Declaration of the 1st Joint Forum of the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights




WHEREAS the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) convened the inaugural Joint Forum of the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and People’ Rights.

The following were the objectives of the Forum:

i.To reflect on the state of human rights on the continent, measure the gains, identify the key challenges, and commonly identify how the Commission may better contribute to human rights protection and promotion on the continent, particularly within the context of the African Union’s human rights and governance agenda.
ii.To review and reflect on the strides made by the Commission in human rights advocacy, recognizing achievements and understanding the impediments faced by its special mechanisms and possible strategies for their enhanced effectiveness.
iii.To critically assess the state of ratification and enforcement of human rights instruments, identifying gaps and catalysing action for enhanced protection and promotion of human rights.
iv.To foster an exchange of experiences, promoting partnerships that bridge the gap between aspirations and realities on the ground.

The interactive Forum focused on the following thematic issues:

i.The status of the ratification of human rights instruments.
ii.Advancing the protection and promotion of human and peoples’ rights within the AU framework.
iii.Interactive discussions on the regional instruments, soft laws and jurisprudence of the Commission and their impact.

WHEREAS there were 119 participants in the Joint Forum including: 11 Commissioners, 23 representatives from States Parties, 11 AU Organs, Department and Specialized Institutions, 4 representatives of international organizations, 14 representatives from National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), 16 representatives from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), 9 from Academia, in addition to 31 staff members from the Commission’s Secretariat.

WHEREAS the Forum’s session discussions included the following: an introduction to the Commission and its special mechanisms; mapping the progress and the ratification and implementation of regional human rights instruments; sharing of experiences on ratification by States Parties; discussions on the impact and challenges of regional instruments, soft laws and jurisprudence of the Commission; its reporting procedure and guidelines for promoting State reporting in compliance with human rights instruments; in addition to table talk discussions to enhance an interactive dialogue among the Forum participants.

WHEREAS the following areas of concern were noted by the Participants:

 The slow rate of ratification of human rights instruments.
 Gaps in implementation and enforcement of ratified instruments for various reasons, such as cultural norms and barriers, political resistance, limited resources, and lack of awareness or understanding.
 Reservations made on some instruments which impede the full realization of enshrined human rights. 
 Lack of sensitization of the citizens on the human rights instruments which the State intend to ratify, and the issues which will be addressed therein.
 Knowledge gap among Government officials on the instruments which have been adopted by their State.
 Lack of finalization and adoption of some reports on serious and massive human rights violations by the Commission.
 Failure by human rights institutions to denounce human rights violations.
 Misconceptions on the obligations of States arising from human rights instruments.
 Withdrawal of declarations allowing individuals and Non-Governmental Organizations direct access to African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Court).
 Persistent armed conflicts in a number of countries and the negative effects on populations including, among others, internal displacement.
 Shrinking civic space and increasing repression of human rights activists.
 Lack of knowledge of the Commission’s soft laws by law enforcement officials and lawyers at the national level.
 The contentious status of soft laws in international law.
 Limited visibility and utilization of regional instruments and soft law at the national level.
 Limited human, material, and financial resources to ensure effective monitoring and follow-up at the Commission’s Secretariat.
 Low rate of States complying with reporting obligations.
 Linguistic and cultural obstacles to effective citizen participation.
 The limited access to the internet on the continent, outside urban areas and by vulnerable groups.
 Social media polarization and the rise of hate speech, disinformation etc.
 The rise in the challenge of data protection.
 The lack of criteria for rejection of applications for Observer Status.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Forum makes the following recommendations to the following stakeholders:


State Parties should:

i.Ensure universal ratification and domestication of all human rights instruments, in particular the Protocols to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, on the Rights of Older Persons, on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on the Rights of Citizens to Social Protection and Social Security, and the Protocol relating to specific aspects of the right to nationality and the eradication of statelessness.
ii.Establish national mechanisms such as Inter-Ministerial mechanisms, to advocate for ratification and implementation of human rights instruments at the national level.
iii.Ensure that National Action Plans on human rights include ratification and implementation of human rights instruments. 
iv.Ensure consistent reporting to the Commission, highlighting any challenges on ratification and implementation. 
v.Set up mechanisms which holistically monitor implementation of recommendations issues by the different human rights mechanisms.
vi.Include education on regional instruments and soft law in school curricula.
vii.Incorporate the principles from relevant soft law documents into binding laws.
viii.Establish information centers accessible to citizens, where relevant regional instruments and soft laws can be accessed in hard and soft copy.
ix.Develop toolkits on soft law documents, to enhance their use.
x.Sensitize law students, lawyers, and judges on the regional instruments as well as soft laws developed by regional human rights mechanisms.
xi.Ensure adequate human and financial resourcing of the Commission’s special mechanisms.
xii.Integrate a human rights-based approach, centred on the principles of equality, non-discrimination and participation, into all State policies, plans and programmes, to ensure that human rights are at the heart of development.
xiii.Ensure protection of civic space, which provides opportunities for citizens engagement, given that this is a key pillar of democracy. 
xiv.Ensure that Periodic Reports include contributions from NHRIs and CSOs.


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should:

i.Ensure effective implementation of the complementarity with the African Court which will contribute to growing human rights jurisprudence and enhance human rights and the rule of law in Africa.
ii.Engage with the African Court and African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on joint sensitization seminars on ratification of human rights instruments. 
iii.Enhance synergies with other AU human rights organs which monitor implementation of human rights instruments to reduce the reporting burdens on States Parties.
iv.Enhance engagement with the youth, women, and other vulnerable groups.
v.Enhance the use and investment in technology, especially in the current digital era in order to enhance the Commission’s protection mandate.
vi.Initiate engagement with the private sector, including extractive industries to address the devastating conflicts fuelled by their activities on the continent.
vii.Focus on independent review of human rights and democracy in the States Parties, to ensure that the targets under Agenda 2063 are met.
viii.Monitor and assist States in the implementation of regional instruments and soft law.
ix.Disseminate regional instruments and soft laws among domestic actors including law enforcement officials and lawyers.
x.Strengthen its network with national stakeholders through collaboration with both State and non-state actors, including relevant Ministries and Parliamentary Committees, the Judiciary, NHRIs, OSC, academic institutions, and the Media.
xi.Prepare a compendium of soft law instruments, to increase their accessibility.
xii.Develop abridged versions of soft law documents, which are more reader friendly.
xiii.Ensure consistent dissemination of the regional instruments and soft law, during commemoration of international and regional human rights days. 
xiv.Assist in the development of curriculum at the State level, to ensure that human rights principles are incorporated in education programs.
xv.Enhance citizens’ engagement in holding States accountable for human rights obligations.
xvi.Facilitate direct citizen engagement, with a voice, in the public Sessions of the Commission.

C.AU Organs/departments with a human rights’ mandate

i.Encourage ratification and implementation of human rights instruments.
ii.Ensure synergy in disseminating regional human rights instruments between all Organs and departments.


National Human Rights Institutions should:

i.Work with the Commission to disseminate regional instruments and its soft law.
ii.Mainstream dissemination of the Commission’s soft laws in their work.
iii.Conduct initiatives with the Commission in order to enhance synergies on the promotion and protection of human rights.  
iv.Ensure decentralization of the NHRIs offices and services, to enhance citizens access. 
v.Consistently submit shadow reports on States Parties Periodic Reports.
vi.Mentor individuals and communities who wish to participate directly, with a voice, in the public Sessions of the Commission.


Civil Society Organisations should:

i.Submit cases of human rights violations to the Commission on behalf of the aggrieved citizens.
ii.Ensure that CSOs which advocate for the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, old persons and persons with disabilities among others, apply for observer status with the Commission, to enhance their access to the Commission.  
iii.Advocate for compliance by States of their obligations under human rights instruments.
iv.Work with States in the conception and implementation of assistance programmes to vulnerable groups.
v.Disseminate regional instruments and soft laws among grassroot organisations and the populace.
vi.Integrate regional instruments and soft laws in advocacy plans and domestic litigation.
vii.Become champions of regional instruments and soft law dissemination at the local level.
viii.Consistently submit shadow reports on States Parties Periodic Reports, ensuring the participation of citizens in the development of the reports.
ix.Mentor individuals and communities who wish to participate directly, with a voice, in the public Sessions of the Commission.


International partners should:

i.Provide States Parties with adequate support for the implementation and dissemination of regional human rights instruments.
ii.Assist States Parties to translate regional instrument and soft law into the local languages spoken in the various States Parties.
iii.Partner with the African Governance Architecture Platform members to ensure digital transformation of their work, as a means to enhance citizen engagement.


i.Draw inspiration from the case law of the African human rights mechanisms.
ii.Utilize the regional instruments and soft law of the regional human rights bodies, particularly lawyers.


i.Develop a compendium of jurisprudence from the regional human rights bodies.
ii.Conduct research on key areas on enhancing citizens engagement at all levels.  

Done in Dakar, Senegal, on 27 April 2024

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