Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 23rd African Human Rights Book Fair, 25th – 27th April 2011, Kairaba Beach Hotel, The Gambia
Chair and Commissioners 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 NGOs Forum,
Representatives of Civil Society Organisations,
Resource Persons and Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission and 23rd African Human Rights Book Fair,
Member of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All other protocols 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 keynote address at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission and 23rd African Human Rights Book Fair.
Please allow me to convey, the compliments of the Government and people of The Gambia, to you, representatives of NGOs working in Africa and beyond. I welcome you all to the Smiling Coast of The Gambia and hope you have recovered from the fatigue associated with travelling within our dear continent.
The Government of The Gambia recognises and appreciates the efforts of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, in facilitating this Forum, which will enable NGOs to fully participate in the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As you already know African Commission is mandated to oversee the implementation and interpretation of the rights and duties enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Over the years, NGOs have become indispensable being involved in setting international human rights standards and documenting human rights violations. They have also been involved in advocacy and lobbying initiatives for the effective implementation of the provisions enshrined in human rights instruments signed and ratified by States.
While some countries on the continent register progress in terms of improving democracy and human rights situation, many more continue to stray far away from this trend. Human rights violations continue to take place on a daily basis. I am happy to know that the situation in some of these countries will be discussed by this august gathering.
We in Parliament as elective representatives of the people across Africa, are very appreciative of the work and lofty goals and ideals of the Banjul – based AU organisations.
We are aware that you are yet to provide effective remedy to all those alleged violations taking place across the continent. A host of reasons account for this, notable among which is the need for us to revisit the Protocol establishing the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; thus to enable it move from its current status of advisory, consultative and persuasive mandate, to a more robust, proactive and binding mandate.
Similarly, most of us here in Parliament continue to perceive the Commission as a reluctant union of State actors which now requires the unreserved inclusion and participation of the citizenry, civil society and representatives of the people. I would, therefore like to urge both the African Commission and the African Centre to work together to come up with concrete proposals and recommendations on the way forward.
A Forum of this nature is very important as both Government and NGOs are provided with the opportunity to discuss issues of common interest. It does create the possibility of engaging all pertinent stakeholders in issues affecting their constituents, thereby encouraging greater understanding and support among stakeholders.
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
as you may all know, the Forum is an advocacy tool adopted by the African Centre to promote networking among Human Rights NGOs in Africa and beyond. 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 the main body mandated to promote, protect and interpret the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the main regional human rights instrument on the continent.
Furthermore, I understand from the agenda that there will be series of panel discussions, among them on ‘one hundred years of women’s advocacy’, ‘rights of persons with disabilities in Africa’, ‘Torture’, ‘enforced disappearances’, ‘HIV/AIDS and human rights’, ‘Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’, ‘Elections in Africa’, amongst others. The panel should come up with strategies on how to better the situation of the issues discussed.
The issue of elections is particularly important at this time as some countries in Africa have conducted some form of elections in the first quarter of 2011. A lot more countries will conduct elections in the course of 2011 which could be Presidential, Parliamentary, Legislative, or Referendum. The Gambia is one of such of such countries where Presidential elections are to be conducted in November this year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
it would interest you at this point to know that the National Assembly of The Gambia last month ratified the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) having signed it in October, 2009. The Convention, commonly known as the Kampala Convention is the first legally binding regional instrument in the world to impose the obligation of protection and assistance of IDPs on States.
The Convention applies to displacement caused by a wide range of causes – from conflict and human rights violations to natural or man-made disaster and development projects. It further provides standards for the protection of people from arbitrary displacement, the protection of IDPs while they are displaced and durable solutions to their displacement.
The onus now lies on both State and non-State Actors in The Gambia to move a step further to domestication and subsequent implementation of the Convention for the realisation of the rights of IDPs.
I am sure this Forum, like the previous ones, would open the platform for fruitful deliberations, resulting in the formulation of laudable strategies. This will push the continent a step forward in the process of ensuring the respect to human dignity, human rights and the democratisation process in our respective countries in Africa.
Distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
in conclusion, I do recognise that you have a very tight schedule but I would wish to encourage you to make time to savour and enjoy the hospitality of this small and peaceful country, The Gambia, commonly known as the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’.
I would wish to encourage the African Centre to share with us and other relevant stakeholders the important outcomes of this Forum. Furthermore, I would like to reiterate the commitment of the Government of The Gambia to partner with you and the NGO community in Africa as you strife for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
it is now my singular honour and pleasure to declare open the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 23rd African Human Rights Book Fair officially opened.
I thank you all for your kind attention and wish you fruitful deliberations.