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Public International Law Research

A guide that highlights resources and recommended strategies for conducting research on international law topics.

Overview of the African Union

General Overview of the African Union

Established in 2002, the African Union ("AU") is an inter-governmental organization dedicated to advancing the vision of an "integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa." The AU consists of 55 Member States, representing all independent nations located on the African continent or its offshore islands.

The African Aspirations for 2063 Agenda highlights seven of the key objectives for the AU and its Member States in the coming years: peace and stability, food security, economic integration, enhanced human capacity, women's and youth empowerment, resource mobilization, effective communication, and increased institutional capacity.

The African Union is organized into 11 organs, and a full listing of these organs can be viewed here. The following are some of the major organs responsible for the oversight and quasi-judicial activity of the AU:

Assembly of the Union The AU's supreme organ that determines AU policy, establishes priorities, adopts the annual program, and monitors the implementation of policies and decisions. The Heads of State and Government for all Member States sit in the Assembly. The Assembly is mandated to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the African continent.
Executive Council Comprised of foreign ministers from all Member States. Supports the AU Assembly by monitoring the implementation of Assembly policies. This organ also considers policy issues referred to it by the Assembly in the areas of foreign trade, energy, agriculture, health, and social security/disability.
Pan-African Parliament Established by the 1991 Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty). The long term goal for this organ is to exercise full legislative powers, but currently it exercises advisory and consultative powers.
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights The ACHPHR was established in 1987 to oversee and interpret the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (known as the Banjul Charter). The Commission can only make recommendations and does not have the authority to enforce its interpretations.
African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights AfCHPR was established in 1998 and has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Court can make binding decisions, including orders of compensation or reparation. 

Locating AU Primary Materials

Online AU Primary Materials

The African Union's (AU) primary source materials can be found on the international organization's website.

Decisions and Declarations of the Assembly

As a part of its mission to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the African continent, the AU Assembly is responsible for making decisions on the reports and recommendations from the other AU organs. These materials are memorialized during the biannual AU Summits and Extraordinary Summits, and decisions and declarations from 1963 to present day are available on the AU's website.

Decisions and Declarations of the Executive Council

Much of the Executive Council's responsibilities are to make policy decisions on issues referred to the Member states and monitor the implementation of the Assembly's policies.  Similar to the AU Assembly, the Executive Council meets biannually at both the AU Summit and the Extraordinary summit where they write down the substance of these discussions.  The decisions and declarations from 1963 - present day are available on the AU's website.

OAU/AU Treaties, Conventions, Protocols & Charters

A complete collection of the OAU/AU treaties, conventions, protocols, and charters are available on the AU website.  As a helpful pointer, this website allows you to filter the results to treaties that specific countries have signed, deposited, or ratified.

Recommended Secondary Sources

In addition to the primary source materials available, there are several additional resources that you can use to help you in your research. 

The following link is a complete list of all the African Union (AU) websites, which includes links to AU Department websites, project websites, summit websites, and special websites.  This is a great tool to use if you're interested in learning more about a specific area or mission of the AU.

Journal of African Union Studies - This journal serves as a platform for African and international scholars to comment on the AU and its endeavors.  The Law Library has access to electronic holdings from 2016-present.