The Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) and IHRDA organised a workshop for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in North and West Africa on regional human rights mechanisms. The workshop, held from September 27 to 28, 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, brought together twenty five (25) participants from various NHRIs in North and West Africa as well as representatives of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACmHPR), the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (ECOWAS Court of Justice) participated in the workshop.
The Dakar NHRIs workshop was aimed at facilitating discussions among participants on challenges that hinder cooperation between NHRIs and African human rights mechanisms and ways and means of strengthening this collaboration. It is in light of the foregoing that the themes selected for deliberations took into account discussions on challenges and opportunities to bolster the cooperation between NHRIs and various African organs mandated to work on the protection of human rights. Beyond African human rights mechanisms, deliberations also focused on the challenges and opportunities in strengthening cooperation between NHRIs and the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
Participants identified a number of challenges that impede cooperation between NHRIs and African human rights mechanisms, including the following:
- Lack of knowledge by NHRIs on the procedures and operations of African human rights mechanisms ;
- Lack of information-sharing between NHRIs and the mechanisms;
- ACmHPR’s stringent criteria for granting affiliate status to NHRIs ;
- Absence of a focal point for NHRIs within the ACmHPR ;
- Weak technical capacity of some NHRIs to effectively engage with African human rights mechanisms.
Concerning ways to strengthen the cooperation between NHRIs and African human rights mechanisms, many participants underscored the importance of:
- establishing an NHRI forum on the margins of the ACHPR sessions, similar to the NGO forum ;
- involving NHRIs in monitoring the implementation of ACHPR recommendations;
- participation of NHRIs in the preparation of periodic Member States’ reports;
- sharing of NHRI activity reports with African human rights organs;
- representation of victims of human rights violations before African human rights mechanisms;
- organising joint activities between NHRIs and regional human rights mechanisms.
At the end of the meeting, workshop participants adopted the Dakar Declaration. In the Declaration, participants renewed their commitment of the respective institutions to promoting and protecting rights established by various African human rights instruments. Similarly, they advocated for direct communication between NHRIs and African human rights mechanisms through NANHRI. Lastly, the Dakar Declaration called upon NHRIs to participate in monitoring the implementation of regional human rights mechanisms’ decisions.