The African Union (AU) has recognized that there needs to be an urgent response to the humanitarian crisis caused by millions of people being displaced on the continent.
Africa has a huge challenge. Almost 30% of the world’s 41 million internally displaced people and close to 20% of the world’s refugees are in Africa. The root cause of displacement across the continent is conflict. And more people are bound to be displaced given the threat of climate change and a growing wave of natural disasters.
Some of the capacity for an African Humanitarian Agency already exists. However there are certain concerns that need to be addressed:
- The continent has a wealth of standards and institutions. But standards are often ignored and institutions battle to carry out their functions.
- People should be appointed for their ability to handle complex humanitarian issues rather than because of their political connections.
- One of the criticisms often leveled against the AU is that it does little to promote peace and security on the continent.
- Clear and realizable goals need to be set. One clear target could be that in its first five years, the agency works with states to review laws that criminalize migrants, refugees and other forcibly displaced populations.
- Currently, 80% of the African Union Commission’s budget comes from the region’s cooperation with the European Union and its member states. This funding trajectory needs to be revisited. A new funding model to foster African ownership of AU programs [could include] imposing a 0.2% levy on “all eligible imported goods” into Africa. This would generate an annual income of about US$1.2 billion.
The African Humanitarian Agency is a welcome initiative. But political, technical and financial support will matter. This will require the AU to take a pragmatic approach. The only question is: can it?
[Mail and Guardian]