NGO Forum Opens Ahead Of 63rd Ordinary Session
By Sanna Jawara
The Continental platform for Non-governmental Orgnisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations and other rights related activist otherwise called “NGO Forum” was over the weekend Saturday 20th October 2018, opened at the Paradise Suite Hotel amidst intensified calls for effective and efficient implementation of provisions of African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, especially those on promotion and protection of fundamental human rights as freedom of expression, association, speech, assembly as well as rights of human right defenders both men and women defenders without any reservation.
The forum since its inception to date, serve as an avenue for the world of NGOs to converge under one single roof to interact, share some of the best practices, discuss and brainstorm on pertinent issues affecting their work across Africa and beyond, hence always characterize by drafting of recommendations, open statements, general comments on various matters meant for implementation by African leaders, through the authority of Africa Union heads of state and governments, especially parties to the cited African Charter.
This year’s forum is expected to last for three days 20th– 22nd October 2018 and came hard on the heels of preparations for 63rd Ordinary Session of African Commission on the theme “End Corruption in Africa”, which seems to make this year’s theme more popular and already draw a lot attention and keen interest from participants and none alike at both local and international level, given the perceived level of corruption and its impact on an average African, hence questions as to whether decisions of a commission that lacks legal binding effect would be able to wipe out such an endemic and cancerous matter as corruption in Africa or not?.
The 63rd Ordinary Session of the Commission coincided with 70th anniversary of the globally acclaimed Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) otherwise universal bill of rights, signed by almost all nations of the world and it inspired and continue to inspire millions of legal instruments as a guide on promotion and protection human rights across the globe, including national constitutions.
The 70th anniversary of UDHR will be further characterized by what organisers of the forum called “Observation of the state of promotion, protection and fulfillment of human and peoples’ rights in Africa”.
Anniversary of 15th year of Maputo Protocol for reigniting efforts of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) towards universal ratification, domestication and implementation, rights of older women in Africa, the new AU strategy are expected to observe at the event.
The three day deliberations of the world of NGOs will take them through topical issues such as overview of status of democracy in Africa to be supported by updates from Sub-regional focal points, the draft general comment on African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights with reference to free movement and residence in Africa as per Article 12 (1) of the charter, Plight of human rights, the human right defenders, the propose African Union reforms and their implications for African Commission on Human and peoples’ Rights among others.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chairperson of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights H.E Commissioner Soyata Maiga described this year’s theme of the Ordinary Session very crucial cognizant of situation of Africa and harmful nature of corruption to our overall sustainable development objectives, saying corruption is widely spread in Africa and beyond, hence the need to address it in order to achieve the desire development objectives for Africa and humanity at large.
The Commission Chairperson outline what she called horrors and scourge of various crisis across Africa, especially rebellion, insecurity and other human rights violations taking place in different countries, efforts done by the Commission, African Union, NGOs, Civil Society Organisations and other development partners towards resolving some of them at various levels.
She cited crisis situations as Cameroon, Bokoharam in Nigeria, especially Kibogo girls, Central African Republic, DRC, Burundi, Somalia among others as concern areas for the commission, saying despite challenges such crisis pose to the overall development of Africa and its people, African Commission will never relent in finding lasting solutions to them, through implementation of international, regional and domestic instruments such as treaties, protocol, national laws and other mechanisms.
She assured the NGO and Civil Society community of the commission’s support at all times, especially human right defenders both male and female defenders.
Honorable Miarom Begoto, Chairperson African Union (AU) Board on Anti-corruption reminded audience that, African Union leader’s chooses Anti-corruption as the theme for this year’s event and that despite the fight against corruption in Africa, it continue to remain in our midst and it seriously undermines our development objectives, hence the decision for choosing the theme and the need to get rid of it for the interest and welfare of all Africans and humanity at large.
The AU chair on corruption assured his office’s support and further urged the NGO and Civil Society community to always count on the support of African Union at all times, but was quick to remind them about what he called “The need for them to make effective use of all international, regional and national instruments, as organs and mechanisms of the African Union, United Nations among others”.
Hanna Foster is the Executive of African Centre on Democracy and Human Rights Studies and chaired the NGO opening session with detailed historical overview of the forum, its objectives, success made, challenges and the way forward as required by the world of right defenders, which she said requires life time commitment.
The African Centre boss spoke about the role of her institution as a research, documentation and communication centre on the promotion and protection of human rights across Africa and their role in organization of NGO Forum since its inception to date.
Mr Salifu Nyass, member of the NGO forum welcome delegates of the forum and those expected to participate in the 63rd Ordinary Session of African Commission and drew their attention to its theme on corruption, which he said held Africa behind for far too long from achieving its sustainable development objectives.
However, a three day intensive training of trainers on International and Regional Human Rights system, organized by African Centre on Democracy and Human Rights Studies, in collaboration with UN Human Rights Commission, ISHR and CIVICUS held at the cited Hotel from 17th -19th October 2018, preceded the NGO forum.
The was part of series of activities that paves the way for successful organization of both the NGO Forum and Ordinary Session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
It took participants drawn from NGO, Civil Society community and other interested groups through treaty bodies, special procedures, human rights council, Universal Periodic Report (UPR), mandate, compassion and scope of operations of the UN and other international, regional and national organisations, as well as legal instruments to that effect.