Saturday, November 5, 2022
On October 27th the Annual General Meeting of Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) took place in Rome, hosted by the Missionaries of Africa. It was well attended, both in presence and from remote via teleconference. It is the largest gathering of the network since the emergency of the COVID pandemic. Renewed energy and enthusiasm among the members of the network were quite visible. [Bro. Alberto Parise, MCCJ - AEFJN]

From the reports of the President and of the Executive Secretary, we appreciated the progress that the Network has made over the past year and also the challenges that characterize the network at this time of transition

In particular, the platform Our Land, Our Future stands out for having organized the counter EU-Africa summit, to raise awareness on the more pressing needs of African peoples, which are not sufficiently addressed in the official summit agenda. Eventually, there was a very good outcome: for the first time the European Commission responded to the statement.  It was the first time that the International Secretariat has requested AEFJN member Congregations to sign a statement. This support is very important and has very positive effects.

AEFJN contributed to developing Africa driven advocacy and to link grass-roots communities and the rural movement in Africa with advocacy work. An example is given by the campaign in relation to the operations of SIAT Corporation in West Africa. This experience illustrates the drive for more inclusive, collaborative community driven advocacy to reduce land, natural resource grabbing and the consequent Human Right violations, promoting the process of bringing the Church and non-Church actors on the same platform. The impact of SIAT is enormous, controlling 60% of palm oil plantations in West Africa. In June 2022, the Brussels platform of CSO organized a lobby tour of SIAT impacted communities and SIAT has now agreed to have dialogue with local communities.

Advocacy work of AEFJN is now concentrating on the Global Gateway of the Partnership between EU and AU. This arrangement is not yet transparent, the content of the partnership is still undisclosed. We want to know what the flagship projects are and how local communities can hold parties accountable. AEFJN is part of the group drafting the CSO mechanism for ongoing engagement with the EU.

Another focal point is the African Climate Dialogue and the Congo basin: since the COP27 is taking place in Africa, it becomes imperative to make the climate change experiences of African communities to be prominent in the negotiations. The dialogue began in July 2022, the first phase ended with a press conference addressed by the Vice-president of SECAM in the presence of the Chair of the African Group negotiators who responded to the issues raised. The second phase will focus on lobby activities during the COP

As we look ahead, however, the greatest challenge appears to be about personnel. We are grateful to Mr Josè Luis Gutierrez and Sr Odile Ntakirutimana for their precious service at the International Secretariat. Their term of service has come to an end. We are happy that Dr Phoebe Sanchez has joined the Secretariat as the new Policy & Communication Officer, even though on a part time basis. We need member Congregations to avail personnel in the near future. We need to build up the new team of the International Secretariat in Brussels in order to have them design the new Action Plan. Meanwhile, for the year 2022-2023 we are going to stick to the current workplan.

Bro. Alberto Parise, MCCJ