Opening Statement of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI)


    Your Excellency [the Representative] of the President of the Republic of Angola,

    Your Excellency Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights,

    Your Excellencies Diplomats accredited to Angola,

    Honorable members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights,

    Invited guests,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is a great privilege and honor to have the opportunity, on behalf of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (The Network), to address you on this auspicious occasion of the 55th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Allow me to extend my utmost and sincere gratitude to the authorities and the people of the Republic of Angola for their warm hospitality. Considering that sustained engagement and collaboration with Regional Human Rights mechanisms is one of the key priorities of the Network
    under the current strategic plan (2012-2014); this particular session comes at a significant time for the Network since it is preparing to enter into a new strategic planning period. The Network therefore seeks to seize this opportunity to highlight the strides made during the past two years in fostering this engagement and collaboration with the African human rights mechanisms and specifically the ACHPR and to consequently set the tone for the future.

    Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Network’s current Strategic Plan has placed great importance on the necessity to nurture and strengthen partnerships and collaboration between National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). The Network has consequently actively sought to boost this collaboration by first and foremost operationalizing the Affiliate status accorded to NHRIs by the African Commission. It has also sought to promote a mutual understanding of the roles of both NHRIs and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in implementing the recommendations of the latter at the national level. These two key priorities have been tackled through various activities carried out in the context of a collaborative framework between the Network and the African Union - Department of Political Affairs, the African Commission and other key regional and international partners.

    To this end, the Network in 2012 held a Regional workshop for African National Human Rights Institutions aimed at strengthening the institutional capacity of these institutions on the reporting process to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). In 2013 it organised a consultative meeting on the Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Enhancing a Human Rights Culture in Africa. The latter meeting focussed on enhancing the institutional capacity of African NHRIs to monitor and document human rights violations on the continent and the effective implementation of the African Charter and other relevant African Union instruments and
    policies by African states.

    During these meetings NHRIs also candidly discussed the need for setting up an annual NHRIs forum and its relevance as well as the possible input and role by NHRIs in the implementation of the African Union Human Rights Strategy for Africa as well as the need to have guidelines that guide NHRIs reporting to the ACHPR. These outcomes and commitments need to be pushed further in order to have a positive impact on the human rights landscape of the continent.

    Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is worth mentioning that during this period, all the interventions by the Network as it sought to strengthen collaboration of NHRIs with the African regional human rights mechanisms, have been conducted against a backdrop of hitherto lack of awareness by NHRIs on the processes and procedures of these mechanisms and inadequate resourcing and financing of NHRIs by States as well as a stifling political context that render the NHRIs reluctant to objectively discuss their national circumstances at regional and international fora. On the positive side however, during the period prior to and during the implementation of the current Strategic Plan, the continent has witnessed further fruitful engagements and discussions on the meaning and weight of the affiliate status that has been granted to NHRIs by the ACHPR as well as further consultation on the implementation of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa which provides greater opportunity for NHRIs recognition and engagement. The period also witnessed further recognition of the Network as a vehicle through which communications can be made to the ACHPR on pertinent national human rights issues. We have to applaud these positive developments.

    Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    It is these positive aspects that strengthen the Network’s resolve to keep matching forward as it seeks to accomplish its mandate. Even as it prepares to enter into a new strategic planning period, the Network wishes to reiterate the prime importance of the collaboration between NHRIs and the regional human rights mechanisms towards the attainment of a continent characterised by human rights culture and justice for all. It will therefore continue to actively and concretely engage with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and seek its support in ensuring that national human rights institutions exploit their potential and mandate to the fullest at the regional level and that they are part and parcel of the processes and outcomes at the regional level. It is therefore in everyone’s interest that each African State enjoys the benefits of a well established and properly functioning National Human Rights Institution. Where they do not exist, they should be established and where they do exist they should be strengthened.

    At this point Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    I would like to flag a worrying trend in the African region where in some countries, constitutional review processes, and political referenda touching on the Constitution end up weakening the already existing NHRIs instead of strengthening them further. This occurs through either weakening of the mandate of the NHRIs or at times the process leads to the establishment of parallel human rights institutions whose mandate at times duplicates or weakens those of the existing institutions. Ideally a constitutional review process should not reverse on gains made by a
    country but unfortunately this trend is slowly emerging. We therefore urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to join in the calls to African States to actively work towards strengthening NHRIs and jealously protecting the gains made in this regard even as they go through constitution making or review processes.

    Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Network continues to be greatly concerned about the emerging and continuously worrying trends of human rights violations in the continent. It calls for an urgent attention to these matters with the aim of mitigating potential disastrous effects. It continues to flag the unfortunate situations such as increasing threats to human rights defenders, situations where women and children continue to be rendered vulnerable by conflict, situations where electoral malpractice are real and potential triggers to conflict and situations where resource driven conflicts are the order of the day.

    However, there is a relatively new entrant to these grave human rights concerns in the region that is worth flagging, that is, the effects of terrorism as can be seen in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and others. African States are increasingly facing the challenge of balancing between the need for national counter terrorism measures and the requirement to respect for human rights law and international humanitarian law. African States are grappling with this phenomenon and continue to face real and practical challenges in their responsibility to promote and protect human rights while at the same time effectively fighting against terrorism. It should however be emphasised to all African States that ideally, the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law are essential to any counter terrorism strategy. Effective counter terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are therefore not conflicting goals but complementary and mutually reinforcing. The counter terrorism discourse should therefore not be viewed as exclusive to a human rights discourse. The two can and should work hand in hand.

    In conclusion,

    Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Network urges the ACHPR to continue collaborating and supporting the work of the Network and by extension that of African NHRIs especially as it enters into its new Strategic Planning period and more so as the continent continues to grapple with both existing and emerging human rights challenges. This can be done through fostering our relationship and advocating for the establishment of strong independent national human rights institutions in Africa, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

    Thank you for your kind attention.

     

    Links


    Translate page

    Contact Us

    • 31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District
    • Western Region P.O. Box 673 Banjul
    • The Gambia
    • Tel: (220) 441 05 05, 441 05 06
    • Fax: (220) 441 05 04
    • E-mail: au-banjul@africa-union.org

    ACHPR Newsletter

    Subscribe to receive news about activities, sessions and events.
    © 2014 African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights