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African Union - Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus/New York (SRDC/NY)

Africa's Women Speak Out - United Nations 54th Conference 2010

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Carmen Collymore

The future for Africa and for people of African descendants cannot be taken for granted. It is within our destiny to take charge of who we are and where we are going. Sitting on the fence waiting for others to initiate their agendas while we either react or respond or become victimized again and again is neither a beneficial nor a practical approach to teach to our children what who they must be in order to sure our future and create leadership and policy makers.


The African Union intends to move the agenda forward to unify the continent into a United States of Africa, a.k.a., the Union of African States. Informed estimates anticipate a single African president by 2025. In order to pull this off, Africans worldwide must be involved with their expertise, knowledge, finances and mother-wit. The African Union has recognized this fact. The AU leadership and members have invited the Diasporans to the table to participate with them as voting members in negotiating and discussing Africa’s future. This is a significant honor and the first time in modern history that such an invitation has been extended.


                   In New York, as part of that momentum, a Pan African FORUM was initiated on January 6, 2007 that brought both international and local community members together to agree on several key points. Most of those points were relevant to the creation of a methodology to organize the Diaspora, so that we can accept the invitation made by the AU.


Our task at the FORUM was to define a working method of determining African American/African descendant representation to the AU (primarily representation from the USA, but adaptable in other areas of the Diaspora). We applied the methodology similar to what was used in California, it served as a guideline for New York (Region 6) to get the ball rolling. The FORUM participants, based on the pre-existing rules of the AU committee structure and other resources reached an agreement on a method for electing AU Representatives from New York. The requirements for such AU Representatives from the Diaspora are noted below.


By way of background, in 2001, the African Union (AU) succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as the single, continent-wide body to represent the joint interests of African countries.  As the preeminent mission of the OAU was to assist African countries in achieving political independence and economic self-sufficiency, the primary aim of the AU is to achieve a Pan African unification of the 54 African countries into a single Union of African States. The need to involve the Diaspora in the relentless effort that is required to achieve such a Union of African States was recognized and codified in the original Constitutive Act that established the African Union (and officially disbanded the OAU) in 2001. In 2003, and 2005, that Constitutive Act was amended and clarified regarding the Diaspora, such that the operative statement now is Article 3 (q) that the AU hereby  ".. 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."   


 The AU is currently establishing several Diasporan Secretariats in various parts of the world to help to facilitate bringing the Diasporans into this process. There is one already established for the Western Hemisphere (in Washington, D.C.) called the WHADN, one being established for Europe, and one being set up in Ghana (to assist with Ghana's Joseph Plan strategy to attract Diasporans back to Ghana and to Africa as a whole). The WHADN (Western Hemisphere African Diaspora Network) out of Washington, D.C. has a mandate to help Diasporans (who recognize themselves as Africans and African descendants) organize themselves in six sub-regions--Canada, the United States, Latin America/Central America, the Caribbean,  Brazil, and Europe. The WHADN has a fully formed calendar of educational trips planned for 2006 to disseminate accurate information about the AU and the Diaspora, and the trips have already started (Howard University, Harvard University, community groups in Connecticut, etc.) There have been several pivotal meetings thus far to push this agenda forward. As examples, there was a meeting of Pan African scholars in Dakar in 2004 to define and analyze the Diaspora, the AU-Western Hemisphere Diaspora Forum in December, 2002 (Washington, D.C.) and Trinidad in 2004, and Addis Ababa in 2003 and 2005 to approve a definition and to clarify a stronger commitment to bringing the Diaspora in, two major New York gatherings in 2004-2005 to begin organizing a Diasporan model, and the Pan African unification meeting in Atlanta in March, 2006. The issue of defining the Diaspora for purposes of representation has been engaged, just not yet completely resolved.


            In 2005, the AU submitted to us its own definition: "The African Diaspora are peoples of African descent and heritage living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship  and who remain committed to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union."  This was the definition accepted during the L.A. ROUNDTABLE/FORUM. It means there are Pan African Black and Brown folk who represent the African Diaspora and who will be encouraged to come forward and invest some time, energy, will and money to move Africa ahead.