Mohamed Bechir Khalfallah

Activities as Commission Vice-chairperson


    November 2013 – April 2014

    By

    Honourable Commissioner Mohamed Béchir Khalfallah

    Vice-Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

    Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa

     

    55th Ordinary Session

    Luanda, 28 April to 12 May 2014

     

     

     

     

    Introduction

    1.      This report is prepared in accordance with Rule 72 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission). It is divided into two main parts.

    2.      It provides an update on the implementation of activities undertaken in my capacity as Commissioner and Vice-Chairperson of the Commission, and also takes stock of activities conducted in my capacity as Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa (ECOSOC). The report concludes with a set of recommendations.

    A.    Activities undertaken in my capacity as Commissioner and Vice-Chairperson of the Commission

    Ø Participation in the commemoration of the International Conference on 10 and 11 December in Algiers on the theme “Algeria: strengthening migratory flows on both sides of the Mediterranean''

    3.      The conference was organised to show solidarity with the several Africans who died as a result of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean close to Europe, in particular the 2013 Lampedusa tragedy which led to the death of hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers. On that occasion, Italy ordered three days of mourning while several African countries remained quiet.  

     

     

    Ø Participation in Algiers from 13 to 16 December 2013 at the 4th international conference on “Peoples’ right to resistance: Case of the Sahrawi people”

     

    4.      The Conference enabled us to renew our solidarity with the Sahrawi people and to denounce the violence and arbitrary arrest suffered by the people of SADR, especially those living in territories administered by Morocco. We also denounced trials in courts without appeal.

     

    Ø Participation at the Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held from 21 to 31 January 2014 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)

    5.      I participated in the various meetings of the delegation of the Commission during the 22nd Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa from 21 to 31 January 2014. The Commission delegation included the Chairperson of the Commission, Honourable Commissioner Kayitesi Zainabo Sylvie. We attended the 27th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC) from 21 to 22 January 2014, the 24th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council from 27 to 28 January 2014, and the 22nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government from 30 to 31 January 2014. We also met with the 20 European diplomatic representations to the AU with whom we discussed various issues in the area of cooperation between the African Commission and the EU. During this meeting, and at our request, it was accepted in principle to organize joint visits to Morocco-administered Western Sahara.

     

    6.      Furthermore, on behalf of the Chairperson of the Commission, I met with a delegation of representatives of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to discuss the situation of human rights in Kenya, Mali, CAR and North Africa. The International Federation for Human Right raised with us some of their concerns that will serve us in carrying out our mandate.

     

    7.      The Chairperson of the Commission will certainly present a more detailed report on the 16 meetings, sessions and other activities in which Bureau members of the Commission, in addition to meetings of AU organs, participated. The Secretary to the Commission also met with African Union officials to improve our relationship with the headquarters of our continental organization.

     

    Ø Participation in the African Union mission to the Central African Republic, 17 – 20 February 2014

    8.      This mission to the Central African Republic was organized subsequent to the establishment of a transitional government and the election of Her Excellency Ms Catherine Samba-Panza as interim President. The mission was led by Her Excellency the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Honourable Commissioner Aisha L. Abdullahi, with the participation of the Chairperson of the Commission, Honourable Commissioner Kayitesi Zainabo Sylvie.

    9.      The purpose of the mission was to initiate dialogue with transitional authorities on the implementation of commitments made for an enhanced management of the transitional period and help develop a work plan for implementing recommendations adopted at the Libreville Consultations on an AU intervention policy in the CAR organized by the Department of Political Affairs from 17 to 19 September 2013. The delegation also worked on developing emergency measures for implementation during the transitional period as well as appropriate actions for addressing the numerous challenges posed by the humanitarian crisis, problems of democratic governance and issues relating to human rights violations prevailing for decades in the Central African Republic.

    10. Issues such as the organization of democratic, transparent and inclusive elections, the adoption of a new Constitution, and restoring peace, security and social cohesion were also discussed. In this regard, meetings were held with various stakeholders including the Interim President, Prime Minister and President of the National Transitional Council, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, civil society stakeholders and representatives of religious communities.

    11. In light of the above and considering the opinions of stakeholders as well as the near-total collapse of government institutions, we believe that the following priorities should be set so as to prevent this country from spiralling down the path of a full-scale ethnic war, which would be a human disaster:

    -          Re-establishing the rule of law;

    -          Establishing a national institution to promote “dialogue, reconciliation and peace” amongst the people of Central African Republic ;

    -          Conducting investigations to identify perpetrators of crime and serious violations and bring them to justice.

    Ø Participation at the 15th Extraordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 7—14 March 2014

     

    12. In accordance with Rule 26 of its Rules of Procedure, the Commission held its 15th Extraordinary Session from 7 to 14 March in Banjul, The Gambia. I co-chaired and participated in activities of the 15th Extraordinary Session. Furthermore, in my capacity as Commissioner in charge of human rights promotion and protection in the Central African Republic, I presented for adoption Resolution ACHPR/Res. 266 (EXT.OS/XV) 2014 on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.

    13. The Commission sent a request to the authorities of the Central African Republic for the conduct of a “fact-finding mission” in September 2014. We continue to closely monitor the critical situation prevailing in the CAR where over a million people have already fled the country.

    Ø Consultative meeting for the capacity-building of ACHPR members, GIZ, 13-14 March 2014

     

    14. As part of its support to the Commission, GIZ organized from 13 to 14 March 2014 a meeting to exchange with Commission members on the various aspects of the Commission’s Communications Procedure. Discussions were coordinated by a group of experts who facilitated the exchange of experiences and best practices with Inter-American and European systems regarding jurisdiction, admissibility and provisional measures. Difficulties and shortcomings in implementing the Commission’s Rules of Procedure were also discussed.

     

    B.     Activities undertaken in my capacity as Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural rights in Africa

    Ø Regional workshop on “the right to education for all”, 25 – 29 November 2013, Algiers

    15. The Working Group organized a regional workshop on the right to Education for All from 25 to 29 November 2013 in Algiers (Algeria). I took part in this workshop, which was also attended by His Excellency Kishore SINGH, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Honourable Commissioner Maya Sahli Fadel, Mr. Armand Tanoh representing the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (Pretoria) and a representative of the Commission’s Secretariat.

    16. The workshop was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of National Education, Non-Governmental Organizations and trade unions active in the education sector in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Mauritania, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Chad and Tunisia as well as representatives of UNICEF, UNDP and other intergovernmental organizations.

    17. The workshop was conducted in two parts. During the first stage, held on 25 and 26 November 2013, Working Group members familiarized themselves with the Algerian education system. In this regard, they held working sessions with Algerian authorities in charge of the education sector. These included His Excellency the Minister of National Education, His Excellency the Minister in charge of Professional and Vocational Training, and His Excellency the Minister of Religious Affairs and Wakfs. In addition, meetings were held with officials of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Sciences Politiques (National school for political science), the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Teacher training college), the Ecole Coranique Ahmed Sahnoun (Koranic school) and the National agency in charge of school publications.

    18. The second part of the workshop focused on the exchange of experiences between education systems of participating countries. For three days, participants discussed matters relating to economic, social and cultural rights, and specifically the right to education. Various themes, in particular the obligations of States regarding the right to education as well as the right to education in the African human rights system, were discussed. Furthermore, representatives of the nine participating States made presentations on their respective education systems highlighting achievements as well as persistent challenges. Participants were hence able to formulate recommendations (19 recommendations).

    19. I would like to reiterate my gratitude to the Algerian authorities for facilitating the organization of this regional workshop.

    Ø Working Group meeting of 5 March 2014 in Banjul, The Gambia

    20. The Working Group on economic, social and cultural rights in Africa met on 5 March 2014 in Banjul, The Gambia, on the sidelines of the 15th Extraordinary Session of the Commission. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss and develop strategies to be implemented by the Working Group for the continued promotion of economic, social and cultural rights in Africa.

    21. Various themes were discussed. The Group conducted a review of lessons learned during the regional workshop on education for all organized from 25 to 29 November 2013 in Algiers (Algeria). The Group deems it necessary to publish the report of this workshop.

    22. The Working Group also reflected on the “African Year of Human and Peoples’ Rights, particularly Women’s Rights” to be celebrated in 2016. In this regard, it plans to lend more clarity and meaning to ECOSOC rights, the poor relation in human rights. To this effect, the Working Group shall draw attention to the political implications of these rights and ensure they are included on the agenda of the African Union and the Assembly of Heads of State and Government. Furthermore, the organization of several activities is planned for 2016.

    23. Discussions were then geared towards the organization of the seminar on the “Right to education post-2015” in collaboration with His Excellency Singh, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education. The Working Group also decided on actions to be undertaken to facilitate collaboration with partners and obtain financial support for the conduct of its activities.

    Ø Meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, 22 April 2014

    24. A meeting was held on 22 April 2014 in Paris with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss and plan the continental conference on the “Right to education post-2015” to be jointly organized.  A concept note is currently being prepared, and a programme of activities and an action plan have been adopted by the Working Group.

    Ø Consultation between UN Special Procedures Mandate-Holders and African Commission Special Mechanisms, 27 April 2014

    25. The meeting was held in Luanda, Angola, on the margins of the 55th Ordinary Session of the Commission. The objective of the meeting was to assess the progress made in the past two years by the two institutions in implementing the Addis Ababa roadmap. Participants noted the progress made, identified the challenges as well as the way forward. 

     

    Conclusion

     

    In view of the above, it is clear that AU Member States are yet to give ECOSOC rights the attention they deserve. It is important to note that human rights are indivisible and the development of our continent can only be achieved if considerable effort and substantial funds are focused on ECOSOC rights. The Working Group continues to be actively engaged in raising the awareness of African States for the effective realization of ECOSOC rights in all our countries.

     

    Before I conclude, allow me to emphasise that our continent is endowed with wealth in terms of precious raw materials. However, one out of two Africans lives in extreme poverty (less than 1.25 dollars). In 2003, it was one out of three Africans. Today, malaria kills one African every minute, and this is a challenge for the continent. I am convinced that our continent has the resources to improve the general situation of Africans. This can be done by ensuring good governance, instituting pluralistic democracy and combatting illicit capital flight.

     

    Our governments have the right to demand that multinationals pay the right price for our raw materials, given that we cannot develop our countries without the necessary financial resources, as well as provide security and social justice to our people.

     

    We once again call on all stakeholders to address the challenges of our time and to give hope to the youth.

     

    In order to provide an effective response, the Working Group makes the following recommendations:

    1.      To the African Union

    - Encourage Member States to comply with regional instruments relating to economic, social and cultural rights.

    - Include the question of ECOSOC rights on the list of priority objectives to be attained.

    - Involve the Working Group in key AU initiatives relating to economic, social and cultural rights.

    2.      To Member States

    - Take into account the State Party Reporting Guidelines for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter (Tunis Guidelines) when preparing periodic reports;

    - Build on these Principles and Guidelines for the adoption of their respective development plans;

    - Ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 2008 and became effective since May 2013.

    3.      To partners and civil society organizations

    - Support the mandate of the Working Group, in particular by promoting and supporting it in implementing its activities.

    - Increase opportunities for collaboration with the Working Group.

    - Incorporate issues relating to ECOSOC rights in Africa.

     

     

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