Africahas suffered a total of one third of global armed conflicts over the past decade. The bottom 27 countries in the UNDP’s human development index are African and there are an estimated 6.1 million refugees and 20 million internally displaced persons across the continent. Now, more than ever, an effective EU-Africa partnership is required to address the underlying and proximate causes of conflict, insecurity, instability and underdevelopment to effect a demonstrative, positive and sustainable impact on the ground. The first ever African Union (AU) Summit, held in February 2003, was dedicated to the resolution of conflict in Africa, resulting in the agreement for African-led peace measures in seven African countries. The Lisbon Summit will provide an important opportunity to support this, and other Africanled peace promoting processes, and to strengthen long-term EU-African engagement as a strategic priority for the EU in 2003, and beyond.
The EU has the unique capacity as a regional union to have significant and positive impact on promoting structural stability in Africa. Member states have strong historical ties with Africa, there is broad diplomatic engagement on the ground, the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement, and others, facilitate relations between the regional blocs and the EU represents the largest aid provider for the African region. The commitments to peace-building, conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa made at the EU-Africa summit in Cairo in 2000 and set out in the Cairo Declaration also signal a willingness on the part of the Heads of State of both regions to give priority to these issues within their own national policies and within regional and international cooperation frameworks. The agreed areas of action and progress, outlined at the ‘Follow up to Cairo summit’ in Ouagadougo in November 2002 on the prevention and settlement of conflicts, are also encouraging.
These commitments reflect a growing recognition of the importance of peace building, conflict prevention, management and resolution both for the long-term development and stability of the African continent and for the interests of the EU. However, obstacles still remain with regard to implementation and co-ordination, both horizontally (across EU and African states) and vertically (between the political leadership and civil society). If the commitments laid out in the Cairo Declaration are to be translated into long term substantive progress, a number of issues will need to be addressed at the Lisbon Summit that advance more meaningful processes and new mechanisms for implementing and ensuring commitments: