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Africa’s evolving Human Rights Architecture

This is a summary of a report produced by: Centre for Conflict Resolution, University of Cape Town (UCT) after a two day seminar held from 28-29 June 2007 at Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town.

The paper discusses the effectiveness of Africa’s human rights institutions. It specifically refers to an advisory group meeting held in South Africa aimed at reviewing and analysing the experiences and lessons of human rights actors and institutions on the continent. It also looks at strategies that can be adopted to strengthen these institutions.

The report concludes that the African continent has yet to witness a paradigm shift towards privileging the human rights of its 800 million citizens. Africa’s human rights regime is still relatively weak, despite the growing body of declarations, conventions and protocols. The lack of political will to act on human rights abuses in compliance with national laws and international protocols remains a challenge to ensuring protection against gross human rights violations in Africa. While enforcement mechanisms are often weak, there are, nonetheless, instruments, both internationally and on the continent, to support the protection of human rights. Significant steps have been taken by the AU to renew, strengthen and improve its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent. Respect for human rights is critical to ensuring peace, security and development in Africa.

Key policy recommendations on Africa’s evolving human rights architecture emerging from the Cape Town seminar includes:

  • the monitoring of the implementation of international human rights laws needs to be enforced at the national level in Africa through parliaments, national human rights institutions and civil society
  • in order to promote and protect human rights, there is a need to develop media sensitivity and strategies to promote awareness of international instruments in all African countries
  • coalitions on specific human rights issues should be established – for example, actors promoting the AU Protocol on Women need to identify specific matters of priority and work with other civil society actors on these
  • there is a need to adopt national civic education programmes on human rights and to provide mandatory human rights education in schools on the continent, which can be done in consultation with civil society
  • there is a need to promote an understanding of human rights in a way that it does not alienate the very people they are meant to assist, and to ensure that the advancement of individual rights does not undermine the fabric of African societies.

The full report is now available online at:

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