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African NHRIs Conference looks into the rights of the most vulnerable

Monday, 17 October 2011

SA Human Rights Commission hosts African National Human Rights Institutions to look at how to engage with state and non state actors on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons and persons with disabilities within the African continent.

The African continent is changing from one on which there is high infant mortality and low life expectancy to low infant mortality and high life expectancy.  Consequently, the older person’s population is set to expand rapidly in the coming years.

The continent also has many persons with disabilities, some estimates place this at 10% of the population. The number of persons with disabilities increases daily and is aggravated by the effects of violent conflict, HIV/AIDs, poverty and resultant poor health care.

The daily reality of older persons and persons with disabilities is characterised by inequality and injustice. This is a result of negative perceptions, superstition, ignorance and misinformation. They are also deemed inhuman, negatively stereotyped, discriminated against, abandoned, ignored and excluded.
Added to these is that they are still being left out in the democratic processes of various states and as a result their needs are not adequately addressed in various programmes.

 Whilst there is no specific Convention or treaty body dedicated solely to the rights of older persons, there have been a number of international documents that seek to promote and protect the rights of older persons.

At a regional level, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights has two clauses which address the specific rights of older persons.  Article 18(4) provides for “special measures of protection in keeping with their physical and moral needs” and Article 29(1) provides that everyone has a duty “to respect his parents at all times and to maintain them in cases of need.”

The 2006 adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was a major step forward for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Even though it came into force in 2008 so far only 24 African countries have ratified the Convention.  Article 33 of the CRPD makes provision that States must establish an independent monitoring mechanism distinct from its implementation mechanism. NHRIs have been identified as the ‘natural core entities of the monitoring framework at the national level.

However, the CRPD is still young and few states have complied with the obligations imposed by these articles. A recent survey indicates that four African States have designated their NHRIs in terms of article 33 (Egypt, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda).

There are also current developments at a regional level with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights appointing a Working Group on Older Persons and People with Disabilities to explore the drafting of a Protocol on Ageing and People with Disabilities. Also at the regional level, the African Decade on Disabilities has been extended to run through to 2019
To interrogate these matters, the SA Human Rights Commission will host the 8th Biennial Conference of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) from 19 – 21 October at the Cape Sun Hotel, in Cape Town.

The following people are scheduled to deliver opening statements - Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, SAHRC Chairperson Adv. Lawrence M Mushwana; the outgoing NANHRI chair, Dr Driss Elerhazani (Morocco); ICC President, Dr Muhyieddeen Touq (Jordan); UN OHCHR/ UNDP Resident Coordinator- South Africa, Dr Agostinho Zacarias; Association of Francophone NHRIs, Alassani Tigri; African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Hon Chief Justice B Yeung Sek.

The conference will bring together the leadership of African NHRIs, members of relevant United Nations agencies, treaty bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to deliberate on issues relating to the conference theme -“Advancing the Human Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities – the Role of African National Human Rights Institutions”.

It is hoped that through deliberations at the conference the leadership of African NHRIs will among others, be able to reach consensus and commitment on how to engage with state and non state actors on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons and persons with disabilities.


Enquiries: Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866

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