The opening ceremony of the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights took place yesterday in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. Attending the ceremony were 10 indigenous and civil society delegates from Central Africa, supported by Forest Peoples Programme. The delegates are taking the opportunity of the Session to directly inform the Commission of the issues facing indigenous peoples in their home countries.
Forest Peoples Programme is running a training programme in Abuja to help the delegates prepare for the Session. Valérie Couillard, Co-ordinator of the African Legal and Human Rights Programme, explained the importance of the training:
'Forest Peoples Programme is here to empower indigenous peoples to speak for themselves before the African Commission. The Commission is a very important platform because through the Commission it is possible to contribute to standard setting at the regional level. This in turn will influence the human rights situation at the national level.
'The African Commission has a very collaborative relationship with African civil society and it is an opportunity for our partners to be a part of that. Crucially, the Commission also facilitates dialogue between civil society and Governments. Communication in Africa is very difficult. It is here at the Commission, when we are all gathered in the same city, where relationships are built and projects are initiated.'
In existence since 1987, the mandate of the African Commission is 'to promote human and peoples' rights and ensure their protection in Africa'.
A Working Group specifically focused on the rights of indigenous peoples in Africa was established in 2000. This was the first time that the African Commission had addressed the issue of indigenous peoples in Africa and the rights that apply to them under the African Charter, the primary human rights instrument in Africa.
The training is part of a series of training sessions about the African Commission, that are taking place in different countries in Central Africa. Rights and Democracy and the European Union are supporting the training in Abuja.
Upcoming Activities at the African Commission
Statement Of indigenous peoples
Intervention Discussion of the State Report of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Informal discussion with Commissioners and stakeholders - Thursday 13 November Natural Resources Exploitation: Indigenous Perspectives
Seminar Event - Wednesday 12 November Indigenous Women in Africa: Human Rights Perspectives