07.10.2015 Feature Article

AU Member States Battling over Inaugural Conference of Specialised Technical Committee on Agric...

AU Member States Battling over Inaugural Conference of Specialised Technical Committee on Agric...
07.10.2015 LISTEN

Participants attending the inaugural Conference on the AU's Specialised Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water & Environment underway here at the African Union Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, continue to wait with baited breath on the future of the proposed Specialized Technical Committee(STC) on Agriculture; Rural Development; Water; and Environment

by E.K.Bensah Jr, Addis, Ababa
In an atmosphere very different from the cordial air at the beginning of the conference, AU member States have since yesterday been squabbling over the composition of this newly-established STC. Egypt has been the most vocal on its criticism of the STC, wondering whether the AU has the human resource to sustain what it says looks like an unwieldy STC. As delegates and participants wound down for the day yesterday evening, it was clear Egypt was still unhappy, wondering whether the STC would be a co-ordinating or integrating body to the AU.

Other remarks came from Eritrea; ECOWAS; Nigeria; African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW); and Cameroon, which complained there were too many policies, and that the STC runs the risk of becoming "a monster."

Speaking to delegates on the sidelines of the meeting, concerns stem from the fact that this is a newly-established STC that runs the risk of running counter to other STCs, such as AMCOW, an-already well-established STC that also works on water issues. An official of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET), for example, told me privately that he does not understand what is happening with this new STC as the issues therein include weather and disaster-risk, which AMCOMET, as an STC, has been working on for many years. In the event of the establishment of this STC, AMCOMET's mandate may cease to exist.

It will be reminded that the African Union (AU) Specialised Technical Committees (STCs) constitute an important technical organ of the AU. The Committees were established under Article 25 of the African Economic Community Treaty (the Abuja Treaty). After the transformation of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the AU, the STCs were carried over by the Constitutive Act of the African Union under Articles 14 to 16. The African Union STCs seeks to replace all the AU Ministerial Conferences and they are expected to work in close collaboration with the various departments of the African Union Commission to provide well-informed inputs in their areas of specialisation to the work of the African Union Executive Council.

Way Forward
It is unclear what happens if this STC is not established, though few doubt it will be stillborn. The senior AU official who stated "there is an animal, but as to whether it is a goat or a donkey" was disappointed by the turn of events, assuring delegates and participants who were ushered out of the AU Conference Centre Complex for AU Member States to lock horns, that the two groups meeting to iron out issues would resolve matters around the STC.

Already, that the parallel sessions -- one on Agriculture; Rural Development; Livestock and Fisheries; and the other on Environment; Land; Natural Resources; Climate Change; Meteorology; Disaster Risk Reduction (DDR); Water & Sanitation -- have yet failed to materialise may give vent to speculation that this new STC may just remain abortive. A senior AU Official I spoke to about the organisation of the meeting was quick to assure it would be resolved and that some of the concerns stemmed from fear of interests around existing STCs being lost. Some of the diplomats were quick to complain at the plenary that the content was not just over-loaded, but too heavy on Agriculture. Some seasoned diplomats find this odd, given that the AU's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) is a very well-recognised and successful programme of the AU, which has already seen over 29 countries sign the compact, including Ghana in October 2009.

The CAADP website explains the programme thus: "In spite of the 'P' in CAADP, it is not exactly a 'programme' per se. Rather … it is a pan-African framework – a set of principles and broadly defined strategies to help countries critically review their own situations and identify investment opportunities with optimal impact and returns. CAADP is a way to champion reform in the agricultural sector … CAADP provides for an evidence-based planning process with knowledge as a key primary input and human resource development and partnership as a central factor. Ultimately, it aims to align diverse stakeholder interests around the design of integrated programmes adapted at the local level. Although continental in scope, CAADP only comes to life through integrated national and regional efforts to promote agricultural sector growth and economic development."

In the event this STC is established, it will come straight on the heels of three newly-established STCs established this year. These are: the Specialised Technical Committee on Social Development, Labour and Employment (STC-SDLE-1) and the Specialised Technical Committee on Health, Population and Drug Control (STC-HPDC-1) in April 2015. The other was the First Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Communication and ICT (STC-CCICT) that was established in August 2015.

*E.K.Bensah is Host & Executive Producer of the "Africa in Focus Show" on Radio XYZ93.1FM. You can keep updated on Emmanuel's tweets by following #STCAgric on twitter under his @ekbensah handle.