The following five-year Plan of Action was adopted by the African Commission in 1996 in Mauritius. Also reprinted in 6 Review of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1996-97) 215
At the end of the first decade (21 October 1996) since the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights came into effect, the Commission adopted a five-year Plan of Action with the aim of attaining, in as far as possible, the fundamental objectives of the Charter.
The paramount mission of the African Charter is the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa.
A preliminary Plan of Action had been adopted in 1988 in order to launch the activities of the Commission. A Plan of Action of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for 1992 - 1996 was adopted later. The Commission evaluated the implementation of its activities which were based on these two Plans. The Plans were implemented only partially because of the serious resource constraints facing the Commission. It was noted that much remains to be done.
The present Plan of Action, which is more of a continuity than an innovation, takes into account all previous problems and attempts - in as much as possible - to find solutions to those problems.
Basically, this Plan of Action is pursuing the same objectives as the previous Plans. It has been enriched by the experience of the past ten years and the contribution of the various partners of the Commission, especially the resolutions and recommendations of the NGO fora which, since the Tenth Ordinary Session in 1991, meet for three day periods prior to each ordinary session of the Commission to look into ways of contributing to the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
This Plan also takes into account new developments in Africa especially in the political, social, economic and cultural spheres which add new dimensions to the work of the Commission which has to be in a position of meeting all new challenges.
Apart from the Commission’s main tasks of the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa, the present Plan of Action will also make co-operation a key area. The universal character of human rights requires close collaboration between the African Commission and its partners within and outside Africa.
The implementation of the present Plan of Action will therefore not be the task of the African Commission only. The Plan’s application is rather a system of partnerships in which the role of the African Commission will be, among others, to encourage and co-ordinate the various initiatives taken in the different programmes for the promotion and protection of human rights. The African Commission, therefore, counts on the co-operation of all its partners.
1. The current Plan of Action (1992-1996) includes activities which had been planned for the previous Programme of Action but which were not implemented or which were implemented partially.
2. These activities will be expanded and re-adjusted in view of the situation in Africa and the various contributions received and according to developments of the past several years.
3. The Plan of Action will be based on the various missions at the Commission while duly taking into account the priority requirements of Africa.
4. During the coming five years, all the activities of the Commission as well as those initiated in collaboration with other partners will concentrate on implementing the Plan of Action.
5. In this regard, all human rights organisations and institutions in Africa are invited to work with the Commission so as to combine their efforts and harmonise their activities with the aim of achieving maximum results in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa.
II. PROMOTIONAL MISSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
A. Information Activities of the African Commission
6. The information activities are being structured into different programmes which bring together a number of relevant targeted projects.
1) Promotion of the African Charter and dissemination of information on the work of the African Commission
7. The lack of informative documentation on the work of the African Commission is a problem which needs to be solved urgently. The Commission intends to put at the disposal of interested users session reports on the activities of the Commission which are not confidential. It is also envisaged that a Newsletter of the Commission will be published monthly. This will enable the Commission to make its communiqués, session reports and activities known to the public. The Annual Activity Reports will be published immediately after their adoption by the Conference of Heads of State and Government and distributed at the sessions of the Commission.
8. With regard to publications, only the African Charter is actually available for distribution. Efforts will be made to print more publications.
9. Special emphasis will be placed on the following projects:
A wider dissemination of the African Charter in the four working languages of the OAU (English, French, Arabic and Portuguese) as well as the various documents and publications of the African Commission;
The translation and distribution of the Charter in African languages.
2) Dissemination of the African Charter and the activities of the Commission by the press, radio and television (Media programme)
10. The following projects are envisaged:
· Presence of journalists at the African Commission sessions and other meetings;
· Workshop for journalists to promote the African Charter;
· Production of television programmes on the African Charter;
· Discussion and interviews on radio and television and in the print media during missions and meetings organised by the Commission.
11. As planned in the previous Programme of Action, it will be useful to envisage undertaking “a feasibility study on the co-operation of the African Commission with the media with the aim of strengthening the promotion of human rights in Africa”. This will include, among other things, drawing up a list of obstacles encountered and solutions proposed to improve the relationship of the Commission with the media as well as concrete projects on the way and means of popularising the African Charter through the press, radio cinema and television.
3) Human rights education with special emphasis on the African Charter
12. Under this programme the following activities are planned:
· Developing curricula on Human Rights Education for primary and secondary education in collaboration with the UN Commission for Human Rights, UNESCO, OAU and other partners;
· Developing a course for adults;
· Developing a course on human rights for various professional groups;
· Establishing a Human Rights Award: in its 1988 Programme of Action, the African Commission had envisaged “instituting an award-winning competition on Human Rights”. This prize could be awarded to people at different levels of education, professional groups, civil servants as well as politicians. The Commission could decide to award its prize to students of different levels by organising an essay competition on the theme of human rights in Africa, as well as to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the field of human rights. The prize could be money or otherwise.
13. The Commission plans to carry out the following activities:
· Printing of the Charter;
· Printing of booklets/leaflets on the Charter and the work of the African Commission;
· Publication of the activity reports of the African Commission;
· Publication of the African Review on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
· Printing of the reports of seminars, workshop and other activities of the Commission;
· Publication of studies undertaken by or for the African Commission;
· Publication of the Commission’s Newsletter;
· Publication of a compendium of decisions and resolutions adopted by or on the African Commission;
· Publication of a compendium of final decisions of the Commission on communications.
B. Documentation and Research Activities of the African Commission
1) Documentation activities
14. The documents of the African Commission as well as all relevant OAU documents should be catalogued, and made available in sufficient copies in order to cater to the needs of the African Commission observers and the public. They should also be integrated in a data base as is the case today in all institutions. Translation of documents has to be done. With regard to the documentation of other human rights institutions, the Commission receives documents and publications from various inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, and it intends to establish a mechanism for a systematic exchange of documents and publications.
2) Documentation Centre
15. The Documentation Centre will have to acquire a basic collection of literature on human rights, international law, African law, general reference, African constitutions, legislation and jurisprudence relating to human rights and major African and international journals dealing with human rights. The Centre should list all publications on research and studies on human rights.
3) Studies and research
16. There is a need for studies and research on issues relating to the African Charter and to human rights in Africa in general. The Commission will identify subjects contributing to the advancement of its work, comparative studies of the principles and practice of other human rights instruments and bodies so as to determine the probable impact of the “applicable principles” stipulated in articles 60 and 61 of the Charter, customary law and human rights in Africa, study of researches being carried out in Africa and on Africa with relation to human rights, the role of and difficulties facing African human rights NGOs, etc. Other themes will be dealt with in workshops and seminars. It will be possible to undertake research projects in collaboration with other institutions.
17. The Commission will do everything possible to acquire means of communication for the dissemination of information as well as for the publication of documents.
C. Promotional Workshops, Seminars and Training Courses of the African Commission
18. The Commission has made a list of major themes for the workshops, seminars and training courses. Below are some of the seminars and training courses which will be given priority in the coming years:
· Comparison of the African Charter protection system with other regional systems;
· The setting up in the African Commission of a mechanism of country rapporteurs and rapporteurs for main themes;
· Freedom of expression, association and assembly in Africa;
· Economic, social and cultural rights: the respect by state parties [for] obligations defined in the African Charter;
· Relevance of peoples’ rights to African Charter, especially the right to development, the right to have a clean and safe environment, peace, security and the right to self-determination;
· The rights of the child in Africa;
· Freedom of movement and the right to asylum in Africa;
· Clawback clauses in the African Charter;
· The African Commission and the national structures for protection and promotion of human and peoples’ rights;
· Ethnic conflict resolution in a human rights context;
· The problem of a mass expulsions in Africa.
19. Training courses on the obligation to present reports in compliance with the African Charter (article 62) will continue to be organised. Each training course will be based on the ways and means of applying and/or improving the adopted guiding principles on the preparation and presentation of reports. A guideline on how to present reports in compliance with article 62 of the African Charter which brings together experts’ views and contains a synthesis of the various training courses is being finalised. The Commission intends to pursue this exercise so as to make the booklet available to users in the Commission’s working languages.
20. Other training courses will be organised for government officials in various departments including the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Defence, Education, Information, Social Affairs and so on.
21. Training courses for representatives of civil society, religious organisations, professional groups, human rights activists and other groups will be jointly organised in collaboration with other institutions.
D. Other Promotional Activities of the African Commission
1) General promotional activities of the Commission
a) Discussion on main issues
22. Discussion on major issues will be organised in order to improve knowledge of the Charter and to sensitise outside observers and the media to human rights issues.
23. Rapporteurs will be appointed to follow up the results of the proceedings and to submit a report to the Commission. They would make a synergy of the various issues and carry on with their work between sessions. These rapporteurs need not necessarily be members of the Commission; they could be African researchers and experts who can make a useful contribution to the work of the African Commission.
b) The Additional Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
24. At its 31st Ordinary Session, the Conference of Heads of State and Government of OAU countries approved the recommendation of the African Commission on the drawing up of an Additional Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and directed the Commission to undertake this work and to present a report to the Conference of Heads of State and Government.
25. It was noted that the African Charter does not cover all the concerns of African women. There is a need therefore to fill in the existing gaps in the Charter. The Commission will proceed with consultations for the preparation of a draft additional protocol in collaboration with other partners and present it for adoption to the Conference of Heads of State and Government as soon as possible.
c) The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
26. This Charter, which was adopted at the OAU Conference of Heads of State and Government in July 1990, has not come in force because the minimum required number of countries (15) have not yet ratified it.
27. The Commission is proposing that a sensitisation campaign be undertaken with the aim of obtaining the ratification and the coming into force, as soon as possible, of this important instrument. The Commission plans to carry out this task with the co-operation of its partners.
d) Periodic reports
28. Periodic reports play a promotional and a protective role. The dialogue initiated by the Commission with governments will most certainly result in an improvement of national legislation or practice related to human rights. This dialogue should be maintained. Public discussions of periodic reports also provide an opportunity for NGOs to make their contribution to the process of dialogue.
29. A systematic translation of the State Reports in the Commission’s working languages is envisaged in order to ensure their efficient use.
2) Promotional activities of members of the African Commission
30. The objective of promotional activities or visits by members of the Commission to member states is to popularise the African Charter and the Commission in all African countries. The Commission also takes advantage of such visits to assess the human rights situation through discussions with government officials and local NGOs in the relevant country.
31. This Plan of Action will maintain the system of distributing African countries among Commissioners and means will be sought to enable them to effectively cover the countries allocated to them. member states, the OAU Secretariat and other partners will be informed of this distribution.
32. In order to enhance efficiency, and in as far as practical, members of the Commission will be accompanied during their promotional missions by member of the Secretariat’s staff who will provide the necessary technical back-up in such missions and in the preparation of reports. Local partners will be involved in the collection of information and contribution to the missions.
33. In this regard, written reports will have to be submitted to the Commission at each session, according to clear and specific guidelines to be decided upon by the Commission.
III. PROTECTION ACTIVITIES
34. The protective activities of the African Commission are provided for in article 45 (2) of the Charter, which states that the Commission has the mission “to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights under conditions laid down by the present Charter”.
35. It has been noted that in the past, some cases of violations of human rights called for an urgent intervention on the part of the Commission. The Commission should reflect on the possibilities, provided for by the Charter, of possessing adequate responses to emergency situations.
36. The consideration of communications takes a long time because of various reasons, especially because of lack of means, non-cooperation from the concerned states and due to some provisions of the Charter which place heavy procedural constraints on the Commission’s work.
37. The present Plan of Action aims at finding ways and means of considering communications in as short a period as possible. The Commission therefore plans to have extraordinary sessions and group working meetings.
38. It is envisaged that more thought will be given to the possibility of conducting enquiries in a more diligent and efficient way to enable reported cases to be considered in as short a period as possible. Fact finding missions will be sent to countries concerned by communications in order to try and settle matters amicably.
39. Due to intensification of the Commission’s efforts to promote and disseminate the Charter and its activities, it is expected that the public will become more aware of the need to report to the Commission any case of violation of human rights in Africa.
40. To this end, the Commission intends to seek the assistance of active NGOs and other local bodies and to organise them into “networks of correspondents” of the Commission which will work in a more co-ordinated and efficient manner. Each member of the Commission will have a list of active NGOs in his or her area of jurisdiction. Further feasibility studies will have to be carried out on this approach.
B. Emergency Cases
41. Experience has shown that the Commission is often powerless when faced with cases of massive and serious violations of human rights which require a rapid intervention.
42. Currently, the Commission has neither the means nor any power under its rules to deal with such situations. This adversely affects the Commission’s credibility and efficiency.
43. The establishment of a rapid intervention mechanism has already been considered. However, more thought will be given to this question and conclusions could be expected soon. Ways of acting in the shortest possible period before the convening of extraordinary sessions or meetings of small groups will be envisaged.
44. The Commission will do its best to establish its presence in state parties where human and peoples’ rights are either under threat or are being violated.
C. African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
45. The draft document for the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is being prepared and is in its final stage. A draft protocol was prepared at a meeting of experts jointly organised by the OAU, the International Commission of Jurists and the African Commission which took place in South Africa in September 1995.
46. This draft protocol was sent out to all OAU member states for comments. The OAU Council of Ministers intends to examine it at its 65th Ordinary Session in February 1997. Consideration of the draft protocol by the Conference of Heads of State and Government is scheduled for June 1997. The African Commission will work towards its early adoption and ratification. The Commission, working in collaboration with NGOs and other partners, will also work towards the sensitisation of state parties on this particular subject.
47. In fulfilling its mission, the Commission has to co-operate in promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights with state parties, international, regional and national institutions as well as non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations in its activities for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights, in order to attain its objectives in as short a period as possible.
48. To this end, the Commission will also strengthen its cooperation with all its members and parties likely to contribute towards the realisation of its objectives.
49. The Commission will cooperate with:
(a) state parties;
(b) the OAU Secretariat;
(c) international and regional organisations;
(d) human rights NGOs;
(e) national institutions and associations; and
(f) funding partners.
(a) State Parties
50. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Commission emanate from decisions of the Conference of Heads of States and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Consequently, the accomplishment of the mission of the African Commission cannot be conceived outside OAU member states.
51. The attainment of the objectives of human rights promotional and protective activities is possible only with the sustained cooperation of OAU member states.
52. Furthermore, the voluntary contribution fund - envisaged in the present Plan of Action to supplement the inadequate budgetary allocations from the OAU Secretariat for the work of the Commission - will for the most part receive resources from member states willing to provide financial and technical assistance to an institution which was established by the countries themselves.
53. The Commission will work towards achieving and strengthening this cooperation which is indispensable to the fulfilment of its mission.
(b) The OAU Secretariat
54. The Commission intends to enhance the OAU Secretariat’s involvement in its activities related to human and people’s rights with regard to, among other things, conflict prevention and management, refugees and displaced people, observation of elections and the establishment of the African Economic Community.
55. The African Commission has already initiated dialogue with the OAU Secretary-General on this subject and will look into ways of setting up practical modalities of cooperation.
(c) International and Regional Organisations
56. The present Plan of Action covers cooperation activities between the Commission and various inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations at international and regional levels. This cooperation is very important because the African Commission may benefit from the experience of these organisations, some of which have existed for several decades.
57. In the past the Commission initiated meetings with other human rights organisations and institutions such as the United Nations Centre for Human Rights, the Friedrich Neumann Foundation, the [European] Commission and the European Court for Human Rights, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, the Danish Centre for Human Rights, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights, UNESCO and the North-South Centre.
58. Those contacts have contributed considerably to strengthening the relationship betwe en the Commission and these organisations and institutions.
59. In the next five years the Commission intends to revive these initiatives and strengthen its relationship with these organisations. The Commission will place special emphasis on the coordination of its activities with those of the institutions of the United Nations system and of other organisations which are active in Africa.
(d) Human Rights NGOs
60. With regard to African Non-Governmental Organisations, the Commission intends to start consultations for the establishment of an exchange and communication network, thereby creating an appropriate mechanism for promotional and protection activities in Africa.
61. Since the Commission counts very much on the widest possible participation of the NGOs in the realisation of its objectives, it will set up a system of communication/cooperation which would operate both vertically and horizontally, thus permitting the NGOs to cooperate among themselves and at the same time with the Commission. This programme [should] be considered to be quite urgent.
62. In the past, the Commission established excellent relationship with a number of African NGOs. With their collaboration, it has been able to implement a good number of its projects.
63. In the next five years, the Commission plans to strengthen these links and seek the contribution of NGOs as well as other new partners in the implementation of the present Plan of Action.
(e) National Human Rights Institutions and Associations
64. Article 26 of the Charter states that the Commission has the duty to “allow the establishment and improvement of appropriate national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the present Charter”. To this effect, the Commission has already recommended to the Conference of Heads of State the creation of national committees and human rights institutes. Over the last few years, with the advance of democracy in Africa, a number of human rights organisations have emerged.
65. The African Commission will endeavour to establish and strengthen regular working relationships with existing organisations in order to develop concrete programmes for the promotion and protection of human rights.
66. Within the framework of its promotional mandate, the Commission will also encourage the establishment of national human rights associations and institutions.
67. These national institutions and associations could serve as a basis for initiatives for human rights in the respective countries and will help the Commission to disseminate the African Charter and to fulfil its educational mission on human and peoples’ rights in general. They may also contribute to protective activities by providing the Commission with information on human rights violations and by assisting the victims of such violations.
68. The Commission intends to set up a cooperation framework between human rights associations and institutions in order to promote the exchange of information and experience, thus assisting them to enhance their efficiency.
[f] Cooperation with [Funding] Partners
69. According to article 41 of the Charter, the Commission functions with the staff, services and funds provided to it by the Organization of African Unity. Nevertheless, in view of the wide range of activities pertaining to the Commissions’ mandate, the funds placed at its disposal are insufficient. For this reason, since its inception, the Commission has been forced to seek extra budgetary funding to implement a number of projects. In the past, many organisations and states have favourably considered requests from the Commission.
70. For the implementation of the present Plan of Action, the Commission will need considerable technical, material and financial assistance from its partners. The Commission is planning to launch a campaign on sensitisation and resource mobilisation.
71. Reflection has already been initiated with the participation of other partners on the setting up of a system of resource mobilisation. The establishment of a resource mobilisation committee composed of members of the Commission and other partners is an idea which should be looked into and transformed into reality as soon as possible.
72. Furthermore, the Commission should follow up the contacts already made with donors and try to diversify as much as possible the sources of funding.
73. Funding projects which have already been presented to the relevant parties will be submitted again and new funding requests will be prepared and presented within the context of this Plan of Action.
74. States, international and regional institutions and non-governmental organisations will be requested to contribute to these efforts.
V STRENGTHENING OF THE SECRETARIAT OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
75. Article 41 of the Charter stipulates that the General Secretariat of the OAU provides the Commission with the necessary human, material and financial means for the effective exercise of its functions.
It is important and a matter of urgency to strengthen the Secretariat of the Commission, by providing it with adequate human, financial and other resources for the efficient and effective implementation of its activities.
76. Currently the Secretariat is still seriously understaffed and its equipment is inadequate and inappropriate. The implementation of the present Plan of Action requires adequate human and material resources. The OAU Secretariat [should] adopt a consistent system and ensure that adequate human, financial and material resources are provided to the Commission in order to enable the Commission to meet the human and peoples’ rights needs of Africa.
77. In this regard, a list of essential needs of the Secretariat has been submitted to the OAU Secretariat. Alongside the request for these needs, the strengthening of the Commission’s Secretariat by the OAU will require the following staff composition: 1. Secretary to the Commission; 2. Section in charge of promotion (2 people); 3. Section in charge of protection (2 people); 4. Research and training department (3 people); 5. Press and information department (1 person); 6. Documentation Centre (1 person); and 7. Support staff: (a) Administration and finance (2 people); (b) Registry (1 person); (c) Secretariat (4 people).
78. Even if this proposal for restructuring was to be adopted in its entirety by the deciding organs of the OAU, the Commission would still need additional staff to properly implement the various activities set out in the present Plan of Action.
79. In the spirit of the African Charter and in view of the present Plan of Action, the African Commission should become a centre of coordination of all activities pertaining to human and peoples’ rights in Africa. The Commission, therefore, has to have a solid, efficient and flexible administrative and technical structure which will enable it to fulfil the role assigned to it.
80. It is in view of this objective that proposals have been elaborated and submitted to donors. Some of them are in the process of being finalised while others need to be renewed within the present Plan of Action. The projects cover practically all priority areas identified within the framework of the present Plan of Action and require adequate human and financial resources for their effective implementation.
81. In this [respect], the Commission will need the support of state parties, friendly countries as well as its various partners. Contacts will be made to this effect. The voluntary contribution fund proposed by the present Plan of Action should be operational as early as possible in order to enable the Commission to overcome some of its constraints and to fulfil its mission effectively.
82. To this end, a resource mobilisation committee will be established as early as possible in order to support the Secretariat in its effort to raise funds. This Committee shall be made up of members of the Commission, members of staff of the Secretariat and other partners.
83. With regard to equipment, the Secretariat has up to now benefited from the support of certain donors. Apart from the fact that the equipment is inadequate, it should be noted that the Secretariat needs material to fully meet present technological needs. These include computers, printers, communication modules, photocopying machines, equipment for the Documentation Centre and the press and information unit.
84. The Commission has already received pledges in this regard, but even these will not be sufficient to cover all its needs. Resource mobilisation activities will take into account this problem. The actual staff and equipment needs are shown in a draft appended to the present Plan of Action.
85. The present Plan of Action contains various activities pertaining to the different missions of the Commission and selected according to priorities.
86. It is not an exhaustive list of projects to be implemented, it is rather a conceptual framework which will guide the Commission during the next five years.
87. An outline of the requirements for the implementation of this Plan of Action has also been presented.
88. The implementation of the present Plan of Action is not exclusively the task of the Commission. The African Commission depends on the support of its partners for the effective realisation of its objectives.
89. The Commission intends to involve fully member states, the OAU Secretariat, the NGO Community as well as national, regional and international organisations and institutions in this exercise, so as to mobilise all its partners and channel all efforts towards the realisation of this common objective.
90. In conclusion, the Commission is appealing to all those who are sensitive to the cause of human rights to devote themselves fully to the implementation of the present Plan of Action.