Netherlands Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Report and visual shorthand: Why do we need the African Union?

The need for mutual accountability, equal and respectful partnerships between European and African actors was fervently debated during a dynamic seminar in The Hague on the need of the African Union (AU). Also, a visual shorthand shows the role the AU has in tackling Africa’s challenges.

The African Union is necessary in a global world where decentralization is needed for more effective governance. Engagement beyond African borders, particularly with actors like the EU and the UN, is streamlined with the AU as representative of its 54 member states, bringing common needs and perspectives together. This shorthand is a visual representation that speaks to the organs and functions of the African Union, highlighting particularly some areas it engages in: peace and security, migration and international justice.

The Conference Report ‘Why do we need the African Union’, shows how achievements and challenges of the African Union were brought in historical perspectives and narratives during discussions in The Hague. Repeatedly, our African colleagues emphasized the need for conversations about efforts to address problems inside and outside of Africa to be held from positions of equal footing and respect. One of the consequences of the current unequal partnership is the misunderstanding of priorities between the EU and AU. Where the EU often cites migration and terrorism as pressing threats, African states may be more concerned by climate change, resource depletion, the youth bulge and lack of economic opportunities. This disconnect hampers progress and breeds frustration. Similarly, the tension between justice and peace and reconciliation remain prevalent. Should Europe continue to insist on justice in particular contexts, where boundaries between victims and perpetrators are blurred and renewed conflict is around the corner? Can the AU tackle impunity itself, while maintaining prospects of real peace?