Validation Session of CSO’s Position Paper on the AU Reforms process

ISLA, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights (ISLA), the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), Synergia- initiatives for Human Rights and Robert F Kennedy Foundation (RFK), held a two day validation session on 11-12 January 2024 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The background to this validation session is inspired by CSO’s determination to meaningfully engage in the AU Reforms Process, which has commenced in 2017, characterized by a notable absence of meaningful consultations with CSO’s. In the course of implementing the AU Reforms, states enforced limitations on the usage of donor funds specifically for human rights and governance initiatives, advocating for financial independence from international entities. Consequently, already financially-strained human rights mechanisms encountered further operational restrictions. Moreover, a proposition to consolidate all AU human rights treaty bodies into a single entity emerged, with the objective of embedding their responsibilities within overarching issues.

The proposed reforms under consideration carry several adverse implications for the African Human Rights System, such as loss of specialized focus, conflicting priorities, bureaucratic challenges, and an overstretched mandate. Given the potential far-reaching consequences of these reforms, it becomes imperative for CSOs to engage proactively in scrutinizing the true motivations underpinning these reforms.

The principal objectives of this validation meeting can be summarized as follows:

  1. To articulate the CSO’s official position regarding the proposed AU Reforms.
  2. To reach a consensus on the final submissions that will be presented to the consulting team currently engaged in the AU Reforms process.

The validation session was attended by representatives of several Civil Society Organisation, who thoroughly engaged with the documents under validation and provided feedback and comments. The first document,  provided a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the proposed AU reforms, their focus and content,  their implications on the African human rights system, and how best any negative implications can be addressed by CSOs and other stakeholders. The second document focused on comparative aspects of reform processes that took place under the UN human rights system, and other regional human rights systems, such as the European and Inter-American systems.

The validation session resulted in;

  1. The adoption of a clear and well-informed CSO position on the AU Reforms
  2. A collective agreement on the submissions to be presented to the AU Reforms team.