As part of a global organisation that advances worldwide solutions to the climate crisis, we recognise that the sixth summit of European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) heads of state and government, taking place on 17–18 February 2022 in Brussels, presents opportunities that can potentially benefit the whole of society on both continents.
There is now a greater need than ever before for solidarity and collaboration between continents to tackle the combined challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine hoarding, the climate crisis, economic instability, extreme weather events, and social unrest due to political, social, and economic upheavals.
Many of these issues are at the heart of the summit, which focuses on four key areas:
- creating an economic and financial new deal for Africa
- the health, education, and climate agenda
With France holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union until June 2022, the French president Emmanuel Macron has stressed the importance of reviving the relationship between the two continents.
The following principles are vital in this renewal:
Climate Justice Now!
To mark a genuine turning point in relations between the two continents, African and EU leaders need to approach the summit from the perspective of climate justice. All discussions must centre on, or be informed by, the principles of equality, justice, and human rights and a recognition of the differentiated historical responsibilities for the climate crisis.
Co-creation of Agendas and Strategies
The shared creation of agendas and strategies would greatly contribute to shifting the relationship between the EU and Africa from donor–recipient to one based on equality. From the perspective of many African leaders and civil society, the EU yet again appears to be trying to dominate the relationship and set the agenda based on its own priorities identified in its Comprehensive Strategy with Africa.
To shift to a more authentic and meaningful relationship, the EU needs to rethink how it develops its strategies and agenda and opt for a process that integrates the voices of civil society and communities across Africa who are most affected by the climate crisis yet least responsible. The success of the summit will depend on the extent to which the decisions that are made and subsequently implemented reflect real social needs and challenges.
The economic relationship between the two continents must be based on mutually beneficial solutions that eliminate pressure on the environment and create opportunities for sustainable economic progress. Support must be given to building a qualified labour market by empowering workers with skills and knowledge.
Investments in all economic sectors, but especially in renewable energy technologies, should flow to small and medium-sized enterprises, helping them to grow and expand. Support must also be given to civil society organisations involved in the implementation of renewable energies at a micro level in order to ensure a just and inclusive energy transition.
While the objectives outlined for the summit and the statements made by President Macron appear encouraging, it remains to be seen whether they will translate into concrete progress.
The reality is that the relationship between the two continents is steeped in a history of colonialism, racism and unequal power dynamics, the legacy of which can still be felt to this day. Whether or not the summit will be able to transform the EU’s relationship with Africa into one of equal partners, it must represent a significant step towards a more just and sustainable future for both continents.
- The above statement was compiled by the European and African branches of The Climate Reality Project.