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Human Rights Council Mechanisms
African Civil Society Forum 2007
March 24, 2007

We are concerned that 27 out of the 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council are not demonstrating the highest standards for the protection of human rights in their countries;

We are concerned that African NGOs have been very little involved in the discussions taking place in the framework of the Human Rights Council institution building process, and in general we stress that the participation of African civil society entities, African human rights defenders and African human right activists should be promoted in the Human Rights Council;

We emphasise that human rights education in schools and in communities, circulation of relevant information and training activities on the UN human rights protection mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, and support to civil society entities should continue to be strengthened to make these mechanisms better understood, including at the grassroots level and in rural areas;

We should also take initiatives to increase its capacity to influence decision making processes related to human rights and to better monitor human rights situations in African countries, through the networking of human rights observatories and organisations, the empowerment of human rights activists in Africa, and the participation in human rights Forums and workshops in Africa, and outside, carried out by both universal and regional human rights bodies. At the same time, feedback should be given to local NGOs to better enable them to contribute.

We stress that national human rights institutions should be in compliance with the Paris Principles to be fully independent, fully inclusive and should not serve the interests of governments; within such conditions, national human rights institutions should play a greater role at both national, regional and international levels for human rights protection and promotion;

We stress the need to build a coherent system of human rights protection between the Human Rights Council and other international mechanisms and regional human rights protection mechanisms as established in African regional institutions; we also stress the need to have a coherent architecture of human rights protection within the Human Rights Council, including through strengthening the interdependence between and the complementarity of the various future mechanisms and procedures of the Human Rights Council;

We appeal African NGOs to be more involved in the work of the African Commission on Human Rights and People and in the UN Human Rights Council.

We express grave concerns about deteriorating human rights situations in several African countries, in particular in Sudan/Darfur, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, as well as on specific human rights trends in the continent, such as the need to protect women and children against trafficking, traditional practices and human rights violations and the need to respect the international declaration for the protection of human rights defenders.

We therefore call African governments to support and work for the establishment of a responsive, result oriented mechanism through the Human Rights Council.

NGO participation
The participation of NGOs should fully respect the provisions of GA Resolution 60/251, following arrangements, including ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31, and practices of the Commission on Human Rights;

Following and strengthening these previous practices, we stress the need to address the unbalanced representation of African NGOs through the system of ECOSOC consultative Status, which has proved to limit African civil society participation and involvement, and to enlarge the possibility for NGOs without ECOSOC consultative status to contribute to the Human Right Council, such as previously done through subsidiary organs of the Commission on Human Rights;

Universal Periodic Review
The Universal Periodic Review should give the HRC the capacity to guarantee the universality of its processes when address human rights situations worldwide. To that end, we stress that the UPR should:

  • While considering and analysing available information, provide recommendations to the country concerned to improve its human rights critical situations; the way information would be analysed should be precised.
  • Ensure effective follow up mechanisms, including through UN country teams;
  • Enjoy the full cooperation of all Member States;
  • Provide a large space for contributions of national and international NGOs, as well as national institutions respecting the Paris Principles, into the various phases of the mechanism;
  • Involve a large role for independent experts in the consideration of available information for each country to be reviewed by the UPR;
  • Reach a good balance between a short periodicity and the need for quality of the UPR outputs.

Special Procedures
We support the need to fully maintain the relevance and the quality of the system of Special Procedures. We regret the decision taken during the 3rd session of the Council to elaborate a code of conduct for Special Procedures. Therefore, we emphasize that:

  • The existing number of special procedures should be maintained, to guarantee the scope and quality of the system, or increased to fill existing protection gaps in the human rights protection system;
  • The possibility to establish country mandates should be preserved when gross systematic violations occur anywhere in the world;
  • The flexibility and the capacity of urgent action of special procedures to occurring human rights violations should be maintained. Therefore, Special Procedures should be in a position to be seized by individual and NGOs even though domestic remedies have not been exhausted;
  • A strong follow up should be provided to the Special Procedures' recommendations and enough financial and human resources should be guaranteed;
  • Special Procedures Mandate Holders should be designated in accordance with their expertise, competence, objectivity and independence;
  • We refuse that the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures limit their independence and their working capacities; at the same time, we support that the Code of Conduct should also address the question of the roles and duties of States in cooperating with Special Procedures Mandate Holders. In any event, we call African Governments to withdraw the current draft Code of Conduct for Special Procedures as it will undermine the independence, urgency, flexibility of Mandate Holders to deal effectively with threats to human rights.

Complaint Procedure
We stress that the impartial, objective, victim oriented and timely nature of the HRC Complaint Procedure should be maintained. The complaint procedure should be more transparent, more accessible to the victims.

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