African Citizens Voices on the AU’s 2016 Theme: African Year of Human Rights with a Focus on Rights of Women

This week African Civil society Organizations have convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia discussing key political, social and economic issues affecting the continent. This meeting comes ahead of the African Union Summit which is scheduled to meet from the 21st to 31st of January 2016.

The main convener of the meeting the Centre for Citizen’s Participation in the African Union (CCP-AU) which was formed to create a platform for civil society to ensure that conversations at the AU remain people driven and beneficial by addressing challenges faced by the continent such as political instability, food security, human rights violations, corruption, peace and security among others. CCP-AU incorporates and enhances the voices of African citizens at the African Union as well as increasing citizen’s access to information. It is a network of national, regional and continental African Civil Society Organizations.

The citizens conference is timely as it comes at a time when the African Union’s 2016 theme is ‘ the African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on the rights of women’ The year 2016 marks the 35th Anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1981. It also marks the 30th Anniversary of the entry into force of the African Charter in 1986. This year also marks the 29th Anniversary of the operationalization of the African Union Commission on Human Rights in 1987. Finally, 2016 also marks the 10th Anniversary of the operationalization of the Court.

Some of the issues that have come up for discussion at the Citizen’s Participation Conference include human rights, democracy, governance and the shrinking civic space in Africa, women’s rights in the continent, economic justice, Inequality, Poverty and illicit financial flows, peace and security, International Justice and accountability in Africa and enforcement of human rights decisions and norms. More specifically, Burundi and South Sudan’s current political unrest, el nino effects, terrorism, freedom of Information, expression and religion, rise of corruption, gender based violence and protection of women’s human rights defenders were picked out to be some of the key challenges being faced by the continent. CSO’s continue to urge Heads of States to address these issues with the urgency and concern necessary.

Since the conference serves as a link between African Civil Society Organizations and the African Union, the outcome and recommendations will be put together in a communiqué that will be shared with AU’s Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) to be considered for adoption as part of the Summit’s agenda items. This is done with the aim of advocating member states to adopt agreements, protocols and other similar legal instruments that effectively promote the much-needed political, social and economic growth in the continent.

The Permanent Representatives Committee, an organ of the African Union charged with the task of preparing the initial documents to be discussed by the Heads of States is scheduled to meet from the 21 to 23 of January 2016 after which it will hand over its work to the Executive Council of Ministers which will meet on 27 to 29 January 2016 to finalize the agenda to be discussed by Member States during the Heads of State Summit scheduled for 30 to 31 January 2016.

The year 2016 presents a great opportunity for African citizens and the African Union to review progress made on the advancement, achievement and securing of Human rights for the African citizen