What is the EU-AU Summit?
The leaders of the European Union and the African Union (AU) are meeting for the sixth European Union – African Union summit in Brussels.
The EU-AU Summit is the culmination of negotiations about a new partnership between the EU and AU, covering migration, peace and security, trade and investment, health, climate, energy and green transition amongst other themes.
The Partnership, under French (EU Council) and Senegalese (AU) presidencies, is underpinned by an investment package, built on EU budget funds. A joint declaration on a joint vision for 2030 is expected to be adopted by the participants.
Why is it important and what are the key priorities for the Summit?
Key tests will be how the Summit deals with civil society participation, climate change and Covid-19.
Civil society participation
The Summit is deemed a crucial moment to rebuild trust, to establish a more balanced, collaborative, and equal partnership between Africa and the EU. However, a joint declaration of Social Movements and Peasant farmers, Faith-Based Organizations and CSOs delivered at the “African People’s Summit” ahead of the 6th EU-Africa Summit, stated that:
“Over the last 20 years of partnership, we have not seen any significant added benefit from this partnership, which has failed to improve the livelihoods of African rural communities. This partnership and similar ones with other regions of the world have shown themselves to rather be shadow structures that facilitate the grabbing of land, the plundering of natural resources, ongoing corporate impunity with the complicity of national and international authorities, with aggressive market expansion that comes at the expense of people’s prosperity and habitats.”
The AU-EU partnership should be based on human rights, anti-racism, equality, inclusivity, mutual accountability, shared values and prosperity, and should include a meaningful, long-term engagement with civil society organisations and affected communities. The voices of people most affected by decisions, must be at the core of an effective and transformational AU-EU partnership.
However, despite the calls of civil society organisations for better engagement of civil society into the negotiations of the EU-AU Partnership, the European Union has largely failed to include the organisations close to the people’s voices. By not involving civil society in the process, the EU and the AU are building a partnership that ignores the needs expressed by the African people. The Summit is an opportunity for leaders to affirm a commitment to meaningful civil society participation in policy processes.
2022 could be a transformative moment for Africa and the EU to advance a human rights based approach to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss and co-operate for success at COP27.
Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change whilst having done least to cause it. While contributing just 4 percent of global total greenhouse gas emissions (with more than 17 percent of the world’s population) its development is threatened by the climate crisis, huge adaptation challenges and increasing losses and damages. Africa has been experiencing record-breaking heat in the last years and extreme weather events including droughts and flooding. Millions are right now facing severe hunger due to devastating drought in eastern Africa.
The forthcoming IPCC report on adaptation, impacts and vulnerability will lay bare the latest stark assessment. With the Summit a first major milestone after COP26, the EU and AU should demonstrate that they will make clear progress on and go beyond the Glasgow Climate Pact which failed to deliver enough for climate vulnerable countries.
This requires the EU to scale up its climate finance, focus on adaptation financing and ensuring non-debt creating finance, whilst addressing losses and damages, to regain trust of climate vulnerable countries.
Agroecology is one effective strategy for building resilience amongst small scale producers, local communities and ecosystems to both economic shocks and climate-related stresses and needs to be supported as a key component of climate action.
Only 11% of the population across Africa have been vaccinated against the virus. The AU has been calling for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights (TRIPS Waiver) that would enable the manufacture of affordable vaccines and their predictable supply around the world.
While the proposal for a TRIPS waiver that was proposed by South Africa and India is supported by the vast majority of members of the World Trade Organisation, the EU has persisted in opposing the initiative. This will be a contentious topic at the summit. The summit also comes at a crucial time, just a few days before the next formal discussions on the temporary waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The EU’s obstruction of the waiver perpetuates vaccine injustice across Africa and it is crucial that the EU moves to support the waiver to redress vaccine inequity.
Key challenges such as the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and the COVID-19 recovery requires an integrated approach that builds on existing international tools and processes, such as the human rights conventions, the draft UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights, the Paris Agreement, the UN Declaration on the Right of Peasants and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The EU-AU Partnership should align with these.