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The Department of political affairs met with the AU development partner group on project 2016 on human rights and the African governance architecture

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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The Department of Political Affairs, under the leadership of H.E. Dr. Aisha Laraba Abullahi, had a half-day consultative meeting with the African Union Development Partner's Group on the African Union Project 2016 on Human Rights (with special focus on the rights of women) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA). The meeting brought together the Ambassadors and the High Commissioners of the United States of America, few Asian countries and virtually all the European countries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia together. The meeting was chaired by the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs and the Ambassadors of Turkey and Sweden.

In her remarks, the Commissioner for Political Affairs thanked the Development Partners' Group for their continued support to the work of the Department of Political Affairs on Human Rights and Transitional Justice. According to her, the support has contributed significantly to the promotion and protection of Human and Peoples' Rights in all the AU Member States; particularly on the African Human Rights System. Dr. Abdullahi indicated that the AU policy instruments and mechanisms on human rights have supported the advancement of human rights promotion and protection and they have also led to the creation of strategic measures for accelerating the attainment of respect for human rights, gender equality, and women's empowerment in Africa.

Dr. Abdullahi made reference to the AU Assembly Declaration of 2016 as "the African Year of Human Rights with Special Focus on the Rights of Women”. This Declaration, she said is what has transformed into the African Union Project 2016. The Project, according to her, is meant to among other things provide opportunities for the entire continent to take stock of its human rights achievements, opportunities and challenges on the continent in general, and the rights of women in particular. She further informed the participants that the celebration of 2016 as human rights year will seek to, among other things, enhance public awareness on the African human rights system- including the African Union and the RECs human rights instruments and mechanisms; assess the ratification and implementation of the human rights instruments, in particular, the Maputo Protocol, and the progress made in advancing the rights of women since the adoption of the Protocol.

Dr. Matlosa Khabele, the Director for Political Affairs in his presentation on the mandate of the Department of Political Affairs, indicated that the Department has the following five domains of intervention, namely, Governance, Human Rights and Transitional Justice, Democracy and Election, Constitutionalism and the Rule of law, and Humanitarian Affairs. He also stated that the Secretariat of the African Union Governance Architecture and its Platform assists the Department and other AU Organs with mandates on governance in coordinating their interventions on democracy and human rights in Africa.

Dr. Matlosa further informed the participants that the mandate of the Department can be summed up in these words “Conflict Prevention”. He said the goal of the Department is to transform the African political environment into a democratic and sustainable development one with capacity to prevent all manners of conflicts and to accelerate the requisite integration of the continent. To this end, the Department plays a prominent role in promoting, facilitating, coordinating and encouraging democratic principles and the rule of law, respect of Human Rights, the participation of the civil society in the development process of the continent, and the achievement of durable solutions for addressing humanitarian crisis.

Following the above presentations, Dr. George Mukundi, the Head of the AGA Secretariat indicated that the AGA is the continental institutional framework aimed at connecting, empowering and building capacities of the African People in strengthening governance and consolidating democracy in Africa. He further added that the Decision of the AU Summit established the African Governance Architecture and its Platform to among other things support Member States in their efforts to promote democratic governance, constitutionalism and rule of law, credible elections and human rights in Member States. According to him, the Platform presents a framework through which many of the stakeholders on governance, democracy and human rights will influence the process of facilitating accession to and ratification of AU instruments. The AGA Platform will also facilitate domestication, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the AU norms on shared values on democracy, human rights and governance. In conclusion he highlighted the programmes of the AGA and its achievements and challenges.

On his part, Mr. Ikubaje John of the Human Rights and Transitional Justice Cluster of the AGA Cluster in his presentation on the African Union Project 2016 argues that the idea of declaring the year as that of Human Rights emanated from the core AU organs with mandates on human rights, while the second leg of the theme-“Special Focus on the Rights of Women” came from the Government of the Republic of Rwanda. He highlighted and provided a detailed explanation on the planned activities of the Project. He also classified the Project interventions into the following three sections, namely Knowledge Management and Generation on Human Rights in Africa; Advocacy and Awareness creation on Human rights and African Human Rights System; and Dialogue among the Human Rights Stakeholders in Africa.

In conclusion, he informed the participants that one of the expected outcomes of the Project is a Ten Years Action Plan on Human Rights in Africa. He said this Decade Action Plan on Human Rights will be finalized at the African Union 2016 High Level Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights. The theme of the Dialogue, according to him will focus on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Africa. The Dialogue will be held in Kigali, Rwanda in November 2016 and the Human Rights Decade Action Plan for Africa will thereafter be presented to the African Union Policy making organs for adoption at the African Union Summit in January 2017.

Following these presentations, participants asked several questions, made helpful comments and responses were provided by the Department of Political Affairs to their queries. The two sides concluded the meeting by welcoming the declaration of 2016 as the year of human rights in Africa with special focus on the rights of women. The Partners' Group committed itself to support the Secretariat of the Project 2016 -Department of Political Affairs, financially and technically to implement Project 2016 and its activities, in particular, the establishment of the Pan African Institute for Human Rights; deployment of Human Rights Observers; the development of a policy framework for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; in addition to organizing a High-Level Dialogue on the promotion and protection of Human Rights in November 2016.