Sep 6, 2011, 2:03 PM
More than 100 human rights defenders and activists, representatives of civil society organizations, UN and African Union officials are currently gathered in Banjul for the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 27th African Human Rights Book Fair.
The forum, organized by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, ACDHRS, in collaboration with the African Commission, opened on Saturday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The objective of the forum is to foster cooperation among and between NGOs, as well as with the African Commission, with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.
The forum provides an important platform for stakeholders to address challenges; exchange views and explore practical approaches and experiences.
The forum also coincided with the African Centre’s 27th African Human Rights Book Fair, which seeks to give human rights NGOs the opportunity to share their publications, working tools and other materials with other NGOs, and to promote networking on the continent and beyond.
In a statement delivered on his behalf at the opening ceremony by Raymond Sock, Chief Justice of The Gambia, Lamin Jobarteh, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said 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, a clear manifestation of the increase in pluralism and democracy in spite of the fact that some authoritarian governments have either outlawed or restricted NGOs in their operations,’ he stated.
Noting that it is only through concerted efforts that we can overcome the challenges facing our countries, regions and our continent at large, Jobarteh called for working together among governments and NGO, bearing in mind the heavy responsibility the people attached to this relationship.
According to him, while there has been marked progress in improving the democracy and human rights situation in some areas in the continent, a lot more remains to be done in other parts of the continent as gross human rights violations continue on a day-to-day basis.
Africa, he added, therefore has a long way to go in relation to its development and human rights record.
Catherine Dupe Atoki, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, said the forum is convening at a time when the African Union, former OAU, is preparing to celebrate its golden jubilee.
According to her, half of a century of the existence of any organization is indeed worth celebrating and affords them an opportunity to assess the distance travelled as a continent, and the place of human rights promotion and protection in this journey.
She stated that the Commission in recognizing the importance of NGOs and their vital roles in the promotion and protection of human rights in the continent, provided a space by granting observer status to NGOs.
‘Today, Africa has a human rights system comprising of numerous instruments and institutions with a human rights mandate, the implementation of which cannot be effectively actualized without the active, consistent support and collaboration of NGOs.
However, she added, despite the collaborative efforts, the African continent still continues to be plagued with serious and widespread human rights violations and armed conflicts, as well as social and political unrest that has continued unabated, leading to appalling human rights abuses in many parts of the continent.