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Joint Press Conference on Project 2016: Commissioner Aisha Laraba Abdullahi urges Journalists to increase their Advocacy on Human Rights and Agenda 2063

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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The African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi together with representatives from AU Organs and Institutions dealing with human rights issues, jointly addressed the press on the African Year of Human Rights with Special Focus on the Rights of Women. The press briefing took place on 30 January 2016 at the margin of the 26th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The other panelists included Hon. Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights; Hon. Augustino Stephen Lawrence Ramadhani, president of the African Court on Human and Peolpe's Right; Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, president of the Pan African Parliament; Mr. Joseph Chelingi, presiding officer of the AU ECOSOCC; Mr. Ivan Simonovic, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights; Mrs. Mawaha Kaba Wheeler, Director of Women and Gender Development of the AU Commission;Representatives of the of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACEWRC); the African Union Advisory Board Against Corruption; and African Union Commission on International Law.

Commissioner Abdullahi responded to the following questions asked by the journalists in relation to the AU Project 2016 during press the conference:

Q.1.What is Project 2016 in a nut-shell?

Year 2015 was declared the Year of Women's Empowerment towards Agenda 2063; Year 2016 has been declared by the AU Policy Organs as the Year of Human Rights with special focus on the rights of women; This demonstrates AU commitment to entrenching a culture of human rights in Africa; It is a vivid illustration of African leaders' commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment; Project 2016 entails all the activities earmarked for the celebration of the year 2016 as the African Year of Human Rights with special focus on the rights of women; These activities are a collective responsibility of all the AU Organs and Institutions with the human rights mandate including (a) the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights; (b) the African Court on Human and People's Rights; (c) the African Union Commission (through the Department of Political Affairs); (d) The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; (e) the Economic, Social and Cultural Council and (f) the Pan-African Parliament etc. The declaration of 2016 as the Africa Year of Human Rights provides an opportunity to consolidate the gains already made since independence in the 1960s towards inculcating a human rights culture on the continent; This theme of the year ( Project 2016), has just been officially launched by Assembly of Heads of State and Government today on 30th January 2016

Q.2. Why did the African Union choose the theme “African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”? What is the motivation for choosing this theme? What is the main rationale?

The declaration of 2016 as the Year of Human Rights is inspired by the 1981 African Charter on Human and People's Rights (which subsequently gave birth to the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and the African Court on Human and People's Rights); It is also in pursuance of article 4(m) of the 2000 Constitutive Act of the AU which commits Member States to “respect democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance”; It is also in furtherance of Agenda 2063 especially one of its seven aspirations namely: “An Africa of Good Governance, Democracy, Respect for Human Rights, Justice and the Rule of law”. It is in line with the provisions of the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women (The Maputo Protocol) and the 2004 Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa; Human rights in general, and the rights of women in particular, play a critical role within the African Union vision of “a united, integrated and prosperous Africa driven by its citizens and playing its rightful role as a dynamic force within the international arena”; African leaders have endorsed human rights and women's rights in bilateral and multilateral engagements with other nations; Experience has shown that all the civil wars, violent conflicts and all sorts of political instability on the continent today (and indeed across the world) are a result of violations or perceived violations of human rights or perpetration of injustice in one way or the other; While, we aim to address all the human rights that our people should enjoy, such as civil liberties and political rights, we aim to put more spotlight on socio-economic and cultural rights such as the right to food, water, shelter, clothing, health, education, peace etc. In other words, while Africa pursues civil liberties and political rights, the right to development and peace are fundamental for our continent.

Q.3. Why 2016, what is the significance of the chosen theme in the African Human Rights arena?

2016 marks the 35thAnniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights; It is the 30thAnniversary of the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; It is the 29thAnniversary of the operationalization of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (in 2016 the Commission will be just one year shy of its 30th anniversary) It is the 10thAnniversary of the operationalization of the African Court on Human and People's Rights. By 2016, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) will be 13 years old.

Q.4. What are the expected outcomes of the African Union Project 2016? How are ordinary Africans going to benefit from the declared year theme?

At the end of the celebrations:

The African populations will be sensitized on human rights issues for a better understanding of national, regional and major international human rights mechanisms; There will be an increased awareness, promotion and protection of the rights of women in line with the 2003 Maputo Protocol; Enhanced awareness of the African human rights system, including in particular, the human rights mechanisms established at national and continental levels; Increased domestication and implementation of regional and major international human rights instruments at the national level; Member States are sensitized of the need to ratify, domesticate and implement the Protocol establishing the Court and the Declaration; the Maputo Protocol; the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; the Protocol Establishing the Pan-African Parliament etc. General improvement in the human rights situation in Africa; Increased involvement of states, civil society and individuals in the promotion and protection of human rights; renewed commitment by States to comply with their human rights obligations and adhere to the decisions taken by the different Organs of the African Union system; Effective integration of human rights in the operations of the African Union.

Q.5.What activities have been planned throughout the year in relation to Project 2016?

There are 15 activities planned to mark 2016 grouped into 3 clusters as follows:

Knowledge management (5 activities)

Produce a commemorative handbook on Human Rights (Women's Rights) in Africa; Produce a Documentary on human rights in Africa Produce Commemorative Journal on women's rights in Africa; Establish the Pan African Human Rights Institute (PAHRI); Build the African Union Human Rights Memorial (AUHRM).

Advocacy & Outreach (8 activities)

Undertake series of Lectures and Academic Competitions such as quiz, essay, video and picture/photo in selected tertiary institutions in Africa on human rights with special focus on women's rights; Create public awareness about Project 2016 through traditional and new Media; Conduct a continental Moot Court Competition for Law Students; Organize a Musical Concert on the margins of a Continental Conference; Establishment of an Annual Human Rights Awards; Organise an all-female Exhibition Football Match; Facilitate the appointment of Goodwill Ambassadors and Special Envoys on Human Rights; Establish a continental human rights hotline.

Multi-sectoral Dialogue (2 Activities)

Convene a continental high-level dialogue on promotion and protection of Human Rights in Africa. AU Summit on Human Rights in Africa with Special Focus on the Rights of Women, Kigali, Rwanda.

To undertake all these activities, we require about USD2.2 Million These funding will be provided by the Member States of the AU (10%) and development partners (90%).

Q.6 Does it all end in 2016? What are the African Union's plans for Human Rights in Africa beyond 2016?

Project 2016 is not a once-off event; It is a process that will continue as part of the short-term goals of the new Strategic Plan of the AUC (2018-2021); medium-term goal of Agenda 2030 namely the Sustainable Development Goals and the long-term vision of the Africa Agenda 2063; The Continental Conference on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Africa scheduled to take place in November 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda is expected to adopt a 10-Year Action Plan on the promotion and protection of Human Rights on the Continent; This 10-year action plan will be submitted to the AU Summit in January 2017 for adoption, and will form part of the new Roadmap for Human Rights in Africa; This 10-year Action Plan will be aligned to the first 10-year Action Plan of Agenda 2063.