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AU Summit Closes with Decisions on Key Issues
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The 7th African Union (AU) summit, having drawn 33 heads of state and government of its members, closed here Sunday with decisions on a series of significant issues in the continent.

AU, the most important bloc of Africa, decided to suspend recognition of new regional economic communities in the continent, a move believed to be beneficial for enhancing the efficiency in the continent's integration process and economic development.

There have been growing calls that the number of RECs be reduced from eight to five. Rationalization of RECs and regional integration are the themes of the summit held July 1 and 2.

The eight economic bodies that have been recognized by AU, Africa's most important bloc, are the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), Common Market of East and Southern Africa(COMESA Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Economic Community of Sahelo-Saharian States (CEN-SAD) and East African Community.

The assembly urged the above-mentioned RECs to coordinate and harmonize their policies among themselves and with the AU commission with a view to accelerating Africa's integration process while requesting member states, RECs and the United Nations System, as well as development partners, to collaborate closely with the commission in the rationalization process.

The assembly also mandates the AU Commission to implement the roadmap for the rationalization process and decided to institutionalize the Conference of Ministers in charge of integration which will meet once a year in ordinary session and in extraordinary session when necessary, taking into consideration the process of establishing the Technical Specialized Committee.

Launching of the African Court on Human and People's Rights in a decision was welcomed by the assembly, which had authorized its Permanent Representatives Committee to consider and adopt the structure of the registry of court to enable it to function effectively.

The assembly requests member states to extend all the necessary support to the court to ensure that it starts its work as soon as possible and functions smoothly.

In June 1998 the Protocol on the Establishment of an African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights was adopted, and came into effect on January 2004. In July 2004 the African Union Assembly took a decision to merge the African Court on Human and People's Rights with the Court of Justice of the African Union.

The main purpose of the new court is to compliment and reinforce the functions of the commission on human rights. The court's authority will extend to all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and any other human rights instruments ratified by African state.

The construction of the court is considered a new progress made by the African countries in human rights protection.

The assembly also adopts the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in Africa, which consolidates the commitments, collectively made to strengthen democracy and promote good governance on the continent, and constitutes a major step toward the implementation of the democratic agenda of the AU.

It invites member states to make all necessary efforts to ensure the rapid signing, ratification, accession of the Charter to ensure its speedy entry into force.

The assembly welcomes the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for African Green Revolution, congratulating Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and his government for initiating and hosting the Special Summit and demonstrating a strong commitment by pledging US$10 million to the establishment of an Africa Fertilizer Development Financial Mechanism that will be hosted at the African Development Bank.

(Xinhua News Agency July 3, 2006)

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