Inspired by Africa's rich tradition of solidarity, the 16th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government dedicated a special debate to the theme “Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values”. Defined in the Strategic Plan of the AU, Shared Values are those norms, principles and practices developed or acquired to achieve regional integration and are means to promote democracy, rule of law, governance and human and people's rights. The 16th Ordinary Session in Addis Ababa sought to discuss the main principles embodied in the Constitutive Act of the AU and one of the pillars of the AUC Strategic Plan (2009 – 2012) for achieving greater unity and integration in the region.
African Shared Values bring to the fore the concept of African men and women working together to develop the region and to address the political, economic and social challenges that the continent faces. Gender equality is one of the shared values.
In this context, I have the honor to mention two historic facts that will strengthen the women's rights and gender equality work in the region. Following the UN General
Assembly's decision, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN) became operational in January 2011, bringing gender issues to a higher level in the work of the United Nations globally, and opening the opportunity for strengthening the close partnership with the African Union Commission within the framework of the Ten Year Capacity Building Programme of the United Nations. Equally, 2011 marks the first year of implementation of the African Women's Decade, where Member States will dedicate the next ten years (2010‐2020) to the advancement of women with a strong support from the AU Commission.
This issue of Walking the Talk focuses on the efforts that the African Union has made to promote and mainstream gender equality in its programmes and throughout its Organs. The process builds on the relevant Commission's obligations outlined in the Constitutive Act of the AU, its Gender Policy, the implementation of the Fund for African Women and the African Women's Decade, as the basic mechanisms and instruments to implement an effective gender mainstreaming process in the Commission, and its actions in Member States and the Regional Economic Communities. The issue also includes a gender analysis over the decisions adopted during the last Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa.