As presented to and adopted as a declaration on 27 April 2011, by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights NGO Forum in Banjul, Gambia
Preamble: The African Inspiration
We need a fresh economic and financial framework. for our planet to survive current man made crises, arising from over-distorted emphasis on blind consumerism and resource misuse. Despite tremendous strides forward, the past 20 years of so-called global prosperity has still left more than 40 percent of the world’s population living in poverty and one sixth of our planet living in extreme poverty. This pattern of development has created greater gaps between rich and poor. This economic imbalance is caused by distortions in our global trading and financial system, re-enforced by international financial institutions, which often represent narrow entrenched interests. Positive change will only occur by lifting more people out from poverty and narrowing gaps between those who have and those who don’t. The answers will not come from grand theoretic models for development, but rather from local economic solutions based on actual conditions.
The continent of Africa possesses some of the richest ethnic and bio-diversity remaining on our planet. Yet both exist in precarious danger of imminent destruction, juxtaposed against economic models driven by globalized industrialization and consumption-driven growth, leading to wreckless resource extrapolation, impairing our environment. However, all across Africa these challenges are being met head-on by a diverse group of regional leaders, within both government and NGOs, people’s and social action movements, together with individual activists and social entrepreneurs. Each in their own way, are pioneering far reaching solutions to sustainable economics. These efforts include: micro-finance and micro-business, social and village entrepreneurship, localized health care and education, cultural heritage and environmental protection.
Across Africa creative approaches are arising at the grass roots to protect and assure both cultural and environmental sustainability. These efforts collectively are forging the basis of sound economic paradigms that can protect ethnicity, while fostering the healthy evolution of culture. These organic programs make Africa shine as an inspiring symbol of local responses to global predicament. Collectively these diversified approaches have become the African Consensus.
Three principles of the African Consensus
The African Consensus is not established on any one model or economic theory. Rather it is drawn from collective experiences across the continent where local knowledge has proved successful in creating pragmatic solutions to development challenges.
The African Consensus presents a fresh economic development paradigm built upon three core principles:
Preserving ethnic diversity and indigenous identity, culture, traditions and heritage.
Through building self-sustainable economic platforms and business models based on local realities to alleviate poverty through self-empowering skill transfer.
That in turn are socially responsible and seek to improve basic human needs such as education, and medical care, while prioritizing environmental protection.
In developing countries (and even in highly developed countries) ethnic and socially marginalized groups require the tools of empowerment to achieve their sustainable and equitable development. As an economic paradigm, African Consensus calls for pragmatic economic, financial and educational approaches to give them these tools.
African Consensus Fundamental Development Rights
The African Consensus seeks to protect three fundamental development rights.
The Right to Ethnic Diversity and Local Identity
Ethnic diversity is the richness of humanity. The preservation of each ethnic group’s culture, heritage and identity, is an inalienable human right. We must without equivocation uphold this right.
Each ethnic group has the right to its own individual and local identity and the self-determination of that identity. They know how best to evolve their own culture, heritage and ethnicity. Such identification with a collective group is as important as its economic growth. Both are needed equally. The quality of life cannot always be measured by the quantification of material ends alone. It follows therefore that levels of industrial output and consumption are insufficient in themselves as the measure of a people’s happiness. When a people’s identity is assaulted they may in a state of duress turn toward extremism.
The Right to Cultural Sustainable Development
All culture and heritage requires an economic base upon which to flourish. Without an economic base ethnic identity can easily be lost. Ethnic diversity can be preserved and protected through rational economic platforms, based on local and indigenous needs. Likewise, cultural sustainability cannot be achieved without sustainable economic growth. To achieve rational economic platforms improvements in education, medical and vocational skills are prerequisite. Self-sustainability can be facilitated with micro-financing and vocational skills to permit local people to establish their own enterprises in a manner consistent with their traditional economic, political and social structures.
The Right to Give Our Children Water
Climate change threatens water supplies to all life forms. Increasing desertification has made this problem particularly acute across Africa. Historically, many civilizations fell, not due to stock price fluctuations, but lack of water. Water security will effect industry and financial markets, in turn social stability, and even wars. If we cannot save our environment, our planet will be destroyed, and our children will be left with nothing. We can give our children money to spend. But can we give our children water to drink? Our children have the right to drink water.
African Consensus as a Framework for Promoting Non-Violence
Social violence and terrorism are not the result of fundamental religious beliefs as characterized in western mainstream media. People turn to extreme measures when they have no outlet to vent their frustration over conditions of poverty, ethnic marginalization, or both. Experience shows that when the marginalized have no outlets, continually frustrated, their potential for turning to extremism in various forms increases. Ethnic violence often arises from competition to control scarce resources. The problems associated with the alienation of ethnic groups must be addressed at its root cause, through economic empowerment, education, healthcare, and returning to people what is theirs, recognition of their own individual diversity, identity and self-respect. Otherwise dissent and strife will not go away, regardless of how sophisticated the military technology and social re-engineering theories of constituent states.
Establishing an African Consensus Institute
Founded on the principles of African Consensus, the African Consensus Institute is to be established as a non-government organization. The Institute will promote the African Consensus core principles and fundamental rights through regional cooperation between stakeholders, and engage in second track diplomacy efforts addressing ethnic, development and environmental issues.
African Consensus as a New Economic Paradigm
In our era of measuring success by industrial growth and consumption alone, we have ignored traditional systems of wisdom which prioritize environmental balance and quality of life. Nowhere else is this better expressed than in the rhythm and life of traditional African society. This way of life is a repository of knowledge on how to preserve our environment and give society order. But we have largely ignored traditional knowledge in favor of imported economic models, which are often unconnected to realities on the African continent. African Consensus seeks to draw upon these values in establishing an economic development approach that suits the realities of Africa. It articulates as an economic paradigm the successes of civil society and the informal sector in addressing economic and social predicament. It calls upon these successes to be recognized not as an alternative economic approach, but as a mainstream economic model.
Consistent with the principles concerning the right of development, social and economic rights and the rights of peoples set forth in the African Charter on People’s and Human Rights, we submit this resolution to the African Commission. We hereby request that the African Commission adopt this resolution submitted by the NGO Forum as a resolution of its own and a blueprint for economic development for the continent.
Adopted as a declaration by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights NGO Forum, Banjul, Gambia, April 27, 2011.