Distinguished Representatives of African Civil Society
Organizations (CSOs) from the five regions of Africa and
Delegates from Africa in the Diaspora,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olu Adeniji, and on my own behalf, I wish to welcome you to Abuja for this African Union Civil Society Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting, which convenes today and tomorrow, on the margins of the AU Summit. We hope that you would enjoy your stay in Abuja , our capital city, which we have always considered a genuine African city, built to underscore our quest for National Unity in Nigeria and the symbol of our commitment to Africa and the Africans in the Diaspora.
As Nigerians, we are gratified that this meeting is holding in Abuja today, because of our long-standing interest and commitment to the positive role that the Civil Society and the Diaspora should play in the quest for Africa 's development. That commitment was manifested a few years back, through our initiative in the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA) which, for the first time, gave voice, to the Civil Society as a veritable partner within the AU. We welcome this development as a legitimization of that effort, the best part of which is yet to come.
This meeting is important as it is timely. As current Chair of the African Union, we are delighted that the meeting reflects what is fast becoming a tradition in AU Summits, of bringing together African Civil Society Organizations and the Representatives of the Diaspora, in a special forum to dialogue on issues of interest to both Government and the Society in Africa . This idea is plausible, not only because it contributes to the broadening of Africa's developmental priorities and goals, but because it also offers an additional forum for the consolidation of the agenda for Africa 's true social emancipation and the prospects for economic advancement.
The convening of this Abuja forum of CSOs is also auspicious and timely because it comes as a prelude to the launching, later in march this year, of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union - a key Advisory Oran of our continental Body. The outcomes of the deliberations of this meeting should reinforce the preparations being made at the Commission and in the individual AU Member States, to ensure a successful launch of the ECOSOCC. Therefore, you should work assiduously at this meeting, and be as open and frank as possible in expressing your views on all the issues that would come up for discussion.
A cursory look at the Agenda of this Meeting, indicates that Delegates would seized with such issues as the prioritization of the programmes of the AU Commission up to Horizon 2007, and the adoption of the much-discussed Solidarity Budget of the Union. You would also be focusing on the ECOSOCC Statues and the preparations for its launching, including the criteria for the selection of CSO representatives to the interim General Assembly of ECOSOCC and the operationalization of the Sectoral Cluster Committees of the Advisory Organ. Finally, I note that you would be dealing with the issues of Resource Mobilization for ECOSOCC and the AU – CSO interface. In deliberating on all these matters which are indeed both fundamental and germane to the dialogue which we are working hard to establish between the CSOs and the African Union on the one hand and between the CSOs and Governments on the other, we urge you to demonstrate enthusiasm and interest in such measures as would guarantee that we achieve the desired results.
Permit me, at this juncture, to comment briefly on the item on Resource Mobilization and the Solidarity Budget for the AU and the ECOSOCC. It is no secret that one of the problems that have faced our continental Organization since its inception, whether as OAU in 1963 or as AU in 2002, is the acute lack of financial resources. It is also clear that if we must implement our programmes and objectives effectively, the situation must be reversed, and sufficient funding provided; it cannot be otherwise. Therefore, as delegates, this meeting offers you yet another opportunity, to contribute your quota to the processes of finding a lasting solution to the myriads of financial problems that have plagued our Organization. By so doing, you would be making it crystal clear that your role as CSOs and representatives of the Diaspora, goes beyond merely participating in Agenda setting for the AU, but also includes helping to alleviate the Organization's financial burden.
Finally, I would like to recognize, in a special way, the presence here, of the Delegates of the Diaspora. You have come from as far away places as Costa Rica, the United States, Barbados, the Netherlands Antilles, to name but a few. Your presence here contributes in no small measure to the AU efforts to fully mobilize Africans across the world for the monumental task of development. By your participation in this Abuja Forum, we can begin to say that our efforts have gone beyond the proverbial handshake to being a hug and a warm embrace between the African peoples across the oceans. This development portends good for us all as Africans and for our Organization in particular.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, I thank you for your attention and wish you all a very successful deliberation.