From 12 - 16 May 2014 three students from the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, participated in the 2nd edition of the Global Classroom held in Venice, Italy.
The Global Classroom (GC) falls under the auspices of the Global Campus programme involving the University of Sydney, University of Pretoria, University of San Martin, Buenos Aires, Yerevan State University, University of Sarajevo and the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation.
The aim of the classroom is to create an integrated, multilateral form of interaction among students across the different regional masters within the network.
At each year’s edition of the Global Classroom, students discuss around contemporary issues of international law, development and human rights.
The 2014 GC focused on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UPR is a process whereby the domestic human rights record of all UN member states is reviewed every four and half years with a view to recommending ways of improving deplorable human rights situations. Representing the Africa region were: Mariam Kamunyu, Adebayo Okeowo and Darsheenee Raumnauth (Masters students from the University of Pretoria) and Mrs Letuka Puleng (Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Venda).
The GC brought together experts in the UN system, the field of international law, professors of law, students of human rights and government representatives. Presentations were delivered by all the representatives of the different regional masters.
In their presentation, delegates from the Africa programme illustrated how the UPR mechanism is applied in African states – particularly in Nigeria, Kenya and Mauritius. Parallels were drawn between the level of implementation of UPR recommendations and other regional mechanisms within Africa such as the African Commission. The analysis revealed that even though the UPR has recorded some successes in its six years of existence, African States are still more inclined to respecting recommendations from the regional systems and treaty bodies.
On the final day of the GC, participants were divided into working groups which were meant to propose ways of improving the functionality of the UPR process across all UN member states. Critical conclusions reached include: the need for increased sensitization of the UPR process right down to the grassroots; greater participation of civil society groups in the national consultative process; lesser politicization of the UPR process; more effective follow-up mechanism; and a reward system for compliant States.
The team also took the opportunity of the GC to share with the over 30 participants the video campaign by the CHR LLM/MPhil 2014 class around the Nigerian abducted school girls. Support was drummed up from the audience to further put pressure on the Nigerian government to spare no effort in rescuing the school girls.
Apart from the academic experience, the team got the opportunity to visit some of the spectacular islands in Venice and also added its voice to a campaign spearheaded by students of the European Masters programme which seeks to promote the rights of migrants.