The Norwegian Council for Africa - our main objectives today

Solidarity beyond institutional apartheid - Africa in the 90s
With the release of Nelson Mandela, the struggle against apartheid entered a new decade, a new era - and the international Anti Apartheid Movement (AAMs) entered a crossroad and existential discussions evolved around future roles and activities.

The ultimate choices have been to finish off existing activities, call it a day and the happy end of a long struggle, or to find a new platform on which the existing structure and expertise could serve a vital contribution to other important political issues and viable organisations. The Norwegian Council for Southern Africa (hereafter FsA) chose the latter solution.

With the backing of almost 40 member organisations FsA entered a process of extending the geographical scope to Sub-Saharan Africa some two years ago. In the wake of the Nobel Peace Prize to Nelson Mandela in 1993, followed by the results of the historic elections in South Africa in the spring of 1994 the organisation was renamed The Norwegian Council for Africa (hereafter Fellesrådet).

Fellesrådet has set an objective to struggle for justice, democratic development and respect for human rights for all in Sub-Saharan Africa. This broadening of the geographic approach opens the possibility for establishing links and actions of solidarity with countries not only in Southern Africa, but in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On the whole, Africa is the continent worst affected by wars and conflicts, drought and famines, and a generally negative economic development. The UN merely operates with "the African Crisis" when addressing the problems of this vast continent, and it has been said about Africa that the New York stock market would not take any notice of it in weeks if the entire continent sank in the ocean. The fact that Africa is practically the "global basket case" does not contribute to the international economic development, makes the continent of little interest to foreign investment. At the same time we see a dominating trend of neo-liberalism within the field of development economics, that leads to an increased channelling of resources to the less poverished developing countries, where profits are greater for the business- and trade sector, which get an increasing part of development aid in the form of credits, guarantees and benefits.

Fellesrådet hence see the need for a systemic and holistic approach to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The conflicts of the Middle-East made Fellesrådet decide not to extend the new approach to include the whole continent - thus excluding the North African countries. The main focus of our immediate work will, however, still be in the democratic development in South Africa and the region as a whole. The focus of the project activities will remain on the countries of southern Africa, especially Mozambique, South Africa and Angola.

Main objectives and activities
There is presently no other political organisation in Norway with a coherent, political approach to Africa. With the dismantling of the apartheid regime, the majority of the Sub-Saharan African countries share a political legacy of colonialism and a cultural, economic and political marginalisation. The westernised media-picture of the stereotype starved, black child, and the savagely ruined homes and lives of thousands of helpless Africans reinforces a marginalised image of this continent. An important part of Fellesrådet's objective will be to counteract this marginalisation. This will among other things entail:

  • setting Sub-Saharan Africa on the agenda, to keep Norwegian politicians, the authorities, the business sector and the population in general up to date on the situation;
  • pushing for an active and goal-oriented policy regarding Africa on the side of the Norwegian authorities, the business sector and the population in general;
  • promoting just trade and financial cooperation and development aid;
  • working for the protection of natural resources in Africa;
  • seeing the process of development, social justice and democratisation in a gender perspective;
  • stimulating actions of solidarity and committment with Africa, and counteracting racism in Norway.

Fellesrådet will work towards the objective of becoming a point of reference on Africa. The building-up of new points of new references, knowledge and field-experience will obviously take some time for this small-staffed (two fully employed managers and a number of voluntary workers) organisation. The issuing of the annual yearbook on Africa is one step in this direction.

First of all, Fellesrådet will carry out informational activities and actions of solidarity, focusing on issues like the process of democracy, human-rights issues, debt, etc. A network of sub-groups on specific topics and countries will help supply the necessary proficiency. Close contact and cooperation with our sister organisations and former AAMs in Scandinavia and elsewhere will also be an important contribution to our network and information-pool. A political advisory body, consisting of highly regarded and respected researchers, politicians and Africa-oriented NGOs and institutions, forms a new platform of knowledge and contacts.

Through the years, the organisation has built up a quite unique relationship to and status in the media, and links to the political world have been relatively strong on mutually interesting topics. This is a position we are keen to maintain, make use of and nurture.

Fellesrådet will also try to expose Norway to African culture in a wide perspective. Twinning- and linking of organisations and institutions in Africa (primarily South Africa) and Norway is another channel for professional exchange and solidarity Fellesrådet is engaging in. Our memberorganisations (presently 35), ranging from arts-associations till political parties and trade-movements, will be important channels for popular support, possible exchange-programmes and political campaigns.

In the wake of boycott actions and campaigns against trade and business involved in South Africa, Fellesrådet is keen to influence the policy and practice of Norwegian business and commerce with an eye to trading with and investing in South Africa. A report has been carried out on the topic of "Norway - South Africa; Trade and investment post apartheid" commissioned by Fellesrådet. Ethical and principal guidelines for the establishement of these relations are a major concern for Fellesrådet and small- medium sized black business in South Africa. Fellesrådet will hence seek to maintain our former role as "watch-dog" over the Norwegian trade-relations.

When it comes to projects and project-partners, these will still be characterised by the same priority as before; i.e. small-scale educational projects in Southern Africa, primarily Mozambique and South Africa. A lot of our projects are supported and run in cooperation with other Norwegian NGOs, often related to informational and fund-raising campaigns, like the 1994 Operation a Day’s Work (OD) campaign. This national youth-campaign reaches practically all secondary-schools and pupils in Norway, and mobilises thousands of teachers, pupils, volunteers and organisations in a common effort to give one-day's work and salary to the benefit of black, under-privileged youth in South Africa under the slogan "Education for liberation in South Africa". The campaign sparked off the new era of the organisation, and has made a sound basis for further interest and attitudes on North-South relations and South Africa as the global microcosmos that we will build on in the near future.

The scramble for resources to continue our committed work is another part of the daily shores of the organisation. The Norwegian Government has held a high profile on support to anti-apartheid movements and democratisation in South Africa during the former decades, and up until 1993 our organisation received a substantial amount to do informational work on the topic of apartheid and South Africa. Fellesrådet presently receives some financial support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) for informational purposes. Member-fees make up a minimal contribution along with donations and income from sale. Otherwise, the Norwegian Foreign Office supports single activities and projects, as does NORAD. To be able to keep the balloon filled with an air of solidarity and vital support, Fellesrådet will have to prove a viable organisation, capable of adjusting to a new world - a new Africa; beyond hunger and human tragedies. It is a challenge for all of us.