African states pledge to support strengthening of Human Rights Institutions

NANHRIA group photo of participants during the September 6, 2017 Maendeleo Policy Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

African states have committed to working with other partners in strengthening National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to effectively provide a human rights-based approach to the continental and global development agendas.

In a Maendeleo Policy Forum organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), African Union Commission (AUC) Department of Political Affairs and the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), the states – through the Permanent Representatives’ Committee – committed to facilitate respective NHRIs to be effective in discharging their mandate of protecting and promoting human rights at national level.

The forum, held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, was attended by PRC to the African Union, representatives of the African Union Commission (AUC), representative of NHRIs, civil society organisations, research and academia and development partners. The theme of the forum was “strengthening Africa’s human rights-based approach to development: the nexus between strong human rights institutions and development at national level”.

The Policy Forum is an implementation of recommendations of the Study on the State of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Africa, conducted by NANHRI and UNDP in 2014, which are intended to shape and guide policy options for NHRIs, government as well as regional networks and development partners with regard to the strengthening of NHRIs.

The UNDP RSCA Acting Director Mr Dominique Kabeya underscored the need to recognize the role played by national human rights institutions in providing a deep understanding of how the local and the global perspectives have been aligned within the national context.

The 2016 report on the Study on the state of National Human Rights Institutions in Africa gave a range of recommendations on what NHRIs, governments, and regional networks and development partners can do to make NHRIs effective. The recommendations include independence, financial support, oversight, capacity, stakeholder engagement, and rights based approach to development. States committed to facilitate the institutions, which also committed to build staff capacity while working with other partners like NANHRI.

The report further recommended that;

  • States should pursue strong legal frameworks and give sufficient funds to allow for the NHRIs to work independently.
  • NHRIs should establish oversight mechanisms in addition to giving priority in allocation of funds to projects.
  • The institutions should also seek alternative sources of funds to supplement their projects, but still remain accountable to stakeholders.
  • In giving proper insights into reports, the NHRIs must work with CSOs to avoid replication of recommendations, so as to give new action plans.
  • Regional networks like NANHRI have to continually work with other partners to boost the capacity of the NHRIs through capacity building programmes as well as increase its engagement with the AUC and the PRC members.

The Policy Forum featured panel discussions consisting of representatives of each of these organizations, providing diverse perspectives and set pace for discussion into the various issues affecting NHRIs effectiveness and solutions to the challenges. These discussions aimed at initiating dialogue and initiatives in the respective AU member states on addressing the challenges facing the NHRIs, underscored the crucial role played by the NHRIs in development and discussed some of the challenges they grapple with. At the end, the Forum identified specific actions required to be undertaken by the various actors towards enhancing the effectiveness of the NHRIs.

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