Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) welcomes and deeply appreciates both the African Union and the European Union upon the approval of the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the AU-EU Joint CSOs Steering Committee on the AU-EU Partnership on Human Rights and Democratic Governance.
The approval was done during the 12th African Union (AU) - European Union (EU) Human Rights Dialogue that took place on 10 January 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The Dialogue was led by Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, and Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights. The AU participants included Hon. Justice Sylvain ORE, President of the AfCHPR; Hon Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson the ACERWC, Hon. Maya Sahli-Fadel, Commissioner of the ACHPR; Mr. Omar Farouq, ECOSOCC as well as staff from the AUC and other AU organs. On the EU side the participants included Amb. Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and on Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 Women, Peace and Security; Ms. Birgitte Markussen, Deputy Managing Director Africa, EEAS, as well as EU staff working on human rights-related issues.
The AU-EU Joint CSO Steering Committee provides an important space and mechanism for participation and influence of both institutions on human rights and democratic governance. The first seminar of the AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights and Democratic Governance was in 2009. During the seminars the AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue Civil Society the representatives of African and European CSOs met to debate on the human rights issues present on the African and European continent and to find solutions. The Seminars were organized in Steering Committee who are independent from the AU-EU institutions. In 2009, the human rights challenges which were addressed are freedom of association and torture. In 2010, they were women, peace and security as well as migrant's rights. In 2011, right to housing and elections were discussed. In 2013, freedom of association human rights and land issues as well as security and human rights and the domestic workers Convention. In 2015, the seminar was focused on freedom of expression. During the Seminar discussions, recommendations are presented which are conferred to the AU-EU human rights dialogue.
In approving the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the AU-EU Joint CSOs Steering Committee, the African Union and European Union are making an important step towards realizing a true partnership of citizens of Africa and Europe rather than a partnership of African and European institutions.
Commenting on this development, AFIC’s Head of Secretariat, Gilbert Sendugwa observed that,
“…a proper mandate of CSO Steering Committee guarantees their ability to comment and advise institutions on the situation of human rights and democracy in Africa and Europe which is a step in the right direction”.
AFIC being a member of the Joint Steering Committee recognizes the need for a proper mandate approved by both AU and EU.