Human Rights Advocate calls for Collective Responsibility

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The Executive Director of the African Center for Democracy Human and Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Hannah Forster has said promotion and protection of human rights remain a collective responsibility.

Ms Forster made the above statement while delivering a statement at the opening of the Forum on the participation of NGOs in the 79th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), held on Saturday 11th May 2024, and the theme for this year’s Forum is: “Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for Increased Access to Inclusive, Lifelong, Quality, and Relevant Learning in Africa.”

Developed as an advocacy tool of ACDHRS, the aim of the Forum is to foster close collaboration among NGOs and other human rights bodies, especially ACHPR, for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa and consolidating various contributions of member states to this process. 

Through this initiative, a good number of NGOs have been made aware of the existence of the ACHPR and its special mechanisms and their mandates, and it has also led to the engagement of many individuals and or organisations to engage with the human right system. 

“I am speaking for all of us when I state that although the main duty bearer for the promotion and protection of human rights are States, the promotion and protection of human rights remains a collective responsibility. Consequently, it must be promoted and protected by everybody, everywhere, every time and everyday,” Ms Forster said.

She said consequently, civil society has indeed not rested on its oars and has continued to play its role in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as a compliment to the efforts of governments and other partners.

“Surely, together State and non-State actors can achieve a great deal more when they collaborate and support each other in this noble process,” Madam Forster said.

She outlined that the agenda of the forum was also on GBV and harmful traditional practices with focus on FGM, overcoming barriers to education access in rural Africa, civic engagement and freedom of assembly; promoting democratic participation in Africa and protection of human right defenders among others.

“Adopted resolutions and recommendations emanating from the Forum will be forwarded to the African Commission for consideration during the 79th Ordinary Session.  No doubt, the Forum would usher in the platform for fruitful deliberations, resulting in the formulation of laudable strategies,” she said.

Justice Aishatou Jallow Sey on behalf of the Chief Justice of the Gambia, Hassan Jallow, said education stands as the cornerstone of development, democracy and human rights. She said education is not merely a path to personal advancement, but a fundamental right and a collective responsibility.

“Quality education empowers individuals, fosters equality and drives inclusive growth. Yet, the challenges in our education systems are stark. Millions of children remain out of School and are denied the transformative power of knowledge and opportunity,” Justice Sey said.

She buttressed that in a continent with the world’s youngest population, ensuring equitable access to quality education is imperative. “Education is the great equalizer in bridging divides and unlocking human potential. It is through education that we cultivate leaders, innovators and advocates who will shape Africa’s future,” Justice Jallow Sey said.

She said education is not a luxury, but a catalyst for sustainable development and social cohesion, adding that it empowers individuals in claiming for their rights; challenges injustice and contributes meaningfully to the building of communities.

She therefore said that investing in education is investing in the very fabric of our societies in paving the way for a brighter and more equitable future.

“The role of NGOs in advancing this theme cannot be overstated. NGOs are the lifeblood of civil society in championing the cause of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Africa. They are the vanguards of change, the courageous voices who advocate for the most vulnerable among us, and the catalysts for progress in the face of adversity,” she told the convergence.

To governments and societies across Africa, Justice Jallow Sey emphasized that education is not expenditure, but an investment in our collective prosperity, stressing that it is an investment in peace, stability and resilience against the forces that seek to divide us.

“As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, let us embrace the transformative power of education. Let us equip our youth with the tools they need to navigate an ever-evolving world. Let us break barriers and dismantle inequalities that hinder our progress,” she concluded.