Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Fourth Report

CHAPTER 6: Governance, democracy and human rights

211.  Effective strategies to promote the achievement of the MDGs in Africa require adherence to human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, as well as effectively governed states and strong and efficient institutions. The role of transparent and accountable governance as an integral part of sustainable development is recognised in the Cotonou Agreement.[136]

212.  The promotion of good governance is primarily the responsibility of African states. However, African institutions such as the AU, NEPAD and the RECs have an important role in assisting and overseeing this process, and the EU is well placed to provide support at national, sub-regional and continental levels.

213.  The EU Strategy for Africa commits EU Member States:

  • to promote and protect human rights;
  • to support good governance programmes at country level and to help build the capacity of the AU and RECs in this regard;
  • to enhance African efforts to monitor and improve governance, including through support for NEPAD's African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM); and
  • to support the fight against corruption, human trafficking, illegal drugs and organised crime and promote transparency.[137]

214.  The promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance has been one of the eight priority themes of the EU-Africa dialogue, which has supported relevant African institutions, such as the emerging African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. Much of the EU's assistance for enhancing African governance capacity has taken place within the context of the APRM, while European initiatives in this area have been supported by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).[138]

Human rights

215.  Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union states that the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

216.  Supporting and upholding universal human rights principles is also regarded as a prerequisite for achieving the MDGs in Africa. The EU Strategy for Africa pledges to promote and protect human rights, including the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups; to help end impunity, including through the International Criminal Court; and to promote fundamental freedoms and respect for the rule of law in Africa, including through capacity-building for judicial systems, national Human Rights Commissions and civil society organisations. [139]

217.  The issue of human rights remains a highly sensitive issue in Africa, and African responses to gross abuses of human rights still tend to be more behind the scenes than overt.

218.  A number of African institutions directly related to the promotion of human rights are in various stages of formation, such as the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and the AU Court of Justice. In July 2004, the AU Assembly decided that these two institutions should be integrated into one Court.[140]

219.  The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has been operational since the 1980s and has recently shown some encouraging developments. The Commission is mandated to ensure the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights throughout the African continent. It comprises eleven members elected by the AU Assembly for six-year renewable terms. It is headquartered in Banjul, the Gambia.

220.  In December 2005 the ACHPR adopted a resolution "condemning the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and calling on the government of Zimbabwe to act urgently to improve the situation."[141] At its Khartoum Summit in January 2006, the AU failed to endorse the resolution, but gave Zimbabwe three months to respond.[142]

221.  The African preference not to make public denunciations in relation to gross human rights abuses has had decidedly mixed results. The failure to reach consensus within the AU over the situation in Zimbabwe is very challenging for the continent, as reflected in the fact that the AU's weak response lies at the heart of the continuing failure to agree a second EU-Africa Summit.

222.  On the other hand, the ACHPR's response to the situation in Zimbabwe is more hopeful because—despite the initially half-hearted reaction from Addis Ababa—it does have buy-in from the AU, and has demonstrated the robustness to issue a harsh declaration against Harare that more central mechanisms of the AU have so far not been able to do. (Q 129)

223.  A firm response by the AU to the situation in Zimbabwe is critical to the credibility of the institution as an effective mechanism to promote human rights in Africa and as a viable interlocutor for the EU. The EU should strongly support any such response by the AU in relation to Zimbabwe.


224.  The EU Strategy for Africa pledges to support good governance programmes in Africa at state level and to help build the capacity of the AU, sub-regional and national institutions.[143]

225.  Our witnesses agreed that the promotion of good governance is a key factor in achieving progress in development in Africa, and they noted the severity of governance challenges facing a number of AU Member States. In Alex Vines' view, governance remains at the heart of many problems in Africa, and he described the "governance deficit" as a challenge that remains a consistent theme on the continent. (Q 144) He stated that the establishment of accountable, better managed government structures would have a significant impact on poverty alleviation, and he stressed that the EU can make a significant difference in this area. (Q 144))

226.  At the same time, Africa has taken significant strides to improve governance, as a number of powerful African leaders have championed good governance as a key continental policy objective. The European Commission's 2003 Communication on governance and development further acknowledged the significance of the contribution of new African institutions, in particular the AU and NEPAD.[144]


227.  There are a number of fundamental conceptual and practical problems hampering efforts to improve governance in Africa. In the first instance, our witnesses stressed that the concept of governance is complicated by a lack of consensus over a definition of what it specifically involves.

228.  There are major differences in approaches to governance between Africa and Europe. Jakkie Cilliers of the South African Institute for Security Studies stated that Africans tend to focus on the need to build capacity to be able to take the governance and human rights agenda forward, whereas Europeans see progress on good governance, human rights and democracy as prerequisites for development. (Q 106)

229.  Alex Vines, Head of the Africa Programme for Chatham House, considered that "[t]here is no African view on good governance", stating that some African countries have a similar understanding to the United Kingdom's view of what might constitute good governance whereas for others support for good governance is largely symbolic, designed primarily for the benefit of donors. (Q 140)

230.  The lack of a clear, internationally agreed, definition of good governance complicates how the EU could, in practice, determine criteria for aid based on governance that would be broadly recognised and accepted.

231.  The Cotonou Agreement provides a clarification of the essence of good governance, describing it as "the transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for the purposes of equitable and sustainable development. It entails clear decision-making procedures at the level of public authorities, transparent and accountable institutions, the primacy of law in the management and distribution of resources and capacity building for elaborating and implementing measures aiming in particular at preventing and combating corruption."[145]

232.  Nicholas Grono of the International Crisis Group pointed out that many African states such as South Africa already have excellent records on governance, while NEPAD outlines a clear understanding of governance standards that African countries should be aiming for. (Q 301) However, he also emphasised the political problems inherent in seeking to implement governance reforms in Africa, such as leaders' fear of losing power. (Q 299)

233.  The implementation of governance initiatives requires a better understanding of what constitutes good governance. The EU should work with Africans and the international community to achieve a common definition of good governance.

The African Peer Review Mechanism

234.  International efforts to support the promotion of good governance in Africa have, in recent years, focused on supporting the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The EU Strategy for Africa, for instance, commits EU Member States to enhance "African efforts to monitor and improve governance, including through supporting the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)'s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)."[146]

235.  The APRM provides a mechanism through which the AU can take responsibility for co-ordinating support for good governance and, as such, provides a key institutional mechanism to promote African-owned dialogue on issues of governance and human rights at the pan-African level.

236.  The APRM was agreed at the 8 July 2002 OAU Summit in Durban, South Africa[147] and is open to all AU Member States. Membership is voluntary and is contingent upon signing up to the NEPAD Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance,[148] as well as on agreement to participate in periodic peer reviews. Members of the APRM further concede to follow agreed parameters for good governance.

237.  Both NEPAD and the APRM set high standards for African states to aspire to, and peer example by influential African reformist leaders is an important African-led model for progress in governance in Africa.

238.  The significance of the APRM was highlighted by Myles Wickstead, who anticipated that the international community would increasingly support those countries participating in the APRM that either receive a clean bill of health or are determined to take action to remedy identified challenges. (Q 83)

239.  A key challenge as the APRM process develops relates to the practical implementation of its ideals. Implementation of reforms recommended by the APRM will be an important indicator of African states' commitment to good governance. This is particularly relevant to EU support for the APRM, as European development assistance for Africa is based on principles of partnership and trust. (Q 366)

240.  Representatives of the Belgian government supported this view, urging that the EU encourage the APRM process through the provision of programmes and support for countries participating in the APRM process, both as part of the reporting process and in terms of support for the implementation of recommendations made. (Q 227)

241.  Referring to implementation challenges, however, Jakkie Cillers conceded the difficulties for the APRM in delivering tangible results, but downplayed the significance of implementation, highlighting rather the subtext of the APRM as symbolic of a genuine African commitment to promoting good governance on the continent. (Q 121)

242.  A positive indication over the practicability of the APRM as a mechanism to promote good governance in Africa has been the release of its first two peer review reports, relating to Ghana and Rwanda, from which initial implementation reforms are already being put into place. Also, at the time of writing of this report, twenty-six countries had signed up to the APRM. The fact that the APRM is supported by powerful African leaders is also a significant indication of its potential to play a positive governance role.

243.  However, obstacles to the successful establishment of the APRM should not be underestimated. Many African countries face very severe governance problems, in a number of cases exacerbated by instability, which presents a very heavy workload for the APRM. At the same time, the APRM is a new institution which is still finding its way, and also is severely lacking in resources.

244.  Another major challenge for the APRM is that the governance issues that it seeks to address remain highly politically sensitive in Africa, and, despite the support that it enjoys from influential African leaders, a significant number of African countries remain extremely wary of allowing the APRM to become too powerful. Garnering support from AU Member States for the promotion of good governance as part of the AU's mandate, where the AU can hold Member States to account for their actions within the APRM framework, remains a serious challenge and requires considerable support from Europe.

245.  We believe that the APRM holds great potential to make a significant difference in enhancing good governance in Africa. The EU should take a close interest in the development of the APRM, with a focus on helping the Africans to develop it. It is important that the EU acknowledge the scale of the challenges facing the APRM.

246.  Participation in the APRM is voluntary, which developed at least in part from a need to balance the political sensitivity of peer review with Africans' genuine desire to improve governance. Questions emerging from the voluntary basis of the APRM illustrate tensions between its potential effectiveness and the challenges that confront it.

247.  The voluntary basis of participation in the APRM is key to its effectiveness. Our witnesses stressed that freedom for African governments to decide whether or not to join the APRM was the first guarantee of their willingness to co-operate with the review process. (QQ 121, 130, 199, 226, 353)

248.  A particular challenge relates to EU support for the APRM. On the one hand, tying European aid too directly to African participation in the APRM risks undermining African ownership of an indigenous African process. This would weaken its credibility and encourage dissension from those African countries that are opposed to the APRM process as being too intrusive. It would also help to persuade African states to join the APRM primarily as a means to receive aid, with little or no genuine commitment to the review process.

249.  At the same time, it is equally important that taxpayers' money from EU Member States is used to promote good governance in African countries and is not abused. Therefore, EU engagement with the APRM should be developed on the basis of partnership and mutual accountability, where EU assistance is made available to support African states' own programmes to promote good governance through the APRM within EU principles, or is held back for states that are not fulfilling their obligations.

250.  The EU needs to encourage more AU member states to participate in the APRM. It should provide programming and other support for countries participating positively in the APRM process, both as part of the reporting process and in terms of support for the implementation of recommendations made.

251.  The EU should also, when allocating aid, take account of whether countries participate in, and implement the recommendations of, the APRM.

252.  However, EU engagement with the APRM should be careful not to undermine African ownership of the process. Accordingly, the EU should not seek to influence the outcome of Peer Reviews nor to specify the means by which countries implement any recommendations made.

EU support for the promotion of good governance and human rights


253.  Existing European processes for engagement in Africa provide useful frameworks for European support for the promotion of good governance, primarily the Cotonou Agreement and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

254.  The Cotonou Agreement commits states party to engage in political dialogue, including regular assessments, in particular through the framework of the "essential elements" and "fundamental elements" of the Agreement. The essential elements are respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In a concession to ACP countries' opposition to the incorporation of good governance as an essential element it was deemed a fundamental element. The distinction between fundamental and essential is significant in that the latter's violation could lead to the suspension of co-operation, whilst the former cannot. However, the real value of the essential and fundamental elements is in providing a framework for dialogue and co-operation on these important issues.

255.  The vague position of governance within Cotonou provides a potential source of confusion. Although dialogue is important, corrective measures (including sanctions as a last resort) can more effectively be applied under the terms of the essential elements. Furthermore, the EU's record in promoting governance is not yet established: EU Member States have not always found it easy to reach agreement on specific cases, given differences of practice, of principles and of geo-strategic interest.

256.  The EU should make robust use of existing provisions under Cotonou on governance issues.

257.  However, the fact that Cotonou primarily engages at the country level on issues of governance provides significant potential for useful dialogue.

258.  The programming process for the 10th EDF can be used effectively to support good governance: extra funds should be made available for countries that commit themselves to promoting good governance; consultations under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement should be invoked for countries that are failing to promote good governance, although the emphasis should be on dialogue in the first instance.

259.  The ENP builds on the Barcelona Process. It was developed in the context of the enlargement of the EU in 2004, within the policy framework of a privileged relationship between the EU and its neighbours, and the development of a mutual commitment to common values of democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development.

260.  The ENP seeks to strengthen political dialogue between partners to make the relationship more effective. Issues for enhanced dialogue will be identified in bilateral Action Plans agreed between the EU and partner countries which set out an agenda for political and economic reforms. A 24 November 2005 progress report on the ENP further suggested the establishment for the first time of sub-committees to launch regular discussions on democracy, human rights and governance.[149] The EC is also establishing a Governance Facility as an instrument within the ENP framework specifically to encourage progress on governance reform, called the Governance Facility.

261.  Major differences between African states' approaches to, and records on, governance represent a serious challenge for efforts to support good governance in Africa and require a case-by-case approach. Alex Vines cited the scale of variability of conception and capacity of governance across north African countries as a major weakness undermining the effectiveness of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which has tended to assume a commonality which does not, in fact, exist. (Q 140)

262.  European efforts to support governance through Cotonou and the European Neighbourhood Policy should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate diverse levels of governance in different African states, and should support relevant African structures.


263.  Ministers attending the EU-Africa Ministerial meeting in Bamako, Mali on 2 December 2005 endorsed the proposal for an EU Governance Initiative aimed at supporting the reforms triggered by the APRM process. The EU Strategy for Africa committed Member States to support the Governance Initiative. This support should be additional to, and fully in line with, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and should respect African ownership both of the process and the reforms pursued.


264.  The Treaty considers the protection and promotion of human rights as well as support for democratisation as corner stones of EU foreign policy and EU development co-operation.[150] Accordingly, election missions are accepted as part of the mandate of the EU.

265.  Support for election processes has become a key component of the EU's external relations policy. Due to its support for the principles of independence and consistency the EU is in a strong position to contribute to election monitoring through its global outreach.

266.  In 2005, EU Election Monitoring Missions (EOMs) were deployed to a number of African countries, including Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Ethiopia and Liberia. Missions are being prepared for elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the EU is also deploying a peacekeeping mission to support the election process (see Chapter Seven).

The role of the AU in promoting good governance

267.  The AU is an essential enabling mechanism for revitalising governance in Africa and it has made a number of constitutional commitments to promote good governance on the continent. Implementation instruments in this regard include: the Durban Declaration on Elections, Democracy and Governance; the NEPAD Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance; the Protocol on the Rights of Women; the Lomé Declaration on unconstitutional changes of government; and the African Common Position on the review of the MDGs.

268.  As well as NEPAD and the APRM, AU resources that can support its governance function include a clear political mandate within the AU Constitutive Act,[151] the RECs and specific organs that can facilitate the engagement of African citizens, such as ECOSOCC and the Pan-African Parliament.

269.  Togo provides a specific example of the AU's progress in promoting governance. In response to the unconstitutional changeover of power in Togo following the death of President Étienne Eyadéma in February 2005, AU pressure proved highly influential in persuading the Togolese authorities to hold presidential elections—although the results of these elections themselves proved controversial.

270.  The AU has, however, had a mixed record in responding to the challenges posed by instances of poor governance. The Secretary of State for International Development in his evidence stated that the AU's response to developments in Togo has been encouraging, while its responses to the situations in Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe have been less so.

271.  Weak institutional and financial capabilities remain major impediments to the AU's capacity to implement, monitor and evaluate its governance function in practice. The failure of the AU to demonstrate a consistent approach to governance issues is also a major challenge.

272.  The issue of the AU Presidency for 2006 illustrates the AU's weaknesses and its potential strengths regarding governance. The Sixth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU took place in Khartoum from 23-24 January 2006 and it is customary for the hosts of the AU Summit to assume the Presidency. The AU was able to demonstrate the political strength to suspend Khartoum from assuming the Presidency, in view of concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. However, Sudan's position was only suspended for a year, while the interim Presidency was given to the Republic of Congo, the human rights record of which is not exemplary.

273.  Alex Vines saw the Congolese solution as a necessary compromise under the circumstances. (Q 143) Jakkie Cillers stressed that, although an imperfect solution, the fact that African heads of state had been able to engineer Sudan's Presidency represented a major step forward and a remarkable shift from what would have been possible five or six years previously. (Q 109)

274.  It is important that Africa-wide governance standards are developed which are compatible with international standards. However, the impetus has to come from Africa. The Secretary of State stressed the notion of partnership in supporting good governance in Africa, asserting that "we are serious about our commitment to help finance development being matched by commitment on the part of our partners to good governance, to peace and security, to uphold human rights." (Q 60)

275.  African ownership of capacity-building for governance is essential, as attempts to export European governance standards will undermine the value of the exercise. In order to promote sustainable programmes for good governance in Africa, therefore, it is vital that external assistance focuses on support for the development of African national, sub-regional and continental mechanisms and structures.

276.  The EU should use dialogue with the AU to encourage and assist the AU's governance role. The EU is also well-placed to support the continued development of the AU's institutional capacity in this area. Co-ordinated bilateral agreements within the framework of the EU Strategy for Africa should encourage AU Member States to take forward and implement the political commitments it has made to promoting good governance.

The role of national governments

277.  A number of powerful and influential reformist African leaders have shown strong leadership in supporting the development of the AU's governance role. South Africa is the foremost example of such leadership, but other countries, such as Rwanda and Nigeria, are also demonstrating a commitment to democracy, the rule of law and accountability.

278.  National governments do not only have a role within their own countries, however. It is possible for good practices to be shared, especially amongst neighbours. This process could be expanded through APRM or REC mechanisms which would enable closer co-operation between state governments without undue interference of one state directly in the affairs of another.

279.  We commend those leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to good governance and expect that the EU will support them in sharing best practice with their neighbours.

The role of parliamentarians

280.  The role of national parliamentarians in the promotion of good governance must not be underestimated since it is in their interests to ensure accountability and transparency within their own state governments. However, in young democracies there can be a lot of suspicion amongst different political parties, so it is often difficult to get cross-party consensus on holding government to account. EU and Member State parliamentarians can assist by speaking directly to African parliamentarians about their role and experiences.

281.  A strong oversight role also depends on adequate access to information. There is a need to develop an information and communication strategy, possibly through NEPAD, to address the problem of how African parliamentarians can make informed decisions.

282.  The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) also has an important part to play in this process. It opened in 2004, under the auspices of the AU and through the particular encouragement of Thabo Mbeki, to promote democracy throughout Africa. It has 256 members—five from each member state—and an annual budget of £12.5 million.

283.  However, we were alarmed to read recent newspaper reports[152] of the Pan-African Parliament's possible potential bankruptcy due to lack of funds. Few member states have paid their dues, including some of Africa's wealthiest states such as Libya, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa.

284.  Further problems include the fact that its representatives are unelected and that there appears to be a notable lack of political will in following through on commitments made.

285.  Though the EU cannot address these problems directly, it should be willing to support the Pan-African Parliament as part of its encouragement of democracy within Africa.

The role of civil society

286.  The EU Strategy for Africa stresses the involvement of civil society organisations in promoting human rights and good governance in Africa.[153]

287.  James Mackie of the European Centre for Development Policy Management noted that civil society has been involved in discussions on the EU Strategy for Africa, and that the EU has been supporting programmes to build capacity for this. They described how civil society groups are increasingly being involved in mainstream discussions on development and co-operation with Europe. In this context, Europe refers to "non-state actors", encompassing the private sector in this definition. However, civil society groups have been disparate in terms of focusing on the Strategy and the most dialogue has been between the AU and European Commissions. (Q 177) Myles Wickstead believed that African civil society was likely to feel largely excluded from consultations on the Strategy. (Q 78)

288.  The AU has been trying to engage non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society groups from across Africa, including employers' federations, trade unions and Africans living outside the continent. The involvement of civil society for the AU is very new and dialogue remains primarily at governmental level. However, the AU is aware of this deficit and that mechanisms need to be found to involve civil society.

289.  The AU ECOSOCC is an obvious mechanism civil society engagement with the AU, although HE Alpha Oumar Konaré, President of the AU Commission, has made clear his desire to find other ways to involve different stakeholders on specific dossiers. The European Centre for Development Policy Management stressed the advantages of a thematic approach, such as discussions on trade involving the private sector.

290.  Implementation of the EU Strategy for Africa should support the involvement of civil society in the promotion of governance in Africa, particularly the role of African civil society groups in helping to build African institutional capacity in this area at national, sub-regional and continental levels.

136   Partnership agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part-Article 9.1. Back

137   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 5. Back

138   European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights Website: Back

139   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 5. Back

140   Decision on the Seats of the Organs of the African Union, Assembly/AU/Dec.45 (lll) Rev.1. Back

141   Final communiqué of the 38th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, Banjul 21 November to 5 December 2005, 12th Resolution.  Back

142   6th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government 23-24 January 2006. Back

143   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 5(b). Back

144   Communication from the Commission to the Council: The EU-Africa dialogue COM (2003) 316 Final. Back

145   Partnership agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part-Article 9.3. Back

146   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 5(c). Back

147   The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD): the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Assembly of Heads of State and Government, Thirty-eighth Ordinary Session of the Organisation of African Unity, 8 July 2002 (AHG/235-XXXVIII), Annex II. Back

148   The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance, 18 June 2002. Back

149   European Neighbourhood Policy: A year of progress 24 November 2005, IP/05/1467. Back

150   Regulations 975/99 and 976/99 of 29th April 1999 (as amended by Regs 2240/2004 and 2242/2004 respectively) provide the legal basis for Community activities intended to further and consolidate democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Back

151   Appendix Five.  Back

152   'Pan-African body facing bankruptcy' Financial Times 15 May 2006 Christopher Munnion.  Back

153   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 5(a). Back

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