Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, 8-10 May 2010, Kairaba Beach Hotel, The Gambia
Honourable Secretaries of States,
Acting Chair and Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Right Studies,
Members of the Steering Committee of the NGO Forum,
Venerable Religious Leaders,
Representatives of Civil Society Organisations,
Resource Persons and Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission and 21st African Human Rights Bookfair,
Member of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All other protocol respectfully observed.
I feel most honoured to be invited by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to deliver the opening remarks at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission and 21st African Human Rights Book Fair.
Let me start by conveying the compliments of my government, to you all, representatives of NGOs working in Africa and beyond, for your commitment to the struggle for humanity. I would like, as usually, to welcome you all to the land of the Gambia. I hope you have recovered from the fatigue associated with travelling in and to Africa.
My government recognises the efforts of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, in facilitating this Forum, to enable NGOs to fully participate on the work of the African Commission, which is mandated to oversee the implementation and interpretation of the rights and duties set up on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
I would wish to acknowledge the crucial nature of this Forum, bearing in mind the calibre of participants, gathered here today. We can all bear witness 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 therefore, 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 guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is pertinent that we, governments and NGOs, work together and to bear in mind the responsibility attached to this relationship for there is strength in unity. It is only through concerted efforts that we can overcome the challenges facing our countries, regions and our continent at large.
While there has been marked progress in terms of improving democracy and human rights situation in some areas in the continent, a lot more remains to be done in other parts. Human rights violations continue on a day to day basis. Some countries in the spotlight are Niger, Somalia, Guinea Conakry, and Sudan to name but a few.
Africa therefore 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 our dreams.
You would no doubt agree with me that fora of this nature are very crucial in 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. It 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.
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you may all know, the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission and 21st African Human Rights Book Fair is an advocacy tool adopted by the African Centre to promote networking among Human Rights NGOs in Africa.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Networking is one of the machineries that keeps today’s world revolving. NGOs have been recognised globally as the most appropriate machinery for networking. The African community expects you to work together strategically and responsibly in meeting your set objectives. This can be achieved by making good use of the opportunities provided by such an august gathering.
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 and protecting 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.
I understand from the agenda that there will be several panel discussions, among them on the United Nations Resolution 1325, the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, amongst others.
Ladies and gentlemen, it would interest you at this point to know that The Gambia National Assembly passed the Women’s Bill last month which is a landmark instrument in the promotion and protection of the rights of Gambian women and children. This document incorporates most of the provisions particularly relating to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. We remain hopeful that it would be assented to by the President for it become law.
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 commending the African Centre for conscientiously organising such a Forum, since its inception.
Distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
I would wish to encourage you that despite your busy schedules please make time to savour and enjoy the Gambian hospitality.
On this note, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I hereby declare the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 21st African Human Rights Book Fair, officially opened.
I thank you all for your kind attention and wish you fruitful deliberations.