The Centre of Human Rights, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), held a Civil Society Organisations’ Forum on the sidelines of committee sittings which focused on the theme ‘Effective Engagement with the Pan-African Parliament’. The one-day meeting, which was held on 8 August 2018, was attended by the First Vice-President of the PAP, Honorable Julius Masel; the PAP Acting Clerk Parliament, Mr Yusupha Jobe; the PAP Legal Counsel, Mr Clement Phebe Mavungu; the PAP Senior International Relations Officer, Mrs Lyn Chiwandamira; Professors and staff members from the Centre of Human Rights. The forum was attended by Gauteng-based civil society organisations (CSOs) including Oxfam South Africa, Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), Section 27, South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), Centre of Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Freedom House and the French Embassy. The forum sought to establish a common approach to sustained and meaningful engagement by enabling participants to share and exchange best practices on how to achieve an effective and constructive civil society engagement platform with the PAP.
In his opening remarks, PAP Acting Clerk Mr Yesupha Jobe noted that “…more than ten years after its inauguration, the Pan-African Parliament continues to chart its way towards operationalising formal and informal mechanisms for meaningful engagement with the African peoples and civil society. The mandate of the PAP as a representative of the people of Africa, cannot be implemented without the need for civil society involvement in the activities of the PAP.”
Professor Michelo Hansungule from the Centre for Human Rights made an observation that the relationship between African states and CSOs has come a long way since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). What was a “hate-hate relationship” between African states and CSOs has evolved into “love-love relationship” wherein African states recognise the importance of these organisations in giving a voice to African people. The role of CSOs is asserted in regional and international human rights law. Instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Maputo Protocol, the African Youth Charter and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, express the right to freedom of assembly and association providing the frameworks for CSOs to meaningfully engage with African states, and more specifically, with the PAP.
The forum took the time to unpack the PAP Rules of Procedure that made provision for CSO engagement with PAP, recognising their rights to attend the PAP proceedings. Acknowledging that the PAP is under-utilised, the forum identified opportunities for meaningful engagement and the need for more collaboration, coordination and creativity in the sensitisation, operationalisation and monitoring and evaluation of the work of PAP. Members of CSOs were thereafter invited to address committees as experts on specific issues.
The forum concluded by identifying gaps and opportunities wherein CSOs can meaningfully engage the PAP and collectively mapped a way on how they can effectively collaborate with PAP, while maintaining the positive “love-love relationship” between African states CSOs.
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverbs