The Third Annual High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in Africa took place in Dakar, Senegal from the 30th to the 31st of October, 2014. It was jointly convened by the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) of the African Union Commission (AUC), organs and institutions that form the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and its platform (AGP) and the Government of Senegal.
The theme for the Third High Level Dialogue was “Silencing the Guns: Strengthening Governance to Prevent, Manage and Resolve Conflicts in Africa”. The main objective of the Third High Level Dialogue was to explore the structural root causes of conflicts in Africa and propose policy measures through which governance systems can be strengthened to address violent conflicts on the continent.
The theme's focus was in direct response to the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration adopted by the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government on 26 May 2013. The Declaration marked the beginning of the year-long celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the African Union (AU), where African leaders committed to ending "all wars in Africa by 2020".
The dialogue was attended by representatives from African Union (AU) Member States, AU Organs, Regional Economic Communities (REC), United Nations Agencies, Development Partners, Think Tanks, Civil Society including women groups and youth organizations, Eminent African Personalities and Academia.
Some of the dignitaries present at the 2-day High Level Dialogue included, His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Her Excellency, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs, AU, His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative and Head of United Nations Office for West Africa. Other dignitaries included Dr. Mustapha Mekideche, member of the African Peer Review Mechanisms’ Panel of Eminent Persons, Her Excellency, Mme Maya Sahli-fadel, Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, His Excellency Khadim Diop, Minister of African integration, NEPAD and Promotion of good governance (Government of Senegal).
Representing the African Union Youth Working Group (AUYWG) at the dialogue was Benjamin Kweku Nettey Larbi, a technical assistant at Regent and member of the group.
Ben, together with Ida Nyanga from Kenya and Kawsu Sillah from Gambia were nominated to represent AUYWG, a group created to provide African youth with a platform to contribute towards the development and implementation of policies passed by the African Union. Ben and Ida's participation in the Dialogue was made possible through a United Nations Development Programme sponsorship.
Addressing the delegates, the Chair of the Permanent Representatives Committee and Mauritania's Ambassador to Ethiopia, His Excellency, Mr. Hamadi Meimou spoke about various issues relating to peace and security, youth development and the development of the continent.
"Scientific knowledge is absolutely crucial to ensure the progress of our African society", Mr. Meimou emphasized. "If you look at national budgets dedicated to research, you would see that the share of the budgets allocated to research and education in general is not very substantial, compared to other countries" Mr. Meimou further noted.
"In Africa, the illiteracy rate is high. In countries in which the illiteracy rate is high, how can we not expect to have conflicts?" he added.
The role of youth in strengthening governance and creating a conflict-free continent:
The role of African youth in strengthening governance, and helping create a conflict-free continent was well-emphasized during the various sessions of the dialogue.
"65 percent of our continent is made up of the youth. There is no way we can talk about silencing the guns on this continent without involving them", Ibraheem Sanusi, Deputy Head, Africa Governance Architecture (AU Commission) said.
Recommendations from Youth consultations held prior to the dialogue were incorporated into the dialogue discussions.
"The increasing recognition of youth as national stakeholders by African policy makers and regional bodies, is an encouraging trend, especially considering the fact that majority of the populations of most countries in Africa are youth", Benjamin Larbi said. "That this figure is projected to double by 2045 shows the urgent need for mechanisms to be implemented to ensure the involvement of young people in decision-making processes at various levels of governance".
"History has shown us all too often the unsettling consequences of excluding a large percentage of a nation's youth from decision making processes regarding issues that affect them", Ben added.
Ben continued by noting that, "The African Governance Architecture's development and commitment to executing a Youth Engagement Strategy to ensure that the young people across Africa participate in the achievement of transparent and accountable governance in Africa is highly commendable", Ben said.
A number of key issues and challenges to achieving the goal of a conflict-free Africa were identified during the plenary sessions of the dialogue. These issues were captured in the outcome statement published at the end of the dialogue. They include:
Some of the key recommendations that emerged from the deliberations include:
The 2 day High Level Dialogue ended with a renewed conviction that Africa's best days were still ahead of it. The need for an "all hands on deck" approach to create a conflict free continent was reiterated. "Failing forward is better than suffering from paralysis of analysis. Africa's potential will be realized only when we apply ourselves", one delegate said.
The Third Annual High Level Dialogue was convened by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Africa Governance Institute (AGI), the Government of the Republic of Senegal and supported by Germany, via the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH