Essay: Regional Organizations

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African Unity

The Organization for African Unity

The African Continent is rich in resource, populace and cultural diversity. Its potential for achievement remains great. Yet, throughout history it has been a victim, either of exploitation by outsiders or of its own incapacity for self-management. This is the reality that defines Africa of today. Its prospects for the future have a chance to be brighter if it can overcome the vulnerabilities that have made it a target for the many challenges which it now faces. As Africa looks to this future, it must do so with a consideration of the world's changing nature. Though colonialism was the nation-building philosophy that contained Africa into the modern era, today the world's powers are globalists. Technological and communicative advancements are reducing the theoretical size of the world and national divides are playing a diminished role in limiting economic relationships. With these two aspects of international progression in mind, African leaders continue to strive forward in their efforts to bring their continent in line with other international alliances. This effort would begin in earnest in 1963 with the founding of the Organization for African Unity. Though disbanded by 2002 to make for the African Union, the OAU was the first step in creating an internationally recognized body intended to represent the primary interests of African continental solidarity and the elimination of colonialism.

Today, the African Union, which was officially borne of the Organization of African Unity in 2001, is the primary body of governance for the achievement of these broad goals. According to its mission, the AU takes its primary objectives from the OAU, asserting that "the main objectives of the OAU were, inter alia, to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations. Indeed, as a continental organization the OAU provided an effective forum that enabled all Member States to adopt coordinated positions on matters of common concern to the continent in international fora and defend the interests of Africa effectively." (AUC, p. 1)

At present, the obstacles between the continent and its stated objectives are both numerous and severe but the African Union is design to systemically address these obstacles while promoting sweeping reforms throughout the Pan-African state. Their success at advancing this agenda will be determined by a variety of factors which will be brought to the fore as the African Union proceeds with a directive to curtail poverty, disease, famine and, above all else, tribal and inter-state conflict. We can trace this development to the Cold War.

Particularly, the 1960's was an extremely progressive time for Africa but, in the same ways, it was also a very tumultuous era. For centuries, Africa had, as a continent, been at the receiving end of colonization, resource theft, the slave trade and a widespread exclusion from representation of interests in geo-political affairs. During this decade, the African peoples which had been distributed across continental stretches possessed by European powers such as France, Germany and Spain, began their surges for independence. Moved forward by factors such as a colonial structured weakened by the European wars of the first half of the century and an upswing of anti-Apartheid leaders, African ethnic groups began to declare independence from their foreign authorities. A document produced a decade after the chartering period of the Organization in 1963 demonstrates the explicitly stated priority of removing from power the pointedly segregationist policies of European colonial occupiers. The document reports that "through an OAU fund, international support is being channeled to liberated areas in Guinea Bissau, in Angola and Mozambique. OAU has initiated action with the International Court of Justice which has just declared that South Africa had no right to stay in Namibia. Consequently, UN action is being considered for the International territory of Namibia (former South West Africa) to accede to Independence. Likewise, a UN boycott is enacted against Rhodesia's racist minority regime until majority rule is obtained. Every pressure is brought to bear on Great Britain, which, as a colonial power at the time of Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1965), has to live by its constitutional and moral responsibility towards African majority in Rhodesia. Thus, Portugal, South Africa, Rhodesia and their NATO allies are periodically harassed and condemned for their colonialist and racist policy in Africa, particularly at the United Nations where' the African group commands a near 'blocking third' vote." (GWR, p. 1)

Such declarations entered the African continent into a new phase where, for the first time, it would have the opportunity and the responsibility to contend with its domestic problems under its own set of leaders and in defense of its own economic, political and socio-cultural interests. With such a daunting number of ethnic groups, tribes, families, political parties and states demanding representation, the focus on collectively beneficial goals had been difficult to define for many years. In 1963, the Organization of African Unity came into existence to establish a group which represented this plurality and which could simultaneously demonstrate the kind of collective solidarity that might insulate the continent from its long history of exploitation at the hands of foreign occupiers.

The 1970s and 1980s brought drought, famine and a host of new and crippling challenges to the Organization for African Unity. The spread of poverty and the explosion of the AIDS crisis accompanied these. Africa found itself incapable, even under the ideological direction of the OAU, to contend with these growing problems. Its inability to find independent solutions thrust it into a circumstance of extreme international monetary debt, which only further exacerbated the various health problems endemic to Africa. According to the OAU Summit on AIDS in 2001, "the incidence of HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases is higher on this continent than on any other. Of course, this fact is connected to Africa's other problems. Africans are vulnerable to these diseases because they are poor, undernourished, and too often uninformed of basic precautions, or unwilling to take them. Many are vulnerable because they have neither safe drinking water nor access to basic health care. They are vulnerable, in short, because their countries are underdeveloped. And therefore the best cure for all these diseases is economic growth and broad-based development." (OAU, p. 1)

At this point in its history, widespread dissatisfaction amongst Africans sparked massive upheaval. Tribal factions and military rebels were coming to blows all across the continent, sparking regional wars, ethnic cleansings and a wave of downward spiraling bloodshed, the effects of which still reverberate today. In 1999, in direct recognition that a more active body of continental enforcement would be needed to contend with these problems, the OAU began to shift its authority over to the African Union. In 2001, the African Union officially took over as the international representative body for the African Continent. Thus, with its own constitution, 53 member states and a parliamentary body, the African Union became the mantle bearer for the future peace of Africa. (AUC, p. 1) At the time of its inception, its founders recognized that the African Union would be thrust into the midst of an array of complex and daunting civil and global issues. This was particularly true given the limitations in the evolution of such solidarity produced by the OAU. According to Amoako & Essy (2002), "Establishing the African Union is an ambitious undertaking which will make considerable demands on the existing institutional infrastructure and finance. The Constitutive Act of the AU specifies a range of institutions, but not an action plan for prioritizing their establishment and functioning." (Amoako & Essy, p. 5)

This represents a singular challenge… [END OF PREVIEW]

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