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The Executive Council of the AU
Its Composition and Functions
The Executive Council, responsible to the Assembly, is composed of Ministers of Foreign Affairs who meet twice a year in ordinary session. Member sates may designate other ministers or authorities in place of the ministers of the foreign affairs.
The Executive Council is established with a broad mandate. That states. ‘It has the mandate to coordinate and take decisions on policies in areas of common interest to the member states, and to consider issues referred to it by the Assembly.’
Article 13 of the Constitutive Act provides a list of functions of the Executive Council in the following manner:
Functions of the Executive Council.
- The Executive Council shall coordinate and take decisions on polices in areas of common interest to the member sates, including the following:
- Foreign trade;
- Energy, industry and mineral resources;
- Food, agricultural and animal resources, livestock production and forestry;
- Water resources and irrigation;
- Environmental protection, humanitarian action and disaster response and relief;
- Transport and communications;
- Education, culture, health and human resources development;
- Science and technology;
- Nationality, residency and immigration matters;
- Social security, including the formulation of mother and child care policies, as well as policies relating to the disabled and the handicapped;
- Establishment of a system of African awards, medals and prizes.
- The Executive Council shall be responsible to the Assembly. It shall consider issues referred to it and monitor the implementation of policies formulated by the Assembly.
- The Executive Council may delegate any of its powers and functions mentioned in paragraph 1 of this Article to the Specialized Technical Committees established under Article 14 of this Act.
As it can be deduced from a simple reading of the long list of functions the Executive Council of the African Union is a vital organ of the Union. Like the case of the Assembly of the Union, the Executive Council is a collection of political authorities of a given state. Though these personalities may have the political determination in furtherance of the above stated functions, they may lack expertise in fields of focus specified in Articles 13(1) of the Constitutive Act which is the rationale to authorize the Council to designate any of its functions to the Specialized Technical Committees who are composed of individuals with a comparatively better expertise in the fields.
The Mode of Operation of the Executive Council
As it has been mandated by Article 12 of the Constitutive Act, the Executive Council has already adopted its Rules of Procedure, which comprise a total of forty-three (43) Rules. In a similar fashion with that of the Assembly, the Rules of Procedure of the Executive Council are too detail and in some cases a reiteration of the provisions of the Constitutive Act. Therefore, this material provides only a general description of the modus operandi of the Executive Council. In many instances such as venue, the required forum, methods of voting, categorization of decisions in to three forms, voting rights, majority required in decision making procedures and the elite, the Rules of Procedure of the Executive Council are exactly the same as that of the Assembly. Therefore, it would not be wise to deal with such matters again.
Like that of the Assembly, the Executive Council has both ordinary and extraordinary sessions. Unless the contrary is specified by the Commission in, consultation with the Chairperson and member states, the Council shall conduct its ordinary sessions twice a year in February and July. For an extraordinary session to be held, a request by the Chairperson of the Executive Council or any member state or the Chairperson of the Commission in consultation with the Chairperson of the Assembly has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the member states.
Concerning the procedure of adopting agenda of ordinary sessions of the Executive Council, Rule 9 states the following:
Agenda of Ordinary Sessions
- The Executive Council shall adopt its agenda at the opening of each session.
- The provisional agenda of an ordinary session shall be drawn up by the PRC (Permanent Representatives’ Committee). The Chairperson of the Commission shall communicate it to member states at least thirty (30) days before the opening of the session. The agenda may comprise the following:
- The Report of the commission;
- The report of the PRC;
- Items which the Assembly has referred to the Executive Council;
- Items which the Executive Council decided at a preceding session to place on its agenda;
- The draft program and Budget of the Union;
- Items proposed by other organs of the Union;
- Items proposed by a member state provided that the proposal is submitted sixty (60) days before the opening of the session and the supporting document(s) and draft decision(s) have been communicated to the Chairperson of the Commission at least thirty (30) days before the opening of the session;
- Any other business which shall be for information purposes only and shall not be subject to debate or decision.
- The provisional agenda shall be divided into two parts as follows;
Part A: Items for adoption without discussions are those on which the PRC has reached agreement and for which approval by the Executive Council is possible without discussion.
Part B: Items for discussion are those on which agreement has not been reached by the PRC, requiring debate before approval by the Executive Council.
In extraordinary sessions, the agenda shall comprise only the item(s) submitted for consideration in the request for convening the session. The rationale for such an endorsement can speak for itself. It is intended to let delegates of the member sates not to be confronted with an issue which they have not prepared themselves.