The Assembly of Heads of State and Government is the AU’s supreme policy and decision-making organ. It comprises all Member State Heads of State and Government.
The Assembly determines the AU’s policies, establishes its priorities, adopts its annual programme and monitors the implementation of its policies and decisions.
In addition, the Assembly:
• Elects the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC)
• Appoints the AUC Commissioners and determines their functions and terms of office
• Admits new members to the AU
• Adopts the AU budget
• Takes decisions on important AU matters
• Amends the Constitutive Act in conformity with the laid down procedures
• Interprets the Constitutive Act
• Approves the structure, functions and regulations of the AU Commission
• Determines the structure, functions, powers, composition and organisation of the Executive Council.
The Assembly can create any committee, working group or commission as it deems necessary. It can also delegate its powers and functions to other AU organs, as appropriate.
On peace and security matters, the Assembly delegated its powers to the Peace and Security Council (PSC) when the Council became operational in 2004.
Provisions governing the Assembly’s composition, functions and powers, voting and procedures are contained in articles 6 to 9 of the Constitutive Act and Protocol on Amendments to the Constitutive Act. Section 1, rule 4 of the Assembly Rules of Procedure, as amended in 2007, elaborates on the Assembly’s functions and powers.
The AU Constitutive Act provides for the Assembly to meet in an ordinary session at least once a year and during the 2004 Summit, the Assembly decided to meet in ordinary sessions twice a year (Assembly/AU/Dec.53(III) in January and June/July of each year. The Assembly can also hold extraordinary sessions on request by a Member State and approved by a two-thirds majority of Member States.
As part of the Institutional Reforms of the African Union, the Assembly agreed in January 2017 to hold one ordinary summit a year and extraordinary sessions as the need arose. In place of the June/July summit, the Assembly Bureau shall hold a coordination meeting with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), with the Chairpersons of the RECs, AU Commission and the Regional Mechanisms participating. The Assembly also decided that external parties shall only be invited to summits on an exceptional basis and for a specific purpose, and that Heads of State shall be represented at Summits by officials not lower than the level of vice-president, prime minister or equivalent. The level of participation in summits was subsequently proposed to include Ministers of Foreign Affairs in some circumstances
Two-thirds of AU members are required to form a quorum at any Assembly meeting. The Assembly makes decisions by consensus or, where consensus is not possible, by a two-thirds majority vote by Member States (Constitutive Act, article 7). Matters of procedure, including the question of whether a matter is one of procedure or not, are decided by a simple majority.
Assembly Chairpersons and Bureau
The Assembly Chairperson is a Head of State or Government elected by his/her peers at the January Ordinary Session for a renewable one-year term. As part of the institutional reform efforts, the Assembly decided that to ensure continuity and effective implementation of decisions, a troika arrangement amongst the outgoing, current and incoming Chairpersons would be established (Assembly/AU/Dec.635(XXVIII)). This would include selecting the incoming Chairperson one year in advance.
The composition of the Assembly Bureau is reflected in the Executive Council and Permanent Representatives Committee Bureaus.
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