OXFORD, United Kingdom — More than 100 faith-based and nongovernmental organizations from 22 African countries, as well as partners like CIDSE, said the European Union-African Union partnership failed to improve the lives of rural Africans and needs to put “the dignity and well-being of Africans at the center of policymaking.”
The joint declaration issued Feb. 16, the day before a two-day summit between the European Union and African Union, said “this partnership and similar ones with other world regions have shown themselves to be shadow structures facilitating the grabbing of land, plundering of natural resources, ongoing corporate impunity with the complicity of national and international authorities, and aggressive market expansion at the expense of people’s prosperity and habitats.”
The signers included representatives of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, Regional Episcopal Conference of Francophone West Africa, Caritas Africa, the Africa Faith and Justice Network, various religious congregations and NGOs.
“We are saddened that issues of utmost urgency for Africa rarely make it to the center of the negotiation table,” the letter said.
“Notwithstanding the message of promoting a relationship of equals by European Union leaders, we observe with concern that the legacy of colonialism, now transformed into some kind of corporate-led neocolonialism, and substantial power asymmetries persist in this partnership,” which it said favored Europe.
“Terrorism and conflicts in the Sahel and other regions of Africa and the forced migration of young Africans crossing the Mediterranean Sea are products of extreme poverty, inequality, climate emergency and economic downturns,” the declaration said.
“Yet this partnership and similar ones with other world regions have shown themselves to be shadow structures facilitating the grabbing of land, plundering of natural resources, ongoing corporate impunity with the complicity of national and international authorities, and aggressive market expansion at the expense of people’s prosperity and habitats.”
An EU statement said the international summit in Brussels would adopt “an ambitious Africa-Europe investment package,” taking into account global challenges and “a clear understanding of mutual interests.”
The faith leaders’ letter appealed for greater civil society involvement in decisions, and a “land governance strategy” to “guarantee the customary law of communities, women and youth rights and access to land.”
Among 15 policy recommendations, it urged support for territorial food systems, small-scale family farming, decentralized clean energy transition, and an effective COVID-19 vaccination strategy, as well as greater protection for human rights defenders and backing for a binding U.N. treaty to “hold big companies accountable for violations throughout their supply chains.”