Blog | The Carter Center Partners with the African Union: A Q&A With David Pottie, Associate Director, Carter Center Democracy Program

The Carter Center and the African Union (AU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on July 29, 2008, at the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The MOU will enable the Center to work closely with the AU in areas such as election monitoring, human rights, and strengthening democracies. Carter Center Vice-President for Peace Programs John Stremlau signed on behalf of The Carter Center while Department of Political Affairs Commissioner Julie Joiner signed on behalf of AU Commission Chairperson H.E. Jean Ping.

Below is Q&A with David Pottie, associate director, Democracy Program on the MOU between The Carter Center and the African Union.

What is the African Union?

The African Union is an alliance of 53 African countries that seeks to provide a united front in addressing issues such as development, poverty, and the global economy. It is the most important inter-governmental organization on the African continent.

Given the many daunting challenges among member states – ranging from health to education to peace, security, and human rights – international assistance is necessary. As a diverse body comprised of 53 members, the AU is called upon by those member states to address this wide range of challenges, often with relatively few resources.

Why does The Carter Center want to partner with the AU?

The Carter Center hopes that partnership with the AU will allow us to help them to address their most pressing needs. The Center has found throughout Africa and elsewhere in the world that assisting local people and organizations to define and address their problems provides the most effective durable and sustainable solutions.

How will the AU and The Carter Center collaborate in the future?

In January 2007, the AU Summit adopted an African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance. This charter provides an important framework for future partnership between the Center and the AU, as well as Democracy and Elections Assistance Unit (DEAU), established in mid-2008.

The Center has met with DEAU staff to learn more about their work plan and we hope to provide assistance in several areas to strengthen their capacity to conduct pre-election assessment missions, identify Africans with expertise on democracy and election topics, and implement more robust election observation missions. Other areas of potential collaboration include the work of the AU’s Peace and Security Commission and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Secretariat.

How have the two organizations collaborated in the past?

The Carter Center and the AU have frequently collaborated on an informal basis, especially as international election observers. When both organizations have observed the same elections, we reached out to share information about our missions, activities of our observers, and exchange views on our findings. Sometimes this collaboration has been formalized.

The AU joined The Carter Center and others as a signatory to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation (endorsed in October 2005 at the United Nations in New York) and in 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Center, the AU, and several other observer groups issued several joint statements on the electoral process. More recently, in 2007 in Sierra Leone, the Center provided direct logistical support to the AU mission that observed the elections.Davi

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