NGO forum on human rights ends
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The three-day forum on the participation of NGOs in the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People Rights (ACHPR) ended Monday evening, with delegates agreeing on a number of resolutions and recommendations calling on some African heads of state and government, to put an end to continuing human rights violations perpetrated against innocent civilians in some African countries.
The event, which was held simultaneously with the 25th African Human Rights Book Fair, drew over 200 human rights defenders and representatives of NGOs from around Africa and beyond.
Organised by the African Commission for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) in collaboration with the ACHPR, the three-day bi-annual conclave brought to the limelight some of the human rights abuses committed in some African countries as well as the political development in countries like Mali, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea and Sudan, among a host of others.
Abdul Qadir Jallow, a member of the steering committee for West Africa described the event as fruitful and thanked the delegates for their hard work and brilliant ideas shared during the course of the forum. The resolutions and recommendations made, he said, will allow respective heads of state to be abreast with some of the human rights violations that are perpetrated against innocent civilians.
He lauded the Gambian authorities for the proactive stance demonstrated towards the forum while extending special thanks to the Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh and through him the Gambian people.
He said that the human rights strategy for Africa has been adopted and reported in April 2011 in Banjul. “I have left some copies of this strategy for you to take always and to read and to try supporting the implementation of the action plan of this important strategy,” he added.
Jallow explained that the Human Rights Strategy for Africa is not a new mechanism, but a tool designed to re-strengthen the African Human and Peoples Rights System. He explained further that it also meant to secure the involvement of partners and other stakeholders in the support of mechanism to implement their mandate.
He continued: “The Strategy comes with a five-year action plan focusing mainly on three areas which include; to enhance the capacity of the Africa human and People system as a whole, to enhance the level of coordination and collaboration among the mechanisms of the system. The third is to ensure the effectiveness of the system and implementation of decisions made by the organs and mechanisms of the system as well as the speedy ratification of pending instrument in the area of human rights.”
He added: “The Human Rights Strategy for Africa is part of the African governance which was adopted by heads of state and government in 2011 during the summit on the said values. The architecture of this initiative is meant to enhance good governance, democracy, good public service and fight corruption, among others. Within the umbrella of this initiative, is also meant to work closely with members of the CSO’s and other stakeholder and partners, to support the work and implementation of the mandate of the organ of the mechanism of the African Human and People Rights System. That is why we made it an obligation to come twice a year to report to this august body.”
Dr Salah Hammad, an official at the Department of Political Affairs African Union Commission, gave a synopsis of the activities related to the work of the African Union Commission in particular the Political Affairs Department. He said that the Commission valued this forum, the work of the forum as well as the participation of all NGOs and CSOs in the forum.
On behalf of the commissioner of Political Affairs at the Africa Union Commission, Julia Joiner, Hammad expressed profound appreciation to the government and people of The Gambian, for continuing to host this important forum on the soil of the Smiling Coast of Africa. He also saluted the ACHPR and members of the Steering Committee for continuing to champion the hosting of such important forums.
Commissioner Catherine Dupe Atoki, chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People Rights (ACHPR), called on delegates to reflect for a moment what makes this bi-annual encounter so special and indeed essential.
Her words: “I’ve been informed during the forum, statements were heard from members of the CSOs from across the continent in the plenary session and a wide range of side events, they have shared compelling and eloquent testimonies of human rights violations in different parts of Africa.”
She described the event as a beacon of hope in this complex and changing world torn by human rights violations, armed conflicts, inequality and injustice. She also noted that the forum traditionally gathers hundreds of people from all over the world, who believe that another world is possible -a world where globalisation will not be synonymous with inequality and injustice.
On her part, Madam Agnes Guillaud, the charge d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation in The Gambia, on behalf of the European Union, reflected on the crucial role the organisations play not only in Africa but around the world, stressing that they are only few who would disagree that the issues addressed by the human rights NGOs community are among the most important facing the society at large. While acknowledging the numerous abuses many human rights defenders undergo and taking into account their efforts to help others in raising awareness about their plight, the EU charge d’Affaires also warned them to be steadfast and focused in their move not to become targets themselves. “I pay tribute to you for your courage and dedication in the face of such challenges. The issue of human rights is central in the dialogue that the EU holds with its partners in Africa and the inclusion of NGOs in that dialogue in an essential factor,” she stated.
Guillaud cited some of the violations, mentioning torture, prison and detention condition, the death penalty, freedom of expression, discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation among others.
Hanna Forster, the executive director of ACHPR thanked all the delegates for attending the meeting and urged them to continue on what they preach and to stick by the principles that they stand for on the continent.
Mabasa Faal, a member of the NGO Forum Steering Committee also spoke at the closing ceremony.
Author: by Sheriff Janko