Friday, March 19, 2010

Meeting Of AU Organs On Human Rights Strategy

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)_The seeds for the story were planted on 17 September 2007, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 61/296 on cooperation between the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU).
It was the African Union that requested the UN System to intensify its assistance to the African Union, according to AU Officials.
The resolutions also called upon the UN System and the African Union, under operational paragraph 16, "to develop a coherent and effective strategy, including through joint programmes and activities, for the promotion and protection of human rights in the continent, within the framework of the implementation of regional and international treaties, resolutions and plans of action adopted by the two organisations".
It was against this background that a meeting from the 11 to 13 March 2010 was held at the Senegambia Beach Hotel.
The purpose of the meeting was to develop modalities for enhancing the human rights strategy for Africa; establish the practice and focus action on moving forward the collective human rights strategy; and make recommendations for building synergies between the strategy and other governance initiatives in Africa.
Participants were drawn from AU organs with a human rights mandate and regional economic committees such as the AU Commission, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, ECOWAS, UN agencies, international institutions, civil society and other stakeholders.
Addressing participants, Mme Reine Alapini Gansou, chairperson of the ACHPR thanked the participants for accepting their invitation, and the government of the Gambia for hosting the meeting.
She spoke at length on the importance of the meeting, saying that the meeting was convened to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa through closer collaboration between the key AU organs with human rights mandates.
According to Ms Gansou, the meeting will also facilitate the coordination of the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
In his remarks to welcome participants, Dr. Mamadou Dia, from the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC) also expressed profound appreciation to the people and government of The Gambia for supporting the African human rights agenda.
"I commended the government of The Gambia for all their contributions for decades towards the programs of the Organisation of African Unity, which they have continued in this era of the AU".
The meeting, he went on, is a testament of the long and tedious journey that has characterized the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
According to him, the human rights situation in Africa is encouraging, but was quick to add that one cannot deny that Africa is at a critical juncture 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and almost three decades after the creation of the ACHPR. "Since then, up to date, we are grappling with the gap that exists between the human rights vision that we sought to establish and the reality that confronts us", he told participants.
“The nature of human rights promotion and protection suggest a continuous and evolving process that is rooted in our concerted efforts”, he went on.
“So the task before us today is to establish the strategic objective, content and value in addition to enhancing the existing and unfolding African human rights strategy for Africa.
"As we reflect on the need for a human rights strategy for Africa, it is better for us to think within the confines of mechanical relationships between the various organs and initiatives involved in human rights in Africa".
He added, "our drive for developing a human rights strategy for Africa should be informed by its functionality or its added value in improving synergies between the various AU organs in delivering on their mandate in the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent".
He disclosed that the theme of the January 2011 AU Assembly Summit is "Shared Values".
Thus "as we reflect, we must not lose sight of the shift towards a shared values approach in the protection and promotion of human rights based on Article 3 and 4 of the Constitutive Act".
This Act, he explained, lays emphasis on the significance of good governance, the rule of law and human rights. In addition, "as we deliberate, we should pay attention to the other processes”, he said, citing the establishment of an African Governance Agenda and ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
The potential of the meeting, Dr. Dia said, lies in how much it takes the African human rights agenda from being a mosaic of good intentions to shared values or a denominator that, he stated, binds our common destiny.
According to him, to embark on the process, it needs to be collective
"We need to work together with others across the world as we usher in a new order of global shared values", he said, adding that "our collective approach must be grounded in ownership and responsibility".
In a global political economy, where the line between starvation, subsistence and wealth is most often defined by civil liberty, there is no doubt the Africa human rights agenda provides a robust basis for Africa's renewal.
Mahamane Cise-Gouro, the Regional Director Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the meeting was building on a long history of cooperation between OHCHR and AUC, and the AU-UN 10 year capacity building program.
In line with our longstanding cooperation, that is, OHCHR and AUC, he said, "I am proud to be here today to reiterate our support and partnership in the rights process of formulating a human rights strategy for Africa".
According to him, the AU has made considerable progress in promoting and protecting human rights, noting that the AU has adopted some of the most progressive human rights instruments in the world.
He revealed that with all the efforts made by the AU, there is still a long way to go, stating that Africa continues to face serious challenges.
The main challenge at hand, he said, is how to translate the regional human rights instruments into practical application and implementation.
With achieving sustainable promotion and protection of human rights, OHCHR has built on homegrown initiatives, within the context of the AU and NEPAD program and with the regional economic communities.
According to him, regarding empowering regional and national human rights organs, he said "we need to ensure a truly relevant and sustainable process of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa".
Therefore, with particular interest and commitment, "we are supporting the AU in its efforts in this respect and we are honored to be here today to contribute our part in this process".
He told participants that AUC chairperson signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with OHCHR on 1st February 2010 during the last AU summit on cooperation which outlines their cooperation in providing support in terms of capacity building, sharing of information and jointly organizing relevant activities.

No comments: