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CAL at the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights and NGO Forum

The 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) will be held in the Republic of The Gambia, the seat of the Commission, from 1 – 15 November 2017, with the NGO Forum taking place from 28 – 30 October 2017.

This Commission will be commemorating the 30th Anniversary of its operationalization with  activities that include a series of panel discussions on the past, present and the future of the commission, as well as an exhibition. The panels will assess the impact of the Commission’s work since its establishment, highlighting achievements, challenges and prospects. Each panel will comprise a keynote paper, followed by interactive discussions between the panelists and the plenary on the issues raised. Also happening at this session will be the presentation and review of periodic reports from The Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC), Niger and Rwanda.

The NGOs Forum

The general focus of this NGOs Forum will be on the 30th Anniversary of the Commission. The main objective of the NGOs Forum is to foster closer collaboration among NGOs and with the African Commission, for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa under the following themes:

  1. An overview of the status of democracy and human rights in Africa
  2. Special Interest group discussions
  3. Networking for human rights in Africa.

CAL has submitted a proposal for a panel focusing on the need for an independent and accessible African human rights system (including a discussion about the recent African Court decision on CAL and the Centre for Human Rights’ (CHR) advisory opinion).

At this 61st Ordinary Session of the Commission, CAL’s agenda includes:

  • Articulating CAL politics and the lived realities of women, testing and building support for key CAL ideas and narratives including the emerging campaign on an independent and accessible African human rights system, the need for an in-depth study on reproductive violence as torture, and share our analysis and demands for women’s autonomy, freedom and justice.
  • Continuing to build interest and momentum for the establishment of a pan African Feminist WHRD Network and the implementation of the recommendations from the ground-breaking Study on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa.
  • Fulfilling and defending CAL’s observer status at the ACHPR through strong presence, participation in the NGO Forum and ACHPR.

CAL activities at this Commission include:

  • a half-day planning session / consultation with Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in Africa on the 31 October 2017
  • a side-event co-hosted by CAL and the Centre for Reproductive Rights on the denial of abortion and post-abortion care as torture on 4 November 2017
  • a panel at the NGO forum or at a parallel side event co-hosted by CAL and AMSHeR on the need for an independent, accountable and accessible African human rights system – including discussing the CAL advisory opinion and observer status matter
  • four oral statements to the Commission based on input from CAL staff and members on key priority issues to be addressed in the statements: Human Rights Situation in Africa (and the demand for an independent, accountable and accessible human rights system in Africa); the situation of and demands by WHRDs in Africa; Working Group on Torture’s thematic report on denial of abortion and post-abortion care as torture; and statement in response to DRC state report.
  • Tracking the review of state reports by Rwanda, DRC and Niger
  • Meetings with the Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights, Special Rapporteur on HRD, Chair of the Working Group on Torture and also the newly appointed commissioners.
  • Establishing contact with state representatives, obtaining information for the state representative database and where possible individual meetings with state representatives from countries represented by CAL delegation, where appropriate.

CAL views the African Human Rights System as a key site for advancing CAL politics, and an important opportunity for feminist movement building. After a lengthy struggle, CAL was granted AU observer status in April 2015. While this has been further challenged by the African Union Executive Committee and more recently by a decision by the African Court, CAL’s observer status is currently in effect. For this reason, and also the reasons that initially prompted CAL to apply for observer status in the first instance, it is essential that CAL is active at the the Commission, and other relevant AU spaces. It is also essential that CAL uses its observer status to increase access to the ACHPR for CAL members and close partners and also to increase the presence and participation of feminists in the regional human rights system and spaces.

The CAL delegation to the Commission will consist of three CAL advocacy team members:  the CAL Advocacy Manager, CAL Research Manager and CAL Media and Campaigns Manager and a representative from Si Jeunesse Savait, CAL’s member in the DRC.

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