71st session of African Commission for Human and People’s Rights 

Opening Remarks at Public Session of 71st Ordinary Session of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights 

Delivered by EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore

21 April 2022

Madame Chairperson, Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs of The Gambia, Honourable Commissioner Bankole Adeoye, Honourable Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Honourable Judges, Representatives of the African National Human Rights Institutions, of UN Agencies, and of civil society, Excellences, Members of the Diplomatic Community, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great privilege to be with you today and to address the opening ceremony of this 71st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

I would like to congratulate the new Bureau elected during 69th Session, especially former Deputy Chairperson Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, now Chairperson for a two-year term, and Commissioner Maya Sahli-Fadel as Deputy Chairperson.

From your 70th Session, we looked with special attention to the resolutions on the Human Rights situation in Sudan and also on Unconstitutional Changes of Government, a matter of much importance to the continent given the threat it represents to peace and security, democracy and the rule of law. The resolution on the Right to Food and Building Resilience in Nutrition across Africa is of great interest considering that AU leaders have designated 2022 as “the Year of Nutrition”. It is also aligned with the EU’s Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy; in which we emphasise environmental challenges and climate change as well as stepping up on economic, social and cultural rights. The EU is strongly committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) and has been working with partners to collectively work to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and to promote sustainable agriculture.

I wish to congratulate the Commission on the continuous work with National Human Rights Institutions, we note the affiliations granted at the end of 2021 from Benin, The Gambia and Senegal. I welcome the work and input of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, also in attendance today. I wish to underline the importance of the Commission’s work as part of the African Governance Architecture and congratulate you on your chairmanship of the African Governance Architecture Platform. I would also like to welcome the first joint retreat of Legal officers of the African Commission, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights that took place in January 2022 in Maputo, which discussed the complementarity between the three organisations and their respective working methods.

It will be interesting to follow up on this work also considering the reflection held at the 35th extraordinary session of the Commission on 4 April 2022, which looked into the complementary relationship between the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The partnership between the EU and the AU and its Human Rights Organs is rooted in common values and shared interests. The EU – AU Summit, which took place in 17 – 18 February 2022 in Brussels, reflected this, as human rights are a central part in all aspects of EU – AU relations. The EU and AU leaders agreed on a joint vision for 2030, with the aim to consolidate a renewed partnership for solidarity, security, peace and sustainable and sustained economic development and prosperity for our citizens and for our future generations.

The partnership will be the driving force in promoting our common priorities, including the protection of human rights for all, gender equality and women’s empowerment, respect for democratic principles, good governance and the rule of law.

Our annual human rights dialogue is a concrete demonstration of the seriousness of our firm commitment to promote and protect human rights in both continents. One of the issue that we regularly discuss is the abolition of death penalty and in that context let me congratulate Sierra Leone for abolishing death penalty in 2021.

I would like to, once again, reiterate that the participation of AU human rights organs, including the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, remains critical to the success of the EU-AU HR dialogue. You lead the promotion and protection of human rights for all on the African continent.

The role of civil society is of enormous importance. I would like to congratulate the Commission on the decision at the 69th Ordinary Session to grant Observer Status to three (3) NGOs, bringing the number to 538 organizations with this status.

The EU is also working towards a reinforced cooperation with the AU on governance, in the framework of the implementation of the EU-AU Memorandum of Understanding on Peace, Security and Governance. In the wake of a series of unconstitutional changes of governments and to ensure lasting peace, it is essential to promote and reinforce good governance. The EU and the AU have developed regular cooperation on key aspects, such as transitional justice and election observation, and will look into developing further this theme in the years to come.

I would like to recall the launch of the Background Study on the Operations of the Extractive Industries Sector in Africa and its Impacts on the Realisation of Human and Peoples’ Rights under the African Charter, at the 69th session. In this regard, I reiterate the EU’s availability to work together with the AU and the Commission on matters pertaining to Business and Human Rights, an issue discussed at last year’s Human Rights Dialogue between the EU-AU in November.

With the avalanche of human rights crises that we are seeing around the world, our cooperation is essential, as we are at our strongest and most resilient when we work together.

Thank you for the honour of participating in your opening session and I wish you all the best for your discussions in the coming days.