Source: All Africa
The 26th Ordinary Session of the African Union's Executive Council (the Foreign Ministers of the AU) opened this morning, Monday (January 26) at the African Union Headquarters.

The meeting, chaired by Ms. Fatma Vall Mint Soueinae, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Chairperson of the Executive Council, was attended by the foreign ministers of the AU members states, the Chair of the African Union Commission, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNECA, Carlos Lopez, Deputy Chairperson of the AU, Erastus Mwencha and representatives of the AU organs and leaders of the Regional Economic Commissions. The Ministers will be deliberating on Monday and Tuesday on issues on the agenda of the AU Summit in preparation of the 24th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

The Heads of State and Government will meet on Friday and Saturday (January 30-31). The theme of the Summit is: "Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063". Dr Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, introduced the Annual Report on the activities of the Commission in 2014 to the Council. The Report highlighted the work of the Commission on Agenda 2063 which is being presented to the Summit for adoption and the work in progress with regard to the first Agenda 2063 10-year plan which is intended for adoption at the June Summit this year. Dr. Zuma said integration remained central to the continental vision, noting that initiatives to accelerate infrastructure development and agreements to implement free trade zones were encouraging. She said the Commission would present a comprehensive report on the State of Integration in the context of Agenda 2063 to the June summit.

The upcoming meeting of the Ministers of Economy and Finance in March would look at funding for Agenda 2063 and later in the year Ethiopia would host the global conference on development financing. Dr. Zuma spoke of the need to silence the guns and neutralize the threats of terrorism, intolerance and extremism, as well as the risk of slow movement on integration, infrastructure and the diversification of economies and the largest risk: failure to finance development, adding "we must go the next step to plan what to do to mitigate these risks." She said Africa "must do more and better for African youth," including increasing investment in education in science and technology, skills development through vocational training, and better treatment of teachers, and lowering the cost of access to internet service.

These would be the way to tackle the problem of African youth migration and trafficking, and falling prey to extremism. The Chairperson said the AU efforts for peace, stability and the consolidation of democracy and good governance were paying off and the African Peace and Security Architecture meant situations could be addressed before they became entrenched. She called for immediate and collective action against Boko Haram, adding "we must work diligently towards silencing the guns by the year 2020, and nip in the bud this threat to African prosperity, peace and human security." She expressed "deep appreciation to our peacekeepers" and called for "a monument for our AU peacekeepers that have lost their lives in the duty of the peoples of the continent." She said the collective fight against the Ebola Virus Disease was showing results in response to the call for African health workers to be deployed in the three Ebola-affected countries and paid tribute to the volunteers and others involved.

Dr. Zuma underlined the importance of the theme- the Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063 - and said firmly "we must also do more this year to increase the representation of women in government, in the judiciary and other public and private institutions and their participation at the tables in peace negotiations." She also stressed the importance of a common African position in the global negotiations on the post-2015 agenda, on climate change and sustainable development goals.

UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNECA, Carlos Lopez stressed that agriculture could and should play in pushing forward the industrialization of Africa, noting that while "the world is slowing down. Africa, fortunately, is not." He said that in the past year Africa had shown itself an epicenter of investment adding that markets needed to expand with a view to sustain growth. Mr. Lopez also reminded the meeting that the continent had two years to go before 2017, the establishment of the continental free trade agreement, which, he said, would "represent a fundamental change for current and future generations."

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