Africa in the Multilateral System

Led by IOP Fellow George Moose

The international community faces no greater challenge than that of putting Africa on the path to balanced and sustained development. No region of the world is in greater need of the kinds of services and support that the system of international organizations was created to provide. Competent and effective international institutions are essential to helping Africans address and solve their pressing political, economic and social problems.

The recent focus on UN reform, culminating in the September 2205 World Summit in New York, has generated a wealth of ideas and proposals, including the establishment of a new UN Human Rights Council and the creation of a UN Peacebuilding Commission. But these reform efforts have looked broadly at the UN as a whole; they have not focused specifically on Africa and what must be done to make the UN and other multilateral institutions more effective instruments for addressing the continent’s particular needs.

The objective of the study group is to explore what reforms are required within the system of multilateral institutions to enable them to better assist the countries of Africa in overcoming the legacies of the 20th century and meeting the challenges they face in the 21st. Participants will be encouraged to look beyond the myth that multilateralism is the panacea for the problems of globalization and to examine both the inherent weaknesses and strengths of the institutions that were brought into being in the immediate aftermath of World War II. More specifically, the study group will seek to understand the reasons for the international community’s collective failure to solve Africa’s development problems, despite billions in dollars in development and humanitarian assistance. Why has Africa continued to lag, and in many instances to fall further behind, even as other parts of the world are making great leaps forward? Why has the international community been so unsuccessful in bringing the lessons of decades of experience in development to bear on Africa’s problems? Where and how should we begin to adapt our international institutions to these challenges? The larger intent is be to encourage participants to examine issues of international governance and the challenge of designing competent and effective international institutions.

Session I September 28: Africa and Globalization: A Dynamic Analysis

To understand the particular nature of Africa’s current challenges, it is important to have some understanding the impacts on the continent of successive waves of globalization, from Islamicization and colonization, to the Cold War and global terrorism. Participants will consider why the effects of these global trends have been different in Africa than in other regions of the world. Looking to the future, the group will attempt to assess how the legacies of the 20th century will condition African responses to the challenges of the 21st century.

Session II: October 5: Africa in the United Nations

The members of the African Union account for more than a quarter of the votes in the governing bodies of the UN system, by far the largest voting bloc. But how successful have African countries been in translating their presumed political clout into policies and programs that serve their interests? Do the political dynamics of international organizations effectively nullify Africa’s potential influence? Has the behavior of African countries themselves contributed to Africa’s marginalization within the international system?

Session III: October 12: Peacemaking

Over the last 50 years, Africa has experienced more conflicts, for the most part internal, than any other region of the world. It has also been the object of more UN peacekeeping missions, some notably successful, others demonstrably not. Two situations in particular – Rwanda and Darfur – have forced the international community to come to grips with its responsibilities when confronted with massive human rights crises. The endorsement by the 2005 UN World Summit of the “Responsibility to Protect” has further highlighted the question of whether the UN is appropriately structured and resourced to deal with such situations. What lessons can be drawn from these experiences about the UN’s approach to conflict in Africa?

Session IV: October 19: Peace Building

The international community’s record in helping states move successfully from conflict to sustainable peace is equally checkered. In some instances, intensive UN peacekeeping efforts have been followed not by stability, but by renewed conflict. In recognition of the problem, the UN General Assembly agreed last fall on the creation of a new UN Peacebuilding Commission. But what will it take to enable the Commission to respond meaningfully to the post-conflict realities found in Africa and other parts of the developing world?

Schedule is subject to change depending upon the availability of guest speakers.

Session V: October 26: Effective Aid

The disappointing progress in Africa’s development inevitably calls attention to the failures of international assistance institutions. Despite years of discussion, assistance efforts remain fragmented and incoherent, with no clear development agenda, and no agreed standards for judging whether donors are making the most effective use of their assistance. A debate continues to rage within the development community over the extent to which developing country governments should be relied upon as principal agents for crafting and implementing development strategies. The HIV/AIDS crisis has given the discussion of aid effectiveness particular urgency, and the international community has responded by creating new agencies, such as UNAIDS and the Global Fund, to mobilize both political will and resources. What hope is there for a restructuring of international assistance efforts in a way that gives both tax payers and aid recipients greater assurance that assistance will be wisely and effectively used?

Session VI: November 2: Fair Trade

Integration into the global system of trade and finance will be critical to meeting Africa’s development aspirations. But the Doha Round of world trade negotiations, which was to have been the vehicle for achieving this goal, is on the verge of collapse. Does the structure of the WTO negotiations disadvantage African countries, particularly the least developed? Have Africa’s special interests been well served by the G-77, which has presumed to speak on behalf of all developing countries in the negotiations? Have African governments made the most of the opportunities afforded by the Doha Round to assert their interests?

Session VII: November 9: Democracy, Governance and Human Rights

The process of decolonization and the removal of the external yoke imposed by colonial powers largely failed to lead to the establishment of viable, democratic African governments capable of meeting the needs and aspirations of their peoples. Within the past decade, democracy and good governance have come to be seen both as “goods” in their own right, and as elements critical to the achievement of other development goals. Moreover, they are understood to be essential to the sustained promotion and protection of human rights. This recognition has prompted efforts to enhance the capacities of international agencies to promote democracy and good governance, with Africa a principal target. Last fall, UN members voted to establish a democracy fund; and both the World Bank and the G-8 have launched new initiatives to address the problem of corruption. Are these efforts well conceived? And are they being pursued in ways that are likely to be effective? In what ways have Africans been involved in or responded to these efforts?

Session VIII: November 16: An African Strategy for the UN vs. a UN Strategy for Africa

Over the past four years, African governments have launched major new initiatives aimed at creating new institutions that will better support the continent’s development aspirations. They include the African Union, successor to the Organization of African Unity, and the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). Does Africa also need a new strategy for its engagement with the UN and other international organizations? Or do Africa’s special challenges require that the international community rethink its collective approach to Africa? What lessons can be drawn from the study group’s reflections on how the international system is presently organized to respond to these challenges?

Potential Guest Speakers

Ibrahim Gambari, UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs
Senator Romeo Dallaire, former Commander of UNAMIR
Callisto Madavo, former Vice-President for Africa at the World Bank
Princeton Lyman, Ralph Bunche Chair for African Programs, Council on Foreign Relations
Mamphela Ramphele, former Managing Director of the World Bank
Joy Phumape, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization
Michele Sidibe, UNAIDS
Peter Lamptey, President, Institute for HIV/AIDS, Family Health International
Adelokunbo Lucas, Adjunct Professor of International Health, Harvard School of Public Health
Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict
Kathleen Cravero, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Recovery, UNDP
Sarah Sewall, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping