FACT SHEET: Advancing Democracy, Human Rights, Gender Equality, Wildlife Conservation, and Governance in Africa
The United States is committed to supporting African countries’ efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, support civil society, advance gender equality, improve governance, and protect human rights. We view these efforts as priorities not just because they are vital by themselves, but also because good governance and human rights underpin sustainable economic growth and peaceful and just societies. The United States pursues these goals through our development assistance, high-level diplomatic engagement, partnership with like-minded stakeholders, and public diplomacy that engages directly with citizens across the continent. Several of President Obama’s signature initiatives directly promote and elevate inclusive, transparent, and democratic governance in Africa.
Our efforts include:
Promoting Inclusive, Transparent and Accountable Governance: The United States is committed to building more effective and legitimate state institutions and will continue to support African governments in promoting efficiency, accountability, transparency, and in combating corruption. Accountable and efficient institutions improve the delivery of public and social services and create an enabling environment for attracting investment.
- The Partnership on Illicit Finance, announced during the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, brings African partners and the United States together to jointly address the generation and transfer of proceeds from corruption and other financial crimes. The United States and several African nations met in late June to discuss challenges in stemming corruption-related illicit finance in Africa, and several African countries – including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mauritius, Liberia, Niger, and Senegal - recently announced their membership and a commitment to develop tailored national action plans by the end of the year.
- Since the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, Cabo Verde has become the newest member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global initiative launched by President Obama with seven other heads of state in 2011 to increase transparency, bolster citizen engagement, and harness new technologies to improve governance. Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and South Africa are also OGP members, and continue to make good on their commitments to open government. Kenya is reinvigorating its process of consultations with civil society on OGP, Sierra Leone has launched an open data portal and established an Access to Information Commission, while in Sierra Leone five ministries have signed integrity pacts with their Anticorruption Commission to promote government transparency and accountability. Liberia has published and Malawi is close to releasing new national action plans. Mozambique and Niger recently became eligible to join OGP and Benin announced it will complete reforms to become OGP eligible by April 2016. The United States will continue to provide bilateral assistance for such efforts, will partner with the American Bar Association to offer additional support, and looks forward to working with South Africa during its chairmanship of OGP to promote open government across the continent.
- Through the Security Governance Initiative, announced last year at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the United States is working with six African countries to strengthen accountable and effective security and justice sector management.
- Through Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compacts we have made control of corruption a benchmark for passing the MCC scorecard and a key criteria for partner eligibility. In Africa, MCC has approved compacts totaling nearly $6.8 billion over the past 10 years.
- We will continue to support the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative and the Global Asset Recovery Focal Point Initiative, and to work with our partners on recovering assets stolen by corrupt actors. The United States has worked directly with a number of African countries, including Nigeria, to provide on-the-ground assistance from U.S. investigators and prosecutors to trace the proceeds of corruption and to build cases to recover stolen public revenue.
Supporting Free and Fair Elections and Political Processes: Competitive elections are essential to providing citizens the opportunity to choose their leadership and chart the future for their countries. U.S. support for elections and political transitions promotes voter registration and civic and voter education, capacity building for election commissions, support for political parties, training for election observers, and programs designed to foster transparency, reconciliation and peace.
- The United States will provide $21 million in new assistance to support the conduct of elections and political processes in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Africa. In Kenya, our support will encourage participation in the electoral process with an emphasis on women, youth and disabled individuals. In Somalia, these resources will help Somalia’s parliament develop electoral legal frameworks, improve civic engagement, provide technical assistance to election management bodies, and support the development of inclusive political parties. In Uganda, U.S. resources aim to strengthen political parties and civic engagement in political processes. This support will also extend the regional elections training program in Southern Africa to improve the capacity of election administration officials across the region.
- The United States will continue to stand up for the fundamental importance of respecting constitutionally-mandated term limits in Africa, as we do around the world.
Promoting Wildlife Conservation: With Africa’s rich wildlife resources under increasing threat from poaching, in 2014 President Obama launched the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. In 2015, the United States unveiled its Implementation Plan to direct the efforts of the U.S. government in executing the Strategy, resulting in a number of initiatives that will build African governments’ capacity to protect wildlife. In addition, the United States will:
- Provide $800,000 to protect wildlife in East Africa, including for a three-year wildlife poaching and trafficking assessment program in Kenya conducted in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and TRAFFIC.
- Provide $7,000,000 in annual assistance to the National Park Agency of Gabon as part of a five-year partnership to secure the largest remaining population of forest elephants in Africa and to institutionalize natural resource management capacity.
- Provide $300,000 to sponsor a study on illicit financial flows related to wildlife trafficking in Eastern and Southern Africa and provide training to fill gaps identified by the study.
- Assign international wildlife law enforcement attachés to key countries of Botswana and Tanzania.
- Continue to support the training of international conservation law enforcement officers at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Botswana.
- Implement a nearly complete ban on the export and domestic trade of African elephant ivory in the United States, which expands upon the existing U.S. ban on ivory imports.
- The formation of a new voluntary partnership between major companies and non-profit organizations to reduce U.S. demand for ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products.
Supporting Civil Society and Promoting Civic Engagement: An empowered civil society is essential to good governance and is the lifeblood of democracy. As we do around the world, the United States supports the continued development of a vibrant and diverse civil society in African countries so citizens can freely organize, advocate, and communicate with one another and their governments.
- In 2013, President Obama announced Stand With Civil Society in partnership with civil society organizations and other donors as a global call to action to support, defend, and sustain civil society. In 2014, President Obama announced the United States will launch regional Civil Society Innovation Hubs to facilitate civil society networking and partnerships, including two hubs in sub-Saharan Africa.
- To monitor the strength of the civil society sector, development, and democratic trends across the continent, we will expand our support for the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index so it can cover six additional African countries for the 2015 reports.
- The United States recognizes the importance of providing opportunities for youth to strengthen civil society across Africa. Through the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the United States provides innovative leadership training opportunities in both the United States and Africa for young Africans working in civic leadership, business and entrepreneurship, and public management.
- The U.S. Legal Enabling Environment Program is providing technical assistance to government and civil society in selected countries in Africa to limit the issuance of restrictive laws and to minimize the negative effects of such laws that are already in place.
- As reflected during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the United States strongly believes a healthy civil society can act as a counterweight to violent extremist groups. We are developing innovative programs in partnership with civil society to bolster communities to resist and reduce the threat of radicalization, alienation and violence, including in Kenya where we are supporting civil society, promoting dispute resolution, and empowering youth with employment skills in communities that are at risk for radicalization.
Strengthening the Rule of Law, Advancing Gender Equality and Protecting Human Rights: Protecting the rights of all people and promoting the rule of law is critical to democratic governance and long-term political stability. The United States engages across the continent to expand access to justice, strengthen judicial institutions, empower women and girls and advance human rights, including through the following activities:
- Five African countries – Benin, Morocco, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia – are members of the United States-led Equal Futures Partnership, through which countries undertake domestic reforms to remove barriers to women’s economic and political empowerment. Tanzania has also expressed its intent to join the Partnership. The United States will work with the Equal Futures Partnership’s International Steering Committee to double membership in Africa by 2017.
- In support of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, the United States has supported over 884,326 survivors of gender-based violence in Africa, since 2012, with medical, psychosocial, legal, and economic assistance. During that period the United States has also invested $108.6 million from 2012 to 2014 to prevent gender-based violence in 26 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
- Consistent with the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, the United States will provide $1.4 million to help multiple countries in sub-Saharan Africa develop or implement national action plans for women, peace, and security. In Mali, for example, we will partner to strengthen the role of Malian women and youth in political and peace processes. Since 2012, the United States has supported the participation of over 34,000 women in peacebuilding and political transition processes in Africa since 2012. This includes assistance that helps build the capacity of individual women and women's organizations in negotiation, mediation, leadership, advocacy, and coalition-building.
- To advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons and promote their inclusion in development programs, USAID's Global Development Partnership and Human Rights Grant Program, and the Department of State's Global Equality Fund, support national and regional efforts that amplify local voices, protect persons from violence, and document human rights violations based on the principle of equal protection for all.
- In the coming months, the United States will begin an effort to help rebuild key security and justice sector institutions in Mali, including the Ministry of Justice, the courts, the National Judicial Training Institute, and the Attorney General’s Office, to help ensure that citizens have information and access to formal and informal dispute resolution mechanisms.
- In March 2015 President and Mrs. Obama launched the Let Girls Learn initiative, which brings together the Department of State, USAID, PEPFAR, the Peace Corps, the MCC, and other agencies to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attending and completing school and from realizing their potential as adults. These activities include: the development of “Learning Centers,” in Northern Nigeria to help youth, especially adolescent girls, displaced by conflict continue their education; the Girls Empowerment Movement in Zimbabwe to establish clubs in schools and encourage girls to be educated, empowered decision-makers; and the Global Give Back Circle in Kenya to guide disadvantaged girls to complete their education from upper secondary to university, gain employability skills, and become agents of change.
- Through the efforts of the First Lady and working with the Peace Corps, Let Girls Learn also supports community-generated and community-led girls’ education and empowerment projects worldwide. The first 11 Peace Corps countries include six African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda. In October 2015, Ethiopia will become a Peace Corps Let Girls Learn country.
- The United States response to global HIV/AIDS is saving lives and changing the very course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. PEPFAR and private sector partners are investing $210 million in African countries through the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) partnership, which will aim to reduce HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
- In Tanzania and Malawi, the United States will undertake a new multifaceted effort to empower adolescent girls. Both Malawi and Tanzania are DREAMS countries and will be designated as priority countries under the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence and Executive Order 13623. They will also be eligible for additional funding through a Challenge Fund to be created under the Let Girls Learn initiative, which will bring together education stakeholders from the private sector, academia and civil society to help design and implement innovative programs – in these countries and others – to ensure that girls are able to both remain in and succeed in school.