||National Summit on Africa: A Report|
|by Ray Donaldson (Ambo, Debre Berhan 6264)
On February 1620, an estimated 7,500 delegates and participants attended the National Summit on Africa at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C. Many African Americans and Africans were included among the delegates. Years of planning and five regional summits held at Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Denver (beginning in May 1998 and ending in September 1999) preceded this final five-day event. The National Summit combined large, high-profile events, a series of deliberative sessions, educational workshops, seminars, roundtables, and many special events and performances. Its goal was to create a "constituency for Africa" in the United States. Because their was no mandate to go beyond this "final" event, the question of what to do next became a hotly debated topic throughout the Summit.
At the closing business session delegates asked: "What will be done with the recommendations adopted by the Summit? Where are we going from here?" The chairman of the Summit's Board, Dr. Herschelle Challenor, said that "this is the end of the beginning." She said that all who had attended were obligated to work toward implementation of the recommendations. The Summit staff would distribute the recommendations to organizations and make suggestions about how they might be used. There was a difference of opinion about who should provide leadership in the future. Some felt that the National Summit organization must continue. Others felt that there are many existing organizations that have a track record with Africa and are prepared to carry on the work. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and grassroots organizations believed they had been marginalized by a National Summit dominated by big business and big government. The Summit's president, Leonard H. Robinson, Jr., said that there are thousands of organizations in the United States that are working for the interests of Africa and asked "Why cant we all work together?"
In May 2000, Leonard H. Robinson, Jr., the Summit's president and CEO, sent a letter to all who had attended the Summit along with a copy of the National Policy Plan of Action that had been adopted. In his letter he reiterated the objectives of the Summit:
To inform and educate all Americans about Africa;
To expand, strengthen, energize and mobilize a broad base of support for the Continent throughout America; and
To formulate a National Policy Plan of Action for U.S.-Africa Relations in the 21st Century
Robinson stated that "The National Summit will continue its work on behalf of the Continent by facilitating the implementation of the recommendations. With a Summit data base presently over 16,000 people (and growing), combined with the vast networks of national, regional, and local NGO/grassroot organizations who were so actively associated with the Summit process and movement across America, we intend to exert maximum effort on systematic advocacy activities to drive and influence the implementation of as many recommendations as feasible."
It seems clear from Robinsons statement that the Summit does not intend to go out of business. It remains to be seen what kind of impact it will have in the future. Is implementation of the National Plan of Action of prime importance, will the Summits greatest legacy be the creation of a network of individuals and groups that care about Africa, or is its greatest impact still unforseeable?
1. Economic Development
Leonard Robinson said that the working document that came from the six regional summits represented a past "moment in time" and needed to be brought up to date. Delegates discussed and amended the working document and approved a draft Policy Plan of Action. The approved draft from each of the five thematic areas, a National Policy Plan of Action containing 239 policy recommendations and ten top priority recommendations, was then brought before all delegates for final approval. At the end of the Summit, its leaders said that the work of the Summit would continue through ongoing organizations dedicated to implementing the Plan of Action. This plan represents a new "moment of time" which will have to be kept up to date.
The National Plan of Action, along with other materials, is available on the Summit's web site (http://www.africasummit.org). Additional news coverage is available at the Africa News web site (http://www.africanews.org).
Educational Workshops, Seminars, and Roundtables
Special Events and Performances
Summit Opening Ceremony
Noah Samaras Remarks
Samara left his job as a communications attorney about ten years ago when he decided that Africas state was directly related to the state of its information infrastructure. He decided "To launch a satellite over Africa" to make cost effective deliverly of a variety of information across the whole continent. It took longer than he thought and cost more than $300 million, but the first satellite designed and built specifically for Africa has been launched. Samara believes that information will enable the people of Africa to access the human and material resources of the continent.
President Clintons Address
1. Build an open world trading system which will benefit Africa. Trade must not be a race to the bottom, but we must not be afraid to act. Congress must enact the bipartisan Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.
During the past year the countries within Central Africa have worked together to manage the region's security. America intends to do its part by supporting the next phase of the UNs peacekeeping operation in the Congo.
The President closed by saying that although Africa is incredibly diverse, its people are bound to each other and to the rest of the world by our common humanity.
Madeleine Albrights Remarks
Albright said that foreign aid is only 1% of the United States budget. Since the Marshall Plan, our commitment to foreign aid has diminished by 90%. Africa must get its fair share of our foreign policy budget. It is "aid to America," not "foreign aid." After the Summits document is produced, we need to stay involved in supporting Africa.
Addresses From Africas Leaders
President Mois Address
Later in his speech Moi said that children need health care and education. If conflicts are not solved, children will be carrying guns. We welcome ongoing efforts to solve the AIDS problem. Moi thanked President Clinton for his help, but said that more help is needed. He went on to say that President Clinton has supported debt relief. Moi hoped that President Clinton will extend this program so that Kenya, a small country, can have its debt forgiven. Kenya pays more in debt service than it receives in foreign aid.
Remarks by Vice President Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of Nigeria
Tribute to regional summit host city mayors
Reverend Leon Sullivan&Mac226;s Remarks
Wellington Webbs Remarks
Closing Business Session
Representatives from each of the Summits five theme areas discussed the work and recommendations of their deliberative sessions. Dr. Challenor said that the National Policy Plan of Action with its 239 policy recommendations was a blueprint for a new and broader U.S. interaction with Africa.
Robinson enumerated ideas he had received about what needs to happen next:
We need to go forward with the process.
Africa&Mac226;s marginalization is our responsibility. We
eed to hold our representatives responsible for their actions and inactions.
The Summit is a movement that must not die.
There was a common thread and also a difference of opinion among these views. Some of those in attendance emphasized implementing the content of the document. Others emphasized continuing the process.
Closing Day Luncheon Program
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Mora McLean, President, Africa-America Institute
Ken Ofori-Atta, business executive from Accra, Ghana
C Payne Lucas, President, Africare
Closing Plenary Session
At the beginning of this session, the National Policy Plan of Action was approved by a voice vote of the delegates with the understanding that some errors in the printed document would be corrected by the National Summit staff.
Leonard Robinson urged all Summit participants to go forward working together.He said that the press was looking carefully at the Summit and they always look for "red meat" (negatives) to report to the public. Several others assessed the Summits success. At the end of this session, Dr. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, co-chair of the New York state delegation, spoke about the way the Summit had been organized. She presented a statement, drafted by concerned delegates and distributed for signatures in the final two days of the Summit.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson
Dr. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome
The National Summit on Africa (NSA) has brought together thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations to move forward the dialogue on US-Africa relations. We recognize the efforts of all those involved. However, we are extremely concerned that the process has been organized in violation of many of the core values that motivate and drive our efforts to promote social, economic, environmental and political justice in Africa. We protest the use of our names and reputations of our organizations in ways that violate the following fundamental principles of democracy, transparency and accountability:
BALANCED AND OPEN DEBATE: Whereas representation by African official and privileged sectors is strong . . . representation within the official Summit process by other Africans in the US and by African civils ociety ... is woefully inadequate.
DEMOCRATIC AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS: Decision-making and communication surrounding the NSA process has been concentrated in a small, centralized group without adequate consultation with the participants involved.
ECONOMICJUSTICE:Why are corporate-friendly policies promoted, while worker- and environment-friendly policies are ignored?
CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY: Why is the NSA funded by companies like Monsanto and Chevron, known exploiters of workers, communities and the environment?
WORKERS' RIGHT TO ORGANIZE: Why were functions and delegates booked at the non-union Grand Hyatt? . . . While Al Gore refused to cross a picketline, why were NSA delegates and activists expected to cross that same picket line? In spite of these issues and failings much has been accomplished that can be built on over the months and years ahead. Before any NSA continuation plans can be considered, however: A framework of Guiding Principles that enshrines the above values must be developed in a transparent and participatory manner;
A full evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses to date must be completed and discussed, taking into account the views of at-large delegates, marginalized and missing groups, as well as those who have left or opted out. These discussions should inform considerations about whether to take forward the NSA and in what manner.
The statement presented by Dr. Okome addressed many of the issues related to the overall question about what happens next now that the original mission of the National Summit has been completed. Critics implied that the National Summit had assumed a leadership role advocating for Africa that it did not deserve. It was accused of not being sufficiently inclusive and of being indebted to the existing power structure.
A large number of diverse people and organizations gathered for the Summit. Lets hope well be pleasantly surprised to see how all these groups will be able to work together in the future for the benefit of Africa and the world.
Ray Donaldson attended the National Summit on Africa as a representative of Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs.