our own path.
To that end, the Commission is in the process of developing a Concept Paper, which will lay a basis for the Africa-wide Agenda 2063, taking stock of the origins and meaning of Pan Africanism and Renaissance during the first fifty years of our Union, its relevance today and how these concepts will continue to inspire successive generations over the next fifty years.
The AU Commission intends to consult widely, starting with the Member States and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), stakeholders and sectors on the continent and in the Diaspora, such as academia, artists, civil society, women and youth, the private sector and others, with a view to have a Framework document for debate to the Anniversary Summit in May. We have already started working with our continental strategic partners, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and African Development Bank on these matters.
All of these challenges mean that 2013 will be an exciting and a hardworking year for all of us.
Let me therefore in concluding wish you every success in your deliberations and ensure the full availability of the Commission for any contribution to facilitate your work.
Again, best wishes and a successful 2013.
I thank you.