The African Union and the African Diaspora, Part II
NOTE: The U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) National Human Rights Conference will be held in Los Angeles at the Airport Radisson Hotel from Dec. 9-11. For both Occupy Wall Street and L.A. folks and others involved in the larger struggle for people first and things second, the scheduled speakers include a plethora of those with full resumes of getting things done.
These include Francisco Cali, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) committee member and voice of the Presidential Commission Against Racial Discrimination Against the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala; Marcela Olivera, Bolivian Water Rights Activist and Latin American coordinator of the Water for All Campaign; Cathy Albisa, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI); Radhika Balakrishnan, Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL); Chandra Bhatnagar, ACLU; Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council (IITC); Rosa Clemente, former Green Party vice-presidential candidate and noted Hip Hop activist; Terence Courtney, Atlanta Public Sector Alliance (APSA); Kamau Franklin, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM); Mary Gerisch, Vermont Workers Center; Risa Kaufman, Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School; Pierre LaBossierre, Haiti Action Committee; Gerald Lenoir, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Saladin Muhammad, Black Workers for Justice (BWFJ) and Million Worker March; and Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Center for Self Determination, among others.
The conference will feature plenaries on local issues, global social movements and movement-building. The public is invited.
Now, back to the main point of this article, for those interested in the African Union and its relationship to the African Diaspora (African descendants scattered over the world in various countries) here is part two of the most asked questions regarding that relationship.
7. QUESTION: What does the acronym ECOSOCC mean?
ANSWER: The Economic, Social and Cultural Commission is one of the permanent organs of the AU (not to be confused with the UN’s ECOSOCC). It is a grouping of 150 civil society organizations, which are also called NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and CBOs (community-based organizations.) The Diaspora has been designated 20 members of that 150.
8. QUESTION: When does the Diaspora need to be organized in order to accept the invitation to participate as part of the AU?
ANSWER: A date in March 2007 was initially agreed to at the Interim ECOSOCC meeting in 2005, to represent the first gathering of the permanent members of that AU Commission, including voting members from the Diaspora. However, that date was changed to before or by December 2008. ECOSOCC transitioned into a Permanent Commission in September 2008, elected a new chair, A. Muna, and met in November and December 2008, three times in 2009, at least thrice in 2010, and at least four times in 2011, all without the Diaspora representation. Two individuals from the Caribbean and Central America—Khafra Kambon, from Trinidad-Tobago, and Marta Johnson from Costa Rica—were appointed by special AU rules as Diasporan ex-officio representatives to ECOSOCC, but the 20 designated Diasporan seats are still vacant. When do we need to be organized to claim those seats? Right now.
9. QUESTION: What has the AU done to help get the Diaspora organized?
ANSWER: First, the Diaspora has to organize itself; the AU will not do it. However, in 2005, the AU designated the creation of several new groupings in various parts of the world to educate people about the AU and the Diaspora; to monitor and record how community-based groups organized themselves; and to be a networking resource for all such community-based organizations.
That first new grouping in the U.S. was called the Western Hemisphere African Diasporan Network (WHADN) in this part of the world. As of the summer of 2007, however, WHADN had lost its mandate from the AU. Several other groups sprang up to continue the work and intensify the effort, including the two largest groups currently—the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus Organization (SRDC), a group established in May 2006 in Los Angeles and constitutionalized in September and December 2007, and the World African Diaspora Union (WADU), which became recognized in 2007 with the election of the venerable Baba Dudley Thompson of Jamaica as its president. SRDC has thus far coalesced more than 65 Pan African-oriented groups in the U.S., Central America, the Caribbean and with affiliations in Europe, into an effective town hall process of securing the basis for Diaspora representation to the AU.
WADU has held numerous conferences to discuss Diasporan issues and has advocated a process of utilizing various Pan African veterans. Yet, the Diaspora is far too big for a single organization to represent it, so there are others operating and organizing in the same vein. Eventually, most of those groups should join forces so that altogether there are no more than 25 such unity-without-uniformity Diasporan organizations speaking for the global Diasporan community inside the African Union. (One major group of organizations that has modeled that process is PADU, the Pan African Diaspora Union. See www.paduinternational.com ) The SRDC is seeking Diasporan partnerships in the Western Hemisphere to accomplish that, and AUADS (African Union African Diaspora Caucus) in Europe is working in the same vein.
10. QUESTION: Is the current town hall-caucus method credible in the community?
ANSWER: Yes. The current SRDC town hall-caucus method grew out of a roundtable gathering in Los Angeles in April 2006 that included community activists from across the U.S.A. and participants from the Caribbean, Central America and the African continent. Since that gathering, the method has been validated by electing AU representatives in California, Ohio, New York, South Carolina, Maryland and Washington state, and in Central America (six countries in Central America have already chosen a pool of Diasporan representatives through this method, who will then vote for the eventual three). Currently, it is being used or considered in several other states, Canada, South America (Brazil), the Netherlands, Dimona, Israel, and other parts of Europe. Thus far, it is the only straightforward, practical method being utilized.
11. QUESTION: Who has the authority to call an AU-Diaspora town hall and are there minimum requirements or principles that must be adhered to?
ANSWER: Any African-oriented community group willing to step forward, do the work, and call the public meetings, including doing all of the necessary coordinating tasks like getting a facility, widely publicizing the event, etc.—has the authority/credibility to call the town hall-caucus gatherings. In moving forward, several principles need to be adhered to: (A) Diasporan representatives to the AU are to be elected by and through community gatherings or processes. Representatives are not to be self-appointed by individual organizations. (B) Neither one individual nor one organization from the Diaspora can, or is expected to, adequately represent the diverse interests of the Diaspora at AU Commission meetings. However, it will be through the existing civil society/community-based organizations in the Diaspora that such AU representation will be identified and chosen through elections. (C) Diasporan representatives are not to be officials already elected to governmental positions in their respective territories.
12. QUESTION: Where in the AU’s amended Constitutive Act or other AU documents does the AU invite the Diaspora to join the AU?
ANSWER: Article 3(q) of the AU Constitutive Act, adopted July 2003, as part of the Protocol on the Amendments to the Constitutive Act of the African Union, stated that the African Union “invite(s) and encourage(s) the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union.” Further, the ECOSOCC Statues Article (5) states that, “African Diaspora organizations shall establish an appropriate process for determining modalities for elections and elect 20 Civil Society Organizations (CSO) to the ECOSOCC General Assembly.” Since 2003, the annual Assembly and Executive Council decisions have regularly reiterated the AU wants and needs the Diaspora to join the AU. Getting the appropriate method approved for accomplishing that task is still an on-going process, however.
For further questions (or corrections), please contact the SRDC Secretariat at: organizingSRDc@aol.com
13. QUESTION: What happens then? Do the elected representatives from each state, region or nation automatically get credentialed to go into the AU?
ANSWER: No. Each collection of states, regions or districts must hold at least one national meeting every two years in which the elected Diasporan representatives from those states, regions or districts meet and vote among themselves for their portion of the 20 Diasporan seats. Thus, in the U.S.A., there must be a national meeting of the elected representatives and observers from each state who will then elect from their number (observers can lobby, campaign and negotiate, but not vote) the four representatives from the U.S.A. This election has to conform to ECOSOCC Statutes rules, including a prior short-listing of the candidates for the four positions. That is, the AU’s ECOSOCC (particularly the Credentials Committee) will have looked over the resumes and recommendations for all of the elected representatives and submitted a list of the candidates best suited for election into ECOSOCC. The same will occur in Canada, the Caribbean etc.
14. QUESTION: The SRDC, besides its advocacy for the town hall-caucus approach, seems to be trying to unify a large number of Pan African organizations. What, if anything, does that have to do with getting the Diaspora into the AU?
ANSWER: There are currently approximately more than 1,500 organizations scattered over the Diaspora which claim African-descendant status and recognition. Several of them have already filled out the paperwork and submitted admissions applications to ECOSOCC. Thus far, not one has been accepted and admitted. Why? Quite simply, there are too many Diasporan groups for the AU and ECOSOCC to determine which ones mean well and are committed to working for African unification and development. The current contradictory process utilized by ECOSOCC applies specifically to choosing the 130 members from the African continent, but is not adequate for choosing the 20 members of the Diaspora. Consolidating and unifying the Diaspora as much as possible, particularly based on agreements on Pan African principles and a common agenda, neutralizes this problem and helps the Diaspora make a stronger presentation to the AU and ECOSOCC regarding the acceptance of the AU’s invitation.
15. QUESTION: Is this really worth all the effort?
ANSWER: If you are a serious Pan Africanist, the answer is a self-evident, yes. Difficult to achieve, surely, but our involvement in helping Africa accomplish its self-determinative future is a Diasporan obligation connected to our veneration and celebration of the Honorable Marcus Garvey, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, President Julius Nyerere and many others.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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