The African Union celebrates the 4th African Border Day (Newly Adopted Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation Introduced)
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, June 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The African Union Border Programme (AUBP) today celebrated the African Border Day at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. AU Member States, representatives of the European Union, members of the Diplomatic Corps, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Experts on border issues and AUC staff were present.
With the theme ‘Promoting borders as bridges’, the aim of the Celebration is to sensitize all stakeholders about the role and importance of borders in promoting peace, security and stability in Africa.
In his opening remarks, the Acting Commissioner for Peace and Security, Martial De-Paul Ikounga, highlighted the objectives of the AUBP in its efforts to assist Member States to delimit and demarcate their land and maritime borders in order to forestall conflicts and tension. He urged Member States to realize the objectives of the programme, which seeks to make the borders of Africa ”a melting pot of conviviality, prosperity and integration for people linked by history, geography and culture. In our hamlets, nomadic camps, cities, schools and universities, the concept of ‘border’ should go hand in hand with peace, development and integration.”
For her part, the German Ambassador to the AU and Ethiopia, Ambassador Lieselore Cyrus, said “Through this programme it can be clearly demonstrated that demarcated borders do not separate people from each other. Instead, undisputed borders are prerequisites for peace, security and stability.”
The highlight of this year’s celebration was the launch of the newly adopted Convention on Cross-border Cooperation, also called Niamey Convention, an innovative document which maps the way forward for the promotion and institutionalisation of cross-border initiatives (formally adopted by the African Ministers of Justice, May 2014). A second highlight was the launch of two new publications of the AUBP guidebook series on border management entitled ‘Installation of a Cross-Border Basic Service Infrastructure – The User’s Guide’ and ‘Delimitation and Demarcation of Boundaries in Africa – General Issues and Case Studies’. Both books formulate best practices and are important tools for AU Member States to engage in border management.
After hearing the live testimonies of two female inhabitants describing their everyday experience of the borderland between Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, a documentary film titled, ‘African Borders: From Barriers to Bridges’, was screened followed by a photo exhibition showcasing historical documents and images of African borders.
NOTE TO THE EDITORS
About the Establishment of the African Union Border Programme (AUBP)
The African Union Border Programme (AUBP) was established by African leaders in January 2007 at the 8th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the African Union. On 7 June 2007, the declaration on the AUBP was adopted at the first conference of African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues, held at the AU Commission in Addis Ababa. This Declaration was endorsed by the AU Executive Council, at its 11th Ordinary Session held in Accra, Ghana, from 25th to 29th June 2007.
With the numerous border related tensions and disputes, even outright wars, on the African continent since the 1950s-1960s, the creation of the AUBP constitutes a direct response to the need to preserve the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity for peace and security on the African continent. At the same time, the AUBP places an emphasis on its pro-active strategy of conflict prevention in order to forestall the necessity of conflict resolution.
The AUBP is therefore the embodiment of African States’ commitment to transforming borders into “bridges” for cooperation, integration and socio-economic development, and to overcome negative perceptions of borders as “barriers” as per the motto of the Programme.
Decisions adopted by the African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues
The African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues adopted the following three Decisions, empowering the AUBP and providing it with useful tools to relate border matters to peace and security issues on the continent:
1. The Declaration on the African Union Border Programme and its Implementation Modalities by the African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues, adopted on 7th June 2007. This Declaration was endorsed by the AU Executive Council, at its 11th Ordinary Session held in Accra, Ghana, from 25th to 29th June 2007
2. The Declaration on the African Union Border Programme and the Modalities for the Pursuit and Acceleration of its Implementation by the African Ministers in Charge of Border lssues in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 25th March 2010 ; and,
3. The Declaration on the AUBP and its status of implementation and the draft convention on cross border cooperation by the African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues in Niamey, Niger, on 17th May 2012
Objective of the AUBP
The object of the AUBP is to prevent and resolve border-related disputes and to promote regional and continental integration, which constitute a tool in the structural prevention of conflicts in Africa. It aims to do this by facilitating and supporting the delimitation and demarcation of African boundaries where such exercise has not yet taken place; reinforcing the integration process, within the framework of the RECs and other large-scale cooperation initiatives; developing, within the framework of the RECs and other regional integration initiatives, local cross-border cooperation; building the capacities of member states in border management, as well as in border studies and research; and advising the Commission and other organs of the African Union on border-related matters.
Achievements of the AUBP
At the instigation of AUBP, several concrete results have been achieved, especially in the area of demarcation. To date, 29,000 km of Africa’s borders representing 35% of the total border length of 83,000 km can be considered as having been delimited and demarcated. About 14,000 km of the boundaries are undergoing re-affirmation works. When completed the goal of demarcating 50% of Africa’s borders will have been achieved.
Niamey Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation
The Convention, which was drafted in Niamey, Niger, in 2012, is a document for mapping the way forward for the promotion and institutionalisation of cross-border initiatives. The African Ministers of Justice, who have recently adopted this Convention, have thus presented a legal framework, which emphasises the high priority of border management and cross-border cooperation in order to achieve unity and integration. The Niamey Convention is a concrete result of the AUBP’s objective to promote cross-border cooperation in areas such as mapping and surveying, infrastructure, communication, socio-economic development and trade, but also in terms of border security.
About the African Border Day
On 25 March 2010, at their second meeting, the African Ministers in charge of Border Issues decided to commemorate every 7 June as the African Border Day for promoting peace and regional and continental integration in Africa. The aim of this celebration is
firstly, to sensitize all stakeholders about the role and importance of borders in promoting peace, security and stability,
secondly, to communicate the efforts of the AUBP towards the achievement of greater African unity and integration at continental, regional and national levels, and
thirdly, to disseminate knowledge and share experiences regarding initiatives and achievements of the AUBP, supported by the German Cooperation within different areas related to border management.
The African Border Day is observed every year by the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa. The day is also celebrated across the African continent. This year’s Border Day celebration was conducted in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration which, through its Resolution 16(I), consecrates the principle of intangibility of African Borders as they existed upon independence, and forms one of the legal foundations of the implementation of the AUBP.
German support to the AUBP
The German Government has a long history of cooperation with the African Union. Since 2008, Germany has provided the AU overall support of more than 200 Million Euros.
Germany supports Member States in their efforts to delimitate and demarcate their borders and to enhance the AUBP capacities for research and training. The United Kingdom and Denmark have also been assisting the AUBP in its implementation.
The AUBP guidebook series as well as the documentary film and further resources can be found online via: http://aubis.peaceau.org/documents-and-resources-african-borders
African Union Commission (AUC)