Commission for Africa consults churches on action
Now is the time to act on a constellation of problems impacting Africa. That is the view of the UK governmentís recently established Commission for Africa, which yesterday talked to specialists working in the British churches as part of its new consultation programme.
The Commission, which has the active support of Prime Minister Tony Blair and chancellor Gordon Brown, was set up in Spring 2004 within the Department for International Development (DfID). It has 17 members, of whom 9 are African. Rock singer Bob Geldof, who co-organised 1985ís Band Aid initiative, was one of those who pushed to get it going.
Meeting with the Africa Forum of the ecumenical Churchesí Commission on Mission, which formally brings together British and Irish denominational representatives and development agencies like Christian Aid and CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development), Myles Wickstead, Head of the Africa Commissionís Secretariat, agreed that the need was for concrete action not fine words.
The Commission for Africa has this week published the document ëAction for a strong and prosperous Africaí on its website. The meeting with key people in mission, church and development agencies coincided with the public launch of consultation around an action report due in Spring 2005.
Among the issues being tacked are governance and participation, poverty targets, education, health (HIV/AIDS, malaria), peace and security, trade, aid and debt. The purpose is to come up with new ideas and to galvanise action.
Among the many challenges identified at the meeting with the churches was the issue of how to build greater confidence and capacity in Africaís civil society, how to build political will for change in Europe and in the US, and how to overcome state prejudices against programmes supported by religious communities.
Throughout 2005 there will be a special focus on Africa. The UK government will play a major role in the European Union and G8 (major rich countries) summits. There will also be a review of the UN's millennium Poverty-elimination targets set for 2015, which are nowhere near on course.
Agencies like Christian Aid and Oxfam are committed to the work of the Commission for Africa, but believe that a massive shift in political will is needed if it is not going to be just another talking shop.
The Commissionís consultation process coincides with international media attention on Sudan, where concern about the worldís longest-running civil war is focussed on the Darfur tragedy.
A boost to public concern is also being given by the re-recording and re-release of the 1985 Band Aid single for the Christmas market. This is being pushed as a political statement about the priority of Africa, not just as a charitable initiative.
The Commission for Africa can be contacted at: www.commissionforafrica.org.