As Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma takes office in Addis next week as the first woman leader of the African Union Commission next week, I would encourage her to focus on five quick wins. They are;
1. Widen support among Member States: While conclusive, the vote was narrowly won. The election has left a number of important players bruised in the process. Key among them would be the Ambassadors from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya among others.
Proactively reach out to those individuals that were supporting the candidature of Jean Ping and interview them on their expectations of her leadership going forward. Visibly appoint within your office a diverse set of nationalities. Given the tendency to only appoint from the nationality of the Office-bearer, this would send a strong signal to the rest of the continent that you are willing to draw your counsel and advice from non-South Africans.
2. Invigorate the Commission and other AU Organs: The AUC needs a clear and focussed strategic vision and set of outcomes. It needs to learn and be informed by public feedback on its performance since 2008. Link the review of the African Union to the drafting of a new strategic plan.
Launch a comprehensive and public consultation on the performance of the Commission and other AU Organs over 2008-2012 with a view to identifying the lessons and future strategic directions. Narrow the AUC Commission down to a manageable set of competencies, strategic areas and results delivery and declare this publicly. Key step would be to seek input on the Terms of reference for the review and Strategy development process from African Governments, non-state actors and funders .
3. AUC Management: The absence of clear management lines between Commissioners and Directors has been a dysfunctional aspect of the Commission’s effectiveness. There is also no clarity on what the Commission can disclose to the public and what it can’t and where public engagement is particularly welcome.
Institute a regular system of performance objectives based on results, regular reviews of expenditures and action on various internal audit findings. Start consultation on the process of establishing a modern information and participation disclosure policy. Identify a physical space for Addis based and visiting non-state actors to have policy discussions and engage AU staff and Member States. There is both space in the new AUC compound and precedence with the media centre. This would be an easy win and a step towards consolidating a people-driven Union
4. Weak implementation of AU decisions by Member States: Weak ratification, domestication and national implementation of AU decisions is the source of many observers criticisms that the AU is a talk-shop.
Accelerate the 2010 Executive Council decision to institute an official monitoring mechanism. Publically call for States to ratify and implement all outstanding Treaties, but given their importance, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme especially. Prioritise three critical and current challenges to Africa namely; rising inequalities, foreign land-grabs for food, minerals and fuel exports and growing gap between policy-makers and citizens as evidenced in north Africa and elsewhere.
5. AU outreach to non-state actors and the public: AU is still remote and inaccessible and irrelevant to the masses of African people. 2008 Afrobarometer public opinion survey of ten countries recorded less than 30% of the public thinking the AU was helpful to their country. ECOSOCC is currently in danger.
Prioritise the Audit requested by the July 2012 Summit before a new election of ECOSOCC is carried out. Establish in the first three months a consultation with African and international CSOs on strengthening the relationship between non-state actors and AU Organs. A list of key influential CSO leaders can be shared for this event.
Key resources worth (re)reading:
African Union – Audit of the High level Panel (2004-2008) http://www.pambazuka.org/actionalerts/images/…/AUDIT_REPORT.doc
Oxfam – African Union Compendium http://www.oxfam.org/…/oxfam-african-union-compendium-july2012.pdf
Oxfam & AFrimap Towards a people driven African union