The 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union is scheduled to hold between February 6 and 7 2021, under the theme: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”, which is the Union’s theme for the year 2021.
The decision to convene the AU summit physically in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit “with a streamlined agenda and limited participation” and “in accordance with protocols to be developed and circulated by the Africa CDC”, was taken at the teleconference meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government and the chairpersons of the African Union’s 8 Regional Economic Communities (RECs), held December 24, 2020.
The Summit is preceded by the 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council taking place between 3 and 4 February as well as the 41st Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC), held between January 20 and 21. In contrast, the PRC was held virtually via teleconferencing just as the Executive Council meeting is also holding virtually.
“Africa being universally recognised for its rich arts and cultural diversity has its cultural heritage springs from different communities all over Africa. Its heritage is known to be keen on moral values while its culture is expressed in its arts and crafts, folklore and religion, clothing, cuisine, music and languages, etc. For yonks ago, the expressions of culture are abundant within Africa, with large amounts of cultural diversity being found not only across different countries but also within single countries,” said a press statement released by the AU ahead of the summit.
The Union said it had since inception recognised the role arts, culture and heritage could play as catalysts for Africa’s socio-economic development and integration, for which reason it says “the preservation of valued African property such as historic buildings, artwork, books/manuscripts and other artefacts that have been passed down from previous generations, take central stage henceforth.” Thus, the AU believes by dedicating the entire year of 2021 to arts, culture and heritage, it was striving to uphold its founding values.
“This reiterates why the AU has not only included culture in all major development blue prints, such as the Lagos Plan of Action 1980-2000 and the African Union Agenda 2063; but it has also adopted various instruments pertaining to culture including the Cultural Charter for Africa (1978), the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance (2006), the Statute of the African Audio-Visual and Cinema Commission (2019) and the African Union (AU) Model Law on the Protection of Cultural Property and Heritage (2018), among others,” adds the statement.
While addressing the virtual official opening of the 41st Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), on January 20, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission described the AU’s theme for 2021 as one that “goes hand in hand with the whole movement for the institutional reform of the Union, as culture is the main marker of identity and through it we know who we really are.”
Consequently, consultations on cultural heritage, which is the expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values, will dominate the engagements of organs, institutions and agencies of the AU throughout 2021.
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