CSOs Call for human rights principles and norms in Africa
African Civil Society Organisations are calling on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to develop Africa-
The NGO Forum which precedes the 49th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was put up by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) and brought together about two hundred African Civil Society Organisations and their partners from the global north and south.
The forum provides a platform for developing and arriving at a collective NGO position on human rights for submission to the African Commission for action. This collective position is arrived at through debate, dialogue, sharing, learning and critical review and analysis of the human situation on the continent from a variety of angles including extractive industries and the environment, prisons and conditions of detention, refugees and asylum seekers, indigenous populations and communities, children, women, sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV/AIDS, persons with disability, and freedom of expression.
In a report submitted by Third World Network-
The reported noted that while freedom of expression, recognition of independence of the judiciary, smooth transfer of power through elections, the presence of vibrant social movement and human rights institutions in some African countries signal progress in the promotion and protection of human rights there are fundamental obstacles to the promotion and protection of human rights especially for peoples and communities affected by extractive projects, in particular mining and oil. It noted some of the fundamental obstacles as:
Political patronage which allows even elected officials to priorities the interest of extractive companies above the interest of their constituents. “Rather than promoting, protecting and defending the rights of their constituents, elected officials sometimes prefer to assist state institutions and extractive companies to violate the rights of citizens”
Delay and costly nature of the justice system creates lack of confidence on the part of ordinary citizens who often do not submit complaints for redress. In some countries, the judicial system is independent only in theory, and in some countries suffers from political manipulation.
· Weak institutions and or democratic institutions which are very undemocratic in their practices and response to concerns and complaints by citizens. The report indicated that a “regulatory institution in the extractive sector is more likely to run to the defence of extractive companies than that of citizens who may give legitimate complain about water pollution, blasting effect, lack of access to land, or unfair treatment”.
· The narrow space for citizens in public policy choices and decision-
For these reasons among others, the report argued, the situation of human rights violation with respect to extractive industries and the environment r4emains poor on the continent. There is evidence of widespread violations of human rights of individual members of communities and the collective rights of communities in areas where extractive industries such as mining and oil projects are located. Reports and complaints of violations of rights and fundamental freedoms of people living in communities affected by extractive projects, in particular mining include; violent, illegal arrest and detention of community members; torture of persons illegally arrested and detained; assault and battery (sometimes involving the use of firearms and other deadly weapons) of youth accused of trespassing on mine property and illegal mining; interference (often violent, involving the use firearms) against citizens engaged in public protests against activities of mining companies; harassment of critics of mining company practices and defenders of communities; pollution of water and atmospheres; displacement from homes, access to land and general livelihoods; failure to pay adequate and fair compensation to people who lost their property to extractive projects; lack of access to extractive resource wealth and benefits; and destruction of cultural and social sites.
It is against the backdrop of these reported cases of human rights violation that the report called on the African Commission to develop principles and norms for the regulation of extractive companies in Africa as well as the accountability of public institutions. It noted that the African Union led continental mining policy reform initiative provides opportunity for the African Commission to deliver on the call and also deepen collaboration with experts on mining in particular. The report concluded by calling for continued mobilisation of critical mass of citizens voices and building the culture of citizenship as a fundamental approach to promoting and defending human rights in Africa.
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