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Questions on Africa Policy

Africa Action Resource

Questions on Africa Policy for Congressional Candidates and Policymakers October 2006

As the November 2006 Congressional elections approach, observers predict that the balance of power between the political parties may hinge on foreign policy issues, such as the war in Iraq. However, while African issues have not yet figured prominently in campaign debates, the continent’s challenges highlight global concerns, which the U.S. cannot afford to ignore. Successful approaches to poverty alleviation, the threat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, conflict resolution and other human security priorities require cooperative partnership with the international community. By sharpening the focus on these common global challenges within domestic political debates, the U.S. can play an important role in identifying multilateral solutions.

This Africa Action resource provides questions on Africa policy for candidates seeking election (or re-election) to the House of Representatives and to the Senate, as well as U.S. policymakers more broadly. While these may serve as vehicles for candidates to establish their position on an issue, posing these questions also propels these African issues and international priorities into the public dialogue.

1. Recognizing Africa’s importance to the U.S.

U.S. relations with Africa are often seen through the lens of U.S. perceived national interests, particularly with regard to energy security or the so-called “War on Terror”. This narrow perception does not recognize the many facets of the historical relationship between the U.S. and Africa, or the important connections that persist. Thirteen percent of Americans trace their ancestry to Africa. Most Americans believe that the U.S. should contribute to African development – a poll in 2003 showed that almost 80% believed that aid should be increased or kept the same. African issues continue to mobilize American activism, as witnessed with the growing movement to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

Q. What interests and responsibilities do you think the U.S. has in Africa?

Q. What should be the top priorities of U.S. policies towards Africa?

2. Stopping Genocide in Darfur, Sudan

Since the start of the genocide in February 2003, violence in Darfur has claimed the lives of more than 450,000 people and almost 3 million people are now dependent on humanitarian aid for food, shelter and healthcare. The U.S. remains the only nation to have declared that this violence constitutes genocide, but it has done little in the over two years since that statement to end the killing. Although the African Union (AU) currently has 7,000 troops on the ground in Darfur, it is clear that the AU mission is overwhelmed and lacks the necessary troop numbers and logistical support to provide sufficient protection for the people of Darfur. It is widely acknowledged that a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission, recently authorized by Security Council Resolution 1706, must be deployed as soon as possible, and the U.S. must play a proactive diplomatic role to bring this about.

Q. What is the appropriate U.S. role in responding to crimes against humanity in Africa and elsewhere?

Q. How would you increase pressure – internationally and nationally – for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur?

Q. What type of support should the U.S. provide to UN peacekeeping missions, in Darfur or elsewhere?

Q. What are your plans to hold new Presidential Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios accountable and to evaluate his performance?

3. Confronting the HIV/AIDS pandemic

Of the almost 40 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, almost 25 million are in Africa. In 2005, nearly 3 million people in Africa contracted HIV, and some 2 million died. As the continent continues to be “ground zero” of this devastating pandemic, communities have been weakened and the socioeconomic effects have been far-reaching. Thus far, life-saving HIV/AIDS treatment remains extremely rare in Africa, and at best, 2 in 10 Africans have access to these drugs. African governments do not have adequate resources or the infrastructure to fully confront this pandemic, and health officials around the world have recognized this virus as a major global concern demanding an urgent international response. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created to facilitate the delivery of resources, but it has remained chronically short of funds and the U.S. consistently fails to provide for its fair share of financial support to this initiative.

Q. Do you think the U.S. is doing enough to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa? Why or why not?

Q. How would you propose strengthening the U.S. approach to fighting HIV/AIDS at home and abroad?

Q. What do you believe is the best way to ensure access to HIV/AIDS treatment for all who need it in Africa, and throughout the developing world?

Q. Would you support a greater U.S. contribution to the Global Fund? Why or why not?

4. Dealing with Africa’s Debt Crisis

Africa’s debt burden remains a significant obstacle in African governments’ efforts to further development and address challenges such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Africa routinely pays out more in debt service to international financial institutions – such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other creditors – than it receives in development assistance. Many of these old loans were made during the Cold War era to non-representative or corrupt rulers, whose misuse of funds was well known by foreign lenders. Despite international debt relief programs, such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the partial debt cancellation by the Group of 8 (G8) wealthy nations in 2005, African governments are still saddled with massive burdens of illegitimate foreign debt.

Q. Do you support canceling Africa’s unsustainable debt burden, as the current U.S. administration extended to Iraq?

Q. Norway recently canceled $80 million in debt owed by developing countries, recognizing that this debt was illegitimate. Would you advocate for similar measures from the U.S.? Why or why not?

Q. Would you support the JUBILEE Act, which requires the U.S. Treasury Department to work with international financial institutions to ensure 100% debt cancellation for dozens of developing nations?

Q. What new measures do you propose to ensure that African countries do not face another devastating debt crisis in the future?

5. Promoting Africa’s Development

At the Group of 8 (G8) wealthy nations meeting in 2005, the world’s major financial powers reaffirmed their commitment to combating poverty in Africa and increasing development assistance. Since that meeting, pledges remain unfulfilled and real numbers of foreign aid have remained low. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a U.S. program created in 2004 to provide aid to developing countries, is narrowly focused on a small number of African countries. With the current low levels of resources available to African countries, and without further debt cancellation, it is widely acknowledged that it will be impossible for Africa to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015, particularly the target of eradicating extreme poverty.

Q. Do you support an increase in U.S. development assistance to African countries? Why or why not?

Q. Do you support committing at least 0.7% of the U.S. Gross National Product (GNP) to development assistance, a target that has been repeatedly promised and not yet met by wealthy countries?

Q. What kinds of conditions do you think it is appropriate for Washington to tie to U.S. foreign aid?

6. Building Fair Trade Relations

Two-way trade between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa was over $60 billion in 2005; up by almost 100% from 2003. While the trading relationship between the U.S. and Africa is governed by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other arrangements, U.S. policies still cast Africa solely as a source of raw materials and energy. In 2005, oil imports made up almost 80% of U.S. purchases from Africa. If the U.S. is to alter its policies and seriously contribute to Africa’s growth, new attention must be paid to the current unfair trade barriers and agricultural subsidies, which negatively affect Africa’s exports.

Q. What do you suggest would be the best way to promote mutually beneficial economic partnership between the U.S. and Africa?

Q. Given that the debate over agricultural subsidies has impeded negotiations for more balanced international trade rules, would you support the elimination of such subsidies? Why or why not?

Q. Africa’s oil resources are increasingly important to the U.S. – how would you promote U.S. and African interests in this area?

7. Strengthening Democracy and Human Rights

Africa continues to make important progress in building democratic systems and institutions, and in promoting human rights. Notable examples include Nigeria, which ended a military dictatorship in 1999 and will hold elections again next year. Liberia recently emerged from many years of civil war and last year elected Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. African civil society groups and activists continue to build on their past successes in pushing for respect for human rights and demanding accountability from their governments.

Q. What are the key challenges you see in promoting democracy and human rights in Africa, and how can the U.S. best address these challenges?

Q. How should the U.S. work with the African Union to support democracy and human rights in Africa?

Q. How would you ensure that human rights considerations are made a central part of U.S. military and security assistance programs in Africa?

This resource is available in PDF format here: http://www.africaaction.org/newsroom/docs/qstsforcands06.pdf

Ends

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