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From the UN to the G20, Africa is seeking its place in international bodies


Africa and its 1.3 billion people must be better represented in international governing bodies. Apparently, the subject is unanimous. Visiting the headquarters of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa on Thursday March 16, the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, once again underlined this, assuring the Chairman of the AU Commission , Moussa Faki, of his “support for African representation in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations Security Council and the G20”. However, nothing moves.

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With its 54 states (55 including the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, as the AU does), the continent still has only three non-permanent seats on the Security Council. Steps were taken in the 1990s to change things. Since 2005 and the “Ezulwini Consensus”the AU is calling for two new permanent seats with veto power and five non-permanent seats for Africa.

The African Heads of State gathered in the Ethiopian capital for the AU summit recalled, on February 18 and 19, their attachment to this request. A request that is all the more legitimate, underlined Moussa Faki, that “60% of the decisions taken within the Security Council concern the African continent”. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, also present in Addis Ababa, acknowledged: “The greatest injustice in the Security Council is the absence of an African state as a permanent member. »

A position to which many Western countries now openly rally. Germany and France have recently pledged wider African inclusion in the supreme body. They repeated this at AU headquarters during a joint visit in January. China, Russia and the United States also supported the idea of ​​reform. “It is now up to Africa to take them at their word”believes Solomon Deresso, of the think tank Amani Africa.

“Statements of Intent”

Among the African diplomats gathered in February in Addis Ababa, doubt dominates. Many criticize the “P5”, the five permanent members of the Security Council, for paying for words. “Western countries believe that this kind of declaration of intent will please and appease African states”says Jackie Cilliers, founder of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). For the P5 countries, it feels good to say that they are in favor of reform, but no concrete initiative has emerged so far”adds Paul-Simon Handy, ISS researcher, AU specialist.

Countries like Brazil, India and Japan are also advocating for an enlargement of the Security Council in their favor

Technically, for a reform to see the light of day, it must be proposed during a vote of the UN General Assembly, then ratified by all the permanent members of the Security Council. A process that has so far met with the reluctance of one or the other member of the P5. Not to mention that countries like Brazil, India and Japan are also advocating for an overhaul and enlargement of the Security Council in their favor. “That said, the obstacles are also to be found on the African side. There is currently no consensus on the countries that could represent Africa, between Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt., says Paul-Simon Handy. A question largely evaded at the last AU summit.

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At the same time, another opportunity presented itself to the continent, more accessible this time: the G20 could open its doors to the AU. The hand extended by Emmanuel Macron at the G20 summit in Bali on November 16, and by Joe Biden during the United States-Africa summit on December 10, could materialize this year because India, the current president of the forum, would also be favorable to African integration.

The Senegalese head of state, Macky Sall, as current president of the AU, had made the trip to Bali to plead the cause of the continent. Multilateralism, he insisted, should “to serve the interests of all”under penalty of exposing oneself to a “loss of legitimacy and authority”. In the event of African integration, Moussa Faki would represent the continent in the club of the 20 richest countries. A line supported by South Africa, the only African country member of the forum.