With just weeks to go before the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which takes place August 4–6, a coalition of international NGOs and African civil society have called on President Barack Obama to provide official space for civil society participation and to address key issues of human rights and good governance.
An online petition (http://chn.ge/1mGbh5h) addressed to President Obama was launched last week via the website http://www.we-are-africa.org. A corresponding social media campaign called #WeAreAfrica was also launched on Twitter.
The website and #WeAreAfrica campaign are the results of a Civil Society Forum, which was convened in Washington, DC in late June. This meeting was organized by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Open Society Foundations, Freedom House, Amnesty International USA, and Front Line Defenders. The Forum convened 18 prominent human rights activists (http://bit.ly/1oN7Szy) from 12 different countries to develop specific policy recommendations (http://www.we-are-africa.org/rec.html) for the United States government, African heads of state, and civil society to strengthen democratic governance and respect for human rights.
Recommendations were developed in three key areas – the rule of law, transparency and corruption and discrimination against marginalized groups – and presented to high-level representatives from the White House, Department of State, and the United States Congress.
The fundamental message conveyed by African civil society at the time, and to this date, has been that these issues and recommendations should be addressed at the upcoming Summit and that civil society be present as equal stakeholders in the future of U.S.-Africa relations.