20 July 2016
African Union Summit Reviews Progress on Gender Equality, Women’s Land Rights
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The 27th African Union (AU) Summit, which convened from 10-18 July 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, on the theme ‘Women's Rights, Human Rights,' recognized Algeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia as the best-performing countries in promoting women's rights and gender equality across the political, social and economic arenas.

On the sidelines of the Summit, the Land Policy Initiative launched a campaign to achieve 30% documented allocation of land by African women by 2025.

au_eca_afdb17 July 2016: The 27th African Union (AU) Summit, which convened on the theme ‘Women’s Rights, Human Rights,’ recognized Algeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia as the best-performing countries in promoting women’s rights and gender equality across the political, social and economic arenas. On the sidelines of the Summit, the Land Policy Initiative launched a campaign to achieve 30% documented allocation of land by African women by 2025.

During the week-long programme of high-level regional and bilateral meetings and side events, delegates from the 54 AU member States exchanged views on various thematic issues in line with Agenda 2063, the regional framework for political, economic and social transformation. Among other goals, Agenda 2063 envisages the development of a regional energy initiative building on large-scale infrastructural projects such as the Grand Inga Dam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as increased integration of air, rail and road networks, and online communications. It also seeks to establish a Continental Free Trade Area by 2017 and abolish visa requirements for African citizens in African countries by 2018, enabling the eventual introduction of an African passport issued by all member countries.

At the close of the meeting, the AUC unveiled a symbolic diplomatic passport, as a precursor to the proposed African passport for all citizens to facilitate the free movement of people and trade.

Describing the AU’s financial independence as a prerequisite for achieving its long-term goals, the outgoing African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, noted in her opening address that 76% of the AU’s current budget depends on external donors and stressed that the proposed funding model that requires member States to contribute 0.2% of their import levies to the body would bring it a “step closer to dignity.” The AU Summit subsequently adopted recommendations of a retreat that explored ways to empower the Union by driving it towards financial independence.

Among other areas of concern, delegates noted the resurgence of conflict in South Sudan and the continuing surge of migrants across the continent. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, called for full and effective participation and representation of women in peace processes including the prevention, resolution, management of conflicts and post-conflict reconstruction.

In a separate event convened by the Land Policy Initiative – a tripartite programme of the AUC, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) – participants reiterated their commitment to enhance women’s access to land and productive resources as a key driver in Africa’s economic transformation. Introducing the campaign to increase women’s land ownership, Joan Kagwanja, Head of the Land Policy Initiative (LPI), said African women contribute more than 60% of their labor towards food production, but a complex set of circumstances constrains their access to and control of land under both customary and statutory realms of land governance and management.

Kagwanja highlighted various developments at the continental level to address this gap, including the adoption of the AU Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in 2009, and the 2015 recommendation by the AU Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture and Rural Development, Water and Environment, that member States move towards allocation of 30% of land to women through legislative and other mechanisms, in order to facilitate their economic empowerment. AUC Chairperson Dlamini Zuma cited Rwanda as a good example that could be emulated by other African countries struggling to achieve equal rights for women.

Kagwanja also noted that the proposed ‘Women and Land Programme’ under the African Land Policy Center (ALPC) will be instrumental to facilitating research, advocacy and capacity towards the review of land legislation and identifying options for affordable, efficient and decentralized land administration institutions so that women in rural areas can document their land rights. She stressed that it should not take ten years to get a land title, “nor should a woman travel 300 kilometers to get a land certificate.”

Kagwanja observed that while the 30% target for women’s joint or individual ownership of land by 2025 is ambitious, it is a prerequisite in achieving both Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to women’s empowerment and ending poverty and hunger.

At a joint meeting of the AUC, ECA and AfDB held prior to the AU Summit, the Heads of the three institutions restated their resolve to continue to work together in advancing Africa’s development agenda, including through strengthening their Joint Secretariat Support Office (JSSO). The meeting specifically discussed some of the institutional arrangements required to advance collaboration between the three institutions in light of the AU’s Agenda 2063 and its first ten-year implementation plan, the SDGs and the AfDB’s high Priority Areas of intervention, dubbed “the High-5.”

The 27th AU Summit took place from 10-18 July 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda. [AUC Press Release on Summit Organization] [AUC-ECA-AfDB Joint Secretariat Press Release] [ECA Press Release on Women and Land Programme] [IISD RS Sources]

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