Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 40th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ and the 14th African Human Rights Book Fair, Karaba Beach Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia, 12-14 November 2006
The Acting Solicitor General of The Republic of The Gambia, Honourable Dr. Henry Carol
Honourable members of the National Assembly
Honourable Secretaries of State
Your Excellencies, Chairperson and Members of the African Commission
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Distinguished Commissioners of the African Commission
Venerable Religious and Traditional Leaders
Representatives of NGOs
Representatives of the Press
Dear Colleagues- facilitators and participants of this forum.
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen
All Protocols respectfully observed.
I gladly welcome you all to yet another NGOs forum, this time, preceding the 40th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Humans and Peoples’ Rights and the 14th African Human Rights Book fair. Let me once again commend for your encouraging response in your attendance at this forum.
Your attendance in stable great numbers at these NGOs fora is a clear manifestation of your commitment to transform our dear continent into a society governed by democratic principles and the respect for human rights and human dignity, irrespective of race, colour creed or religion.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before going any further, I crave your indulgence to observe a minute of silence for all victims of human rights violations, especially those who have suffered and lost their lives in the last six month. We want to remember in particular all those innocent victims who fell while defending and advocating for human rights. May God grant them eternal rest.
Honoured Guests, ladies and gentlemen
Let me seize this opportunity to welcome everyone present here today, especially those of you who travelled to The Gambia from other parts of African and beyond, irrespective of the insurmountable difficulties in international travels these days. The African Centre is indeed pleased to also extend, a warm welcome to our eminent resource persons, most of who have been with us through the hurdles over the past years. Your commitment to the cause of human rights in Africa is indeed laudable.
In the same vein and in the spirit of our long standing partnership, I extend a warm welcome to the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, H. E. Madam Salamatou Sawadago and all other Commissioners’ of the African Commission, here present.
At this juncture, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Mr. Mohammed Mabassa Faal, Executive Member of ACDHRS Governing Council. Welcome Mr Fall and thank you once again for honouring this forum with your humble attendance.
A special word of welcome to our keynote speaker, the Deputy Solicitor General of The Republic of The Gambia, Dr. Henry Carol and our sincere appreciation to the Attorney General’s Chambers and Department of State for Justice – for their continued support and collaboration at these fora.
The African Centre presents its compliments to the Gambia Government, though your office Sir, for according our participants hospitality and facilitating their easy entry into this ‘smiling coast of Africa’ without problems.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
The Forum on the participation of NGOs in the Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission has over the years, maintained momentum, thanks to the level of seriousness that participants continue to dedicate to its proceedings. Indeed you will agree with me that NGOs are an indispensable force to be reckoned with in our continent today, particularly in their laudable contribution to the human rights movement.
The forum on the participation of NGO in the work of the African commission has over the years maintained momentum mostly as a result of serious deliberations that has characterised its proceedings. Moreover, the resolutions and recommendations passed by the forum to the Commission have continued to received attention from the Commission as they give a true picture of the human rights situation on the continent, which aims at facilitating the work of the Commission as well as promoting the effective contribution of the African human rights community and their deliberations.
We have increasingly witnessed the great expertise with which NGOs have successfully monitored human rights situations around the continent, prescribed corrective measures to avoid aggravated situations and got effectively involved to address existing human rights violations.
Through these processes, we have learned about the importance of collaboration in the efforts to ensure the respect for human rights. Most importantly, empirical evidence has manifested the significance of working with diverse sectors for the realisation of our common interests. It is indubitable that we need to support, not only the work of NGOs in this field, but also to work with state authorities as well as intergovernmental organisations, to achieve our desired goals. It is only in this way, that we can safeguard the interest of our fellow human kind to be treated with due respect to their inalienable, interdependent and universal human rights and human dignity.
Honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The organisation of the likes of this forum is necessitated by the unimpressive performance of our continent in the democracy and good governance sector, as a result of which our continent has witnessed vast instability accompanied by immeasurable abuse of human rights. This forum would therefore, create an avenue for strategic discussion of the issues that are worrisome and at the heart of our very operations.
Our discussion during these three days of the forum will revolve around issues that threaten the human rights and democracy situation in Africa with an aim of charting a way forward through the formulation of constructive recommendations and resolutions, where necessary.
Among other issues, we shall be looking at the general situation relating to human rights and democracy in the different regions of Africa; addressing how corruption affect our human rights performance; updating ourselves with the developments relating to the recently operational African Court; studying the situation of human rights defenders; also informing ourselves about the developments in women’s rights; plunging into the globally accepted commitment of the “responsibility to protect”; and scrutinising possible networking strategies between ECOWAS and NGOs and/or the African Commission.
Based on our specific areas of interest, we shall discuss in-depth, the above human rights issues in addition to other areas such as torture, death penalty, refugee, minority and indigenous peoples rights, human rights education and policing and human rights, to name but a few.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
As we gather here to participate at this forum, our main objective is to come out with substantial and constructive results, which we shall forward to the African Commission at the end of these 3 day, for consideration in the execution of their work. Let us therefore, effectively use this opportunity to bring up pressing issues in our respective countries and regions, bearing in mind that this is an avenue for us to have an impact in policy issues governing our states and continent at large.
As envisaged, let us also use this forum, to strengthen the lobby groups for the different themes addressed. In particular, we must continue to lobby for ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women, which endorses affirmative action to promote the equal participation of women in the development process. Although the Protocol has entered into force, we can all attest to the fact that ratifications are still on the low side, with only 20 out of 53 AU member states ratifying. (Those coming from non ratifying states must work towards ratifications in their countries to ensure involvement of the 2nd half of human rights).
Likewise, we must all put our hands together to push for the effective operationalisation of the African Court, especially for the need to have state declarations under article 34(6), permitting NGOs and other non-state parties to present cases before the court. As at now, only one country, Burkina Faso, has made this declaration. (got a lot more work to do in this area)
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
It is our responsibility as Human Rights Activists, to continue to live up to the ideals we preach in order to consolidate the foundation already laid – of a perpetual struggle against human rights violation, impunity and other forms of injustice, for liberty is the very essence of our being. I would therefore, urge you to continue supporting the work of the African Commission in this era of instability as manifested in situations in Darfur (Sudan), Zimbabwe, Northern Uganda, Northern Democratic of Congo, and other fragile areas. These are indeed great causes of concern, which we must relentless seek to resolve.
Before concluding my statement, I would like to welcome you once again to this Forum, and to the 14th African Human Rights Book Fair, which runs concurrently the Forum. Please find time to register your presence at the stands as numerous and interesting publications from various Civil Society Organisation would be on display.
Thank you all, “Jerrejef”, “Alabarak” and I wish fruitful deliberations over these 3 days.