African Civil Society Discusses Human Rights

African Civil Society Discusses Human Rights

EG Justice September 2, 2014
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Socioeconomic issues and respect for the rule of law dominated the African Civil Society Conference, held August 5-6, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The first ever US-Africa Leaders Summit was held August 4-6, 2014, in Washington, DC.  Hosted by the White House, and the first of its kind, the Summit was billed as a forum for strengthening ties “between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing regions.”  Events were focused on investment and business opportunities in Africa.  However, while more than 40 African heads of state and business leaders were invited to attend the Summit, African civil society was shut out of the White House sponsored events.

In response, EG Justice joined more than 100 African civil society leaders for a concurrent African Civil Society Conference, Towards an Action Plan for Democracy.  Rights activists from all over Africa met for two days to discuss and develop recommendations for advancing democracy and respect for human rights in Africa. 

Participants spent the first day of the conference identifying the most relevant and urgent issues within their working group topics, and prepared recommendations, goals, and demands for African governments, civil society, citizens, and the international community.

Civil society leaders then presented their recommendations during a public meeting held at the U.S. House of Representatives the following day.   The public meeting featured remarks by several U.S. Representatives, including Karen Bass (D-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Steny Hoyer (D-MD).  The recommendations presented at the public meeting, as well as feedback from the event, will be incorporated into the forthcoming Action Program for Democracy in Africa.     

Tutu Alicante represented EG Justice on the human rights panel.  Overall, the human rights panel focused on the freedoms of expression and assembly, diversity and tolerance of marginalized groups, and socioeconomic issues.  The panel expressed its concern about the rampant corruption that continues to be prevalent in Africa, and stressed that respect for human rights is a collective responsibility.  Tutu spoke out about the hypocrisy of President Obiang being a guest of honor at African Leaders’ Summit events, and called on the US government to consider human rights issues, freedom, and democracy when dealing with President Obiang.

Some of the recommendations made during the public meeting included the following:

To the US government:

·         The US government should prioritize programs that support socioeconomic needs.

·         The US government should take human rights issues, freedom, and democracy into consideration when dealing with African heads of state, such as President Obiang.

·         The US government should push for term limits for African leaders.

To African governments:

·         Human rights defenders must be protected.

·         African governments should pass laws that uphold the value of human rights defenders. 

·         The AU must assist states in meeting their national and international human rights obligations.

To civil society:

·         Civil society organizations should engage with one another at the regional and international levels.

·         Name and shame perpetrators of corruption as loudly and widely as possible.

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