The Organization of African Unity has had keen interest in population issues since its inception in 1963. The primary aim of the OAU in population matters between 1960 and 1970 was to foster labour and family welfare policies in Member States. Since the beginning of the 1980s, however, the organization has been pursuing the policy of restoring harmony between population on one hand and natural resources and development processes, on the other hand, with the aim of accelerating socio-economic development in the region and improving the quality of life of Africans. Nevertheless, the close linkages between population and development have not yet been adequately appreciated, and the progress towards integrating population variables into the socio-economic development planning has been very slow in Africa.
This situation has called for greater participation of the continental organization in population activities. Accordingly, the OAU Secretariat has designed a Population and Development Policy Programme whose objectives are as follows:
a) To increase awareness of the OAU Member States about the implications of the current population characteristics on national socio-economic development;
b) To encourage and help Member States to generate, analyze and exchange latest data on population;
c) To assist Member States in devising and implementing appropriate population policies;
d) To coordinate and monitor population activities in Member States;
e) To assist Member States to adopt a common position at international population fora;
f) To promote cooperation among Member States in the field of population.
g) To encourage NGOs to be more involved in population activities in Africa.
h) To assist Member States in producing skilled manpower in population studies; and
i) To build the institutional capacity of the Secretariat in order to fully undertake the responsibility of coordinating population activities in the region.
The Population and Development Policy Programme of the Organization of African Unity is designed to ameliorate the effects of the problems encountered so far and to enhance the implementation of population policies with a view of ensuring self- reliant development and improvement in the welfare of the African people. Therefore, the activities of the programme which contribute to furthering this ultimate objective include:
a) Strengthening the Population and Development Section in the OAU Secretariat in order to enable it serve as a coordination and monitoring centre for population issues and activities in Africa;
b) Establishing the OAU Population Commission as the highest and permanent policy institution responsible for raising population issues high on the OAU political agenda through the Assembly of Heads of State and Government;
c) Advising the OAU Council of Ministers as well as the Assembly of Heads of State and Government on the population situation in Africa and the implication of current trends and levels on self- reliant development programmes with a view of increasing high level political awareness and involvement in population matters;
d) Encouraging and assisting Member States to create national population commissions and population units with the necessary powers to coordinate population activities;
e) Formulating an appropriate population and development strategy which will be applicable to variant local mores;
f) Analyzing national population policy programmes to identify conflict areas between such policies, national interest, and local groups with the aim of developing appropriate guidelines based upon experiences gained to ensure that the policies are readily acceptable by a cross-section of Member States;
g) Conducting periodic evaluation of population programmes in Member States, and developing appropriate instruments for self- reliant national evaluation exercises;
h) Compiling and disseminating information on population from various sources with a view to promoting cooperation among Member States and between other developing countries;
i) Organizing regional and sub-regional workshops/seminars on population issues, policies and their implementation strategies;
j) Coordinating African delegates at international conferences to ensure a common African position;
l) Seeking and sustaining on behalf of the OAU Member States, multilateral and bilateral assistance for population policy implementation programmes and projects;
m) Promoting technical and financial collaboration among international agencies and institutions participating in programme implementation activities in the OAU Member States, and providing political support to such agencies and institutions where necessary; and
n) Helping to develop national self-reliant programmes and the institutional framework necessary for the implementation of comprehensive programmes.
The OAU Secretariat is intending to promote and implement the declarations and resolutions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government including the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA), the Kilimanjaro Programme of Action for African Population and Self- Reliant Development (KPA), Africa's Priority Programme for Economic Recovery 1986-1990 (APPER), the Dakar/NGOR Declaration on Population, Family and Sustainable Development, the Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community, the World Population Plan of Action, adopted by the World Population Conference in 1974 and the United Nations New Agenda for African Development in the 1990s (UN-NADAF).
Today, population issues especially those of growth, distribution, migration, the state and fate of women and children are at the forefront of global concern. It is an open reality that Africa is still the least developed region, although it has abundant natural resources. Conversely, population is growing at the highest rate in the world. Population and available resources have not yet been harmonized. However, socio-economic development cannot be conceived without integrating population variables into development planning. Therefore, the OAU Member States are expected to fully cooperate with the OAU Secretariat in handling population issues.
As already indicated, Africa has been passing through adverse economic situations. Member States can hardly afford adequate funds and skills to devise and implement their population programmes. In view of this, the OAU Secretariat calls upon the donor countries and NGOs to increase their assistance to population programmes in Africa in a more coordinated and sustained way in accordance with the recommendations and appeals of the World Population Conferences at Bucharest (1974) and Mexico (1984) as well as the Kilimanjaro Programme of Action (1984) and the Dakar/NGOR Declaration on Population, Family and Sustainable Development (1992).
Population, development and the well-being of our environment are inseparable. These issues demand prompt and urgent actions. If all join hands for concerted actions, the future can be bright indeed