The Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (Aefjn) is a faith-based international Network present in Africa and in Europe since 1988. Aefjn promote Fair Economic Relations between Africa and Europe through research, awareness raising, advocacy and lobbying at national and European Union levels. About fifty Catholic Religious or Missionary Institutes, present in Africa and Europe, are members of Aefjn and they enjoy invaluable support from the laity.
The Aefjn mission
Motivated by Christian faith and enriched by the Social Teaching of the Church, Aefjn aims to be present wherever political decisions concerning economic relations between Africa and Europe are being made.
As citizens of their countries and of the European Union, the Aefjn members lobby decision-makers at a national level through 'Antenna' groups and, at a European level, through the International Secretariat in Brussels. The aim is to have a positive influence on policies that might otherwise affect the peoples of Africa adversely.
Aefjn is able to disseminate information on issues of structural injustices with speed. Networking through our communities and personal connections, Aefjn joins with other Church groups in the national and international community to advance the common cause for a respectful, compassionate and just world.
Aefjn is mandated by nearly fifty Catholic Religious or Missionary Institutes working in Africa and Europe. Aefjn works with Partners. It is useful to know of both members and partners their official name and abbreviations (See the list in the Attachment).
The organization in based on:
1-. The Executive Committee, elected from among the member Institutes of the Network. It’s a large number of Catholic Missionary or Religious Societies, with communities in both Africa and Europe, which contribute to making the work of Aefjn possible.
2-. An International Secretariat based in Brussels (Belgium), the town of the European Institutions headquarters. The secretariat is a team of people who have had a working presence on the African continent. Between them, they research issues related to Africa agreed on by the antennae, lobby the European institutions and coordinate the advocacy activities of the Antennae and Aefjn members.
The team has always been characterized by internationality and by the variety of the backgrounds, preparation and experience.
There are currently four team members.
Begoña Iñarra, Spanish, Msola, is in charge of the dossiers on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and Health-Medicines;
Agnès Charles, Belgian, Dmj, responsible for Communication.
Christine Fouarge, Belgian, married, mother of four, member of the “Chemin Neuf” Community, in charge of the Food Sovereignty dossier;
Anne Rutter, English, Sister of St Joseph of Annecy, keeps an eye on the Water Privatisation issue and sees to various office tasks.
3-. The Antennae, made up of religious and lay people, in African and European countries, which represent the Aefjn concerns at a national level and lobby their governments on issues related to Africa.
4-. The Representatives of each member Institute integrate the Aefjn objectives in the “Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation” (JPIC) programmes of these Institutes and represent them at the Aefjn General Assembly.
A look at the activities
This year it is the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Aefjn. The effort made to reach more just economic relations between Europe and Africa is still important today as it was at the time of its foundation in 1988. The proof of it is the ever increasing number of congregations who join the Aefjn Network. If at present the member congregations in Rome are 48, many more are those which integrate the work of the Aefjn at national level (of the Antenne): 70 congregations in France alone. The national Antenne are 10 and the efforts to aggregate Poland and Malta have almost been successfully concluded.
We cannot, nevertheless, judge the importance of the Aefjn Network just from numbers. The themes persistently dealt with in these years were, in fact, those concerning the unjust economic relations that exist between Europe and Africa. We need a response that starts from faith.
From 2005, Aefjn has become a supporter of the deep changes in the Agreements of Economic Partnership (AEP), as it was proposed. The motivations are based on the following happenings: The declarations of the African ministers of commerce with regard to the APE; the spin-off of the workshop of Aefjn held in Nairobi in 2007 in connection with the World Social Forum; the declaration of the African churches and civil African groups against the APE. The forced liberalization of commerce in Africa would, sure enough, have harmful consequences on the perception of taxation in the African States, weakening even further their capability of assuring medical care and education to their populations. The local industry and agricultural production would have been hit all over the continent, causing an increase in unemployment.
Aefjn has sensitised the member congregations on these themes and joined other lobbying groups to ask the European Union and the national governments to review their policies. Aefjn has supported also protest marches organised by the African civil society or by missionaries, in particular in Western Africa and especially in Burkina Faso.
Some African States have refused to sign the agreements, in spite of the threats of suspending the assistance needed for their development. As a consequence, the European Union has delayed the datelines and modified some of its stands. This year, and this will depend on the means available, Aefjn would like, in collaboration with other Church organizations, to do a research on the effects of commerce liberalisation in two African countries and to present them to the European negotiators, government and parliamentarians.
In the campaign in favour of accessibility to drugs in Africa, Aefjn has recently completed a study on the availability and efficiency of generic medicine against malaria: 87 answers to the questionnaire came from 23 African countries, especially from religious personnel who works in hospitals and dispensaries. The results of this enquiry, accompanied by suggestions, are available on the Aefjn website.
A new topical issue today is: The European policy on bio-fuel. Aefjn is already engaged in a battle with the European commission to protect the small African farmers and makes use of its African experience through various lobbying groups of which it is part. And it is nice to see that the European Union is revising its policy on this matter. Pressure on this issue will be kept up.
The monthly Newsletter of Aefjn is presently sent to 1.468 members of the Network in Europe and Africa. Anyone wishing to be included in the mailing list, all he/she has to do is to inform the secretariat in Brussels at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, it is up to those responsible for the activities and the Commissions of JPIC to encourage their own members to more actively participate in the local Antenne of Aefjn. The lobbying at national level is essential for the support of what Aefjn brings into play at the European level.