What is the African Union?
The African Union (AU) was established in 2001 by the Constitutive Act in Lomé, Togo, and is a multilateral organisation which promotes cooperation on economic and political issues and in other areas of common interest among African countries. It is built on democratic principles, good governance and human rights.
It replaced the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the first regional body created in 1963 primarily to help liberate African States from colonisation, eradicate apartheid and promote economic cooperation among Member States. The OAU was abolished by its chairperson Thabo Mbeki in 2002.
The OAU, often branded a 'talking shop', came under fire for its failure to take action against its Member States' blatant disregard for their citizens' human rights and was nick-named 'The Dictators' Club'.
The decision-making body of the AU is the AU Assembly of Heads of State. The AU is made up of 54 States – all African States bar Morocco, which opposes the membership of Western Sahara as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which Morocco claims as its own territory.
The Constitutive Act of the African Union puts special emphasis on the importance of civil society's role in the continent's development.
What does it do on children's rights?
The AU has a number of mechanisms that work on children's rights, including:
- The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) was created by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and it empowers the Committee to consider individual communications and undertake country investigations. The Committee is still drafting its working methods and has yet to examine any complaints. See if your country has ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
- The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) was established by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Charter says all of its State parties must accept that the Commission supervises and monitors all rights enshrined in the Charter. All 54 Member States of the African Union are parties to this Charter.
- The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was established by the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and People’s Rights. The Protocol entered into force in 2006, and you can find past cases and decisions on the African Court website.