Opening Statement by Hon Sheikh Tijan Hydara at the 38th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 38th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 12th African Human Rights Book Fair

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Resource Persons and Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 38th Ordinary Session of the African Commission,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All protocol respectfully observed.

I am indeed honoured to be amidst this august gathering to deliver the opening remarks, marking the beginning of yet another forum of NGOs preceding the biannual sessions of the African Commission.

Let me start by conveying the compliments of my government, to you all, representatives of NGOs working in and on Africa, for your commitment to the struggle for humanity.  In particular, my government recognises the efforts of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, in facilitating this forum, to enable NGOs have a say in the proceedings of the African Commission, which is mandated to oversee the implementation and interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would wish to acknowledge the crucial nature of this forum, bearing in mind the calibre of participants, gathered here today.  Boutros Ghali, the former Secretary General of the United Nations once stated that NGOs “are an indispensable part of the legitimacy” of the UN, while Kofi Annan affirmed that NGOs are “the conscience of humanity”.  Well, I call these wise words, for we can all bear witnessed that NGOs have played and continue to play unprecedented roles in our societies.  From their role in setting international human rights standards and documenting human rights violations to their advocacy role in lobbying for the effective enforcement of the provisions enshrined in human rights instruments, NGOs are increasingly becoming indispensable.

In recent years, we have witnessed a multiplicity in the numbers of NGOs in the African continent, which undoubtedly manifest the increase in pluralism and democracy, especially when we take stock of the fact that authoritarian and paternalistic governments have either outlawed or restricted NGOs in their operations.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Although governments and NGOs are often regarded as incompatible parties, whose goals are poles apart, I would hasten to add that this is a wrong perception.  I am of the conviction that we are merely using different routes and strategies to reach a similar end, an end that ensures the respect of the dignity of the human person and the progressive development of human kind.  Indeed, we would all like to see an end to violence, poverty, discrimination and injustice.

For this reason, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is pertinent that we, governments and NGOs, work together, for “in unity lies strength”.  It is only through a concerted unified effort that we can overcome the giant problems facing our countries, regions and our continent at large.

I will not dispute the fact that the African continent has a long way to go in relation to its development and human rights record.  Nevertheless, I am optimistic that we shall overcome the hurdles if we inject more spirit and commitment as well as belief in what we want to achieve for ourselves.  It is high time that Africa takes matters into its own hands and I am confident that with the increasing interest that NGOs manifest towards in this end, we can be rest assured that the future would be brighter for the generations that come after us.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, you would no doubt agree with me that fora of this nature are very crucial at this day and age.  This forum, in particular, being a gathering of not only NGOs working in the area of human rights and related issues, but also a platform were both government representatives and intergovernmental institutions converge, is a very strategic meeting point.  The forum creates the possibility of engaging all pertinent stakeholders in issues affecting their constituents, thereby encouraging greater understanding and support among stakeholders and within the community.

I have been informed that The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 38th Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission is an advocacy tool adopted by the African Centre to promote networking among Human Rights NGOs in Africa. The main aim of the NGOs Forum is to foster closer collaboration among NGOs and with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for the purpose of promoting human rights in Africa.  The African Commission is indeed very important in the work of human rights in Africa, as it is the only body mandated to promote, protect and interpret the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the main regional instrument that directs the rhythm of other Africa regional instruments on human rights.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, networking is one of the machineries that keep the world of today moving.  This machinery cannot, however, be sustained if it is not frequently lubricated.  NGOs have been recognised globally as the most appropriate lubricant for this indispensable machinery.  Therefore, the ball is in your court.  The African community expect you to act strategically and responsibly in serving our interests.  This can be achieved by making good use of such a forum to build on your weaknesses, tackle the challenges and enhance your skills with the existing strengths.

I am certain that this forum, like the previous ones, would open the platform for fruitful deliberations, resulting in the formulation of laudable strategies designed to push the continent a step ahead in the process of ensuring the respect to human dignity, human rights and the democratisation process.

I would conclude by extending my commendations to the African Centre for conscientiously organising such a forum, since its inception.

On this note, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I hereby declare the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 38th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, formally open.

I thank you all for your kind attention.