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Accepted Paper:

Pan-African Gender Governance: The Politics of Aspiration at the African Union  
Karmen Tornius (Danish Institute for International Studies Roskilde University)

Paper short abstract:

There is a paradox of between the African Union's liberal gender agenda and its member states lack of engagement with it. Through theories on aspirational politics and political brokers the paper examines the specific actors that have driven the AU gender agenda, and how they have done so.

Paper long abstract:

The African Union (AU) has developed an elaborate gender governance architecture, including gender machineries and women’s desks, policy frameworks, path-breaking women’s rights law and ongoing campaigns on women’s rights related issues. At the same time, the member states engagement with this architecture is at best lukewarm, with lack of domestication, compliance and accountability. This article addresses this paradox and develops the theoretical thinking around aspirational politics (Finnemore and Jurkovich 2020) and political brokers (Goddard 2009) to explain how this pan-African gender governance came into existence. The article demonstrates that the AU femocrats became political brokers between AU member states, donors, UN agencies and CSOs. By mobilizing actors, and facilitating common ground and agreement, their institutionalized broker position allowed for various political entrepreneurs to emerge and thrive. The case of the AU shows that aspirational politics are not necessarily a ‘phase’ leading to norms governance, as suggested by existing scholarship, but part and parcel to normative negotiation and engagement. This article examines how ‘aspirations’ can help to make sense of lack of normative commitment to political agreements, illuminate the political work of ‘secondary characters’ rather than high-level or grassroots heroes, and complicate the artificial dichotomy of successes and failures in international organizations.

Panel Poli16
African regional organizations and their politics under the global condition
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -