By María Mercedes Martínez

In recent years, the African Union (AU) has significantly stepped up its mandate to support its membership in strengthening national laws to better prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. Within the AU Humanitarian Policy Framework, adopted in January 2016, the need to strengthen procedures for managing international disaster assistance has been identified as one of the key areas to further develop. With this in mind, the IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme has been requested to provide technical support to the drafting of a Model Act on Facilitating and Regulating International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance for the AU, based on the IFRC’s own Model Act.

The AU is taking additional steps which highlight the importance of disaster law, such as including it among the topics of the AU Humanitarian Policy Training Curriculum. Furthermore, a special Disaster Law Session was held within the framework of the 3rd Training Session on Humanitarian Law and Policy held in Livingstone, Zambia from the 19th to the 24th of March 2018. This AU Commission initiative, known as the Livingstone Syllabus, aims to sensitize government officials on key humanitarian topics and promote the implementation of regional and international instruments to strengthen regulation of these topics.

More than 70 participants representing States from different Regional Economic Communities (RECs) benefited from this training as a way to efficiently implement the AU Humanitarian Policy Framework and the Common Africa Position of Humanitarian Effectiveness. These instruments encourage and facilitate continental, regional and bilateral agreements relating to cross-border relief and recovery assistance, and the effective use of the Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance, also known as the IDRL Guidelines.

In this regard, the training provided an opportunity to discuss with member States the drafting of an AU Model Act for the Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief; which would offer the AU membership a contextualised African Model to follow when reviewing their national legal framework in light of the AU criteria as set out in the AU Humanitarian Policy Framework and the Kampala Convention. This follows models adopted by other regions, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States which developed and adopted their own regional Model Act on IDRL in 2014.

To continue this momentum with the Africa Union, the IFRC will be supporting the AU’s Political Affairs Department’s division to establish a taskforce, develop a workplan, and initiate the drafting process for the AU Model Act.