Jul 25, 2012, 2:42 PM
A three-day forum on the participation of NGOs in the 51st ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the 25th African human rights book fair hosted by the Banjul-based African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) opened on Saturday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The international human rights forum, which brought together more than 100 human rights defenders and activists, as well as African civil society leaders, is discussing the situation of human rights, challenges and strategies with a view to improving democracy and human rights in Africa in readiness for the participation of NGOs in the African Commission session slated for Wednesday 18th April 2012.
The forum is running concurrently with Africa Centre’s 25th Book Fair, with the objective of giving human rights NGOs the opportunity to share their materials with other NGOs, and to promote networking on the continent and beyond.
According to human rights experts, the forum provides an important platform for stakeholders to address challenges, exchange views and explore practical approaches and experiences with the objective of fostering cooperation among and between NGOs, as well as the African Commission in promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.
In his opening remarks, Ms Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation of Human Rights based in France gave an overview of the human rights and democracy situation in Africa.
While calling on state parties to respect and uphold the principles of good governance and respect for human rights, Souhayr said the human rights situation in the continent still remains the same, despite some giant strides made by some governments and NGOs in the field of human rights.
Citing the events during the Arab spring last year, Ms Souhayr opined that power and strength lies in the people.
She spoke of the massive violation of human rights and disrespect for democracy in the continent, adding that these two factors undermine the growth and development of the continent.
Briefly addressing the regional delegates, the attorney general and minister of justice, Lamin Jobarteh, underscored the importance of the forum, noting that matters discussed at the forum will impact positively on the continent.
“I consider this forum very important, as your participation and your input will go a long way in assisting to solve the problems that we have in Africa today,” Jobarteh told the gathering.
Hannah Forster, Executive Director of the ACDHRS reaffirmed NGOs commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
She stated that the presence of hundreds of participants showed their commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights.
She said in the next three days the forum will examine the present human rights situation on the continent, more especially in Angola and Sudan whose state reports will be examined by the African Commission at its 51st session.
Catherine Dupe Atokoi, representative of the African Commission Chairperson, Soynta Gaiga special rep on rights of women in Africa at the African Union and Ms Paulette Oyane-Ondo, representative of the NGO’s forum steering committee all spoke at the ceremony, and reaffirmed their commitment to advancing human rights and democracy in the continent.