Why Africa Shouldn’t Take This Advice on Negotiating The Post-2015 Agenda

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a Canadian think tank focused on international governance, recently published a policy brief on the AU Common Africa Position on Post-2015. The brief makes some good recommendations but may not take into account other factors that influenced the CAP. The author, Barry Carin, feels the CAP’s 29 goals are too many and unrealistic while forgetting that the CAP was developed when the Open Working Group was grappling with a much larger number of goals and targets. Have a look at the brief here.

Despite the fact that I find the brief a wee bit condescending and offensive to my African sensibilities, it does have good recommendations in a broad sense. The five recommended areas to focus on do sound a little bit like “go play with these five and let the grown-ups handle the rest” but the idea of four filters has great merit. In a broad sense. Specifically though, even the filters need re-thinking. For instance, under Criterion 2, the opinion that African countries shouldn’t bother with a goal related to addressing the root causes of conflict is unfortunate. More so because this advice is based on the notion that we should pursue only those things that have emotional resonance like “eradicating poverty”. I would be very disappointed if African countries took this advise. Very. However, it is clear the continent thinks otherwise as this commitment remains high on our priorities. Even if it doesn’t make it as a goal or target in the post-2015 agenda it will remain a big part of Africa’s development agenda and we will find indicators to measure it. We’re smart.

It may be instructive for CIGI and the author to note that there’s a reason the document adopted by the 22nd African Union Summit in January 2014 and launched by The African Union High Level Committee (HLC) of Heads of State and Governments on the Post 2015 in February 2014 in Chad, is called the “Common Africa Position”. It is a Common Position. This is in line with the mandate of the African Union as stipulated in Article 3 of the Constitutive Act which is to “promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples” of which the post-2015 development agenda is one. It was developed using a consultative process and enjoys official recognition by all member states.

It may also help CIGI, in its understanding of the CAP, to note that it is developed to be in line with Africa’s development agenda. We have a 50 year vision for the continent known as Agenda 2063 against which all other agendas must align. The continent’s engagement in the post-2015 negotiations is done against this backdrop.

What advise would I give Africa in the next phase of negotiations vis a vis the recommendations made by CIGI?

  1. Forget Criterion 1 of the CIGI brief. Do not assume “other players” will push our agenda on goals they may be keen on. Allies can change their tune or shift goal posts based on positions we take on other issues. We are Africa. We have the time and the human resource to expend inordinate amounts of energy in this negotiations. Be present everywhere.
  2. Criterion 2 is important. The whole idea of a data revolution means we will measure and track progress in new ways using new sources of data in addition to statistics emanating from household surveys, census etc. Where indicators are not easily present or seem impossible to find or negotiate we can negotiate on the language. 54 countries already agreed, its time to defend the position but keep the need for indicators at the fore front.
  3. Forget Criterion 3. It’s not called the Common Africa Position for nothing.
  4. Criterion 4 is somewhat important. Keep in mind that the CAP is based on the thinking in Agenda 2063. 2030 is barely midway in our own agenda. Don’t let post-2015’s “short term” thinking affect our ability to achieve our vision as a continent in the long term. Post-2015 should align with Agenda 2063, not the other way around. An important part of this is keeping in mind our commitment as a continent to improving Africa’s place in the world as stated in the 50th Solemn Declaration of the AU. It is also articulated in the current Zero Draft of Agenda 2063 as Aspiration #7 “Africa as a Strong, Resilient and Influential Global Player and Partner”. Therefore, thinking about prospects for global consensus should be done with this in mind.
  5. Means of Implementation is a big sticking point which CIGI do not give much attention in this brief. That should never be allowed to be an area where we allow others to negotiate on our behalf.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of goals to propose other than those in the CAP. However, I will do my part to encourage African governments to aim for ambitious, transformative and universal goals which are line with our aspirations, nothing less. However many they end up being. Meanwhile, don’t take CIGI’s advice.