How should NGOs, CSOs take part in US-Africa summit?

U.S. President Barack Obama with Senegalese President Macky Sall in a joint press conference on June 27, 2013 at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal. The U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit hopes to build on the progress made since Obama’s visit to Africa last year. Photo by: Pete Souza / White House

The U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit has generated significant interest — and also criticism — from civil society groups and NGOs that wonder whether their voices will have a seat at the table when roughly 50 African heads of state, U.S. President Barack Obama and corporate leaders gather in Washington, D.C., this August.

Now, the U.S. Department of State is gathering information about what side events organizations are planning to hold around the time of the high-level meeting.

“While we are not sponsoring, sanctioning or approving events hosted by outside organizations, we are very interested in knowing more about these activities,” the department wrote in an email distributed to attendees of a recent panel discussion about the summit, where many concerns about participation were raised.

Chief among those concerns is the Obama administration’s decision to engage with nearly all African heads of state, despite some dubious human rights records — for instance, Equatorial Guinea — among them. Only those countries currently suspended from the African Union (the Central African Republic, Egypt, Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau) or under U.S./U.N. economic sanctions (Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe) have been excluded.

The State Department has created an online submission site for information about planned events, though the email did not specify how or whether the existence of side events will affect the official summit’s agenda.

How do you think NGOs and CSOs should be represented at the U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit? Please let us know by sending an email to news@devex.com or leaving a comment below.

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    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.