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Photo: © 2017 European Union.

 

Ahead of the Africa-European leaders Summit scheduled for November 2017 in Abidjan, the third Africa-EU Civil Society Forum was held in Tunis, Tunisia from July 11-13 2017under the auspices of Joint Africa-Europe Strategy (JAES). The Forum, attended by over 80 participants from Africa and Europe was jointly organized by the Africa -EU Joint Steering Committee and hosted by the Africa Steering Committee with support of both the African Union Commission and the European Union Commission.

In order to enhance the realization of African Union 2063 Agenda and the 2017 EU Communication “For a Renewed Impetus of the Africa-EU Partnership”, the civil society Forum made recommendations in five different area being: conflict prevention, peace building and refugees; democratic governance and civic participation; Human development; decent work, universal social protection and social economic development; and a sustainable future for your planet. Important cross-cutting issues such as migration and mobility, gender equality and youth were mainstreamed in the debates.

Civil society forum adopted a Declaration which among others calls on both the African and the European Commission to:

  1. To increase their political, financial and logistical support for a timely, transparent and inclusive involvement of CSOs, including those representing the diaspora, at all levels of decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the JAES, in an institutional framework that is clearly defined and targeted at this support;
  2. To make sure to organise Joint Annual Fora in close cooperation with all the stakeholders, including civil society representatives, and make sure that these meetings effectively feed into the reflections and choices of decision makers;
  3. To identify and operationalise “entry points” in the Roadmap implementation allowing a better involvement of CSOs and creating, on a case by case basis, dedicated spaces and mechanisms, or opening existing ones to CSO participation.
  4. To increase the flow and quality of information facilitating the preparation of CSOs’ meaningful inputs in the implementation of the Roadmap and all debates around the JAES;
  5. To support with financial means, including by facilitating access to funding, CSOs’ participation and activities, including advocacy and implementation of projects in the frame of the strategy while always respecting their full autonomy;
  6. To initiate, ten years after the launch of the JAES, a stocktaking exercise of achievements and shortcomings. This is a process in which CSOs should play a vital role;
  7. To adopt an actor-based approach to the representation of civil society in the JAES;
  8. To act upon political commitments to create a true enabling environment for civil society participation;
  9. Enhance dialogue between governments and CSOs including youth, women, migrants and refugees, diaspora, workers, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and any other groups left behind, as part of an inclusive multi-stakeholder policy process.

Africa Freedom of Information Centre calls upon leaders of Africa and Europe to study the Declaration of the 3rd CSO Forum and take forwards its recommendations.

HR Dialogue 15Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) welcomes and deeply appreciates both the African Union and the European Union upon the approval of the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the AU-EU Joint CSOs Steering Committee on the AU-EU Partnership on Human Rights and Democratic Governance.

The approval was done during the 12th African Union (AU) - European Union (EU) Human Rights Dialogue that took place on 10 January 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The Dialogue was led by Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, and Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights. The AU participants included Hon. Justice Sylvain ORE, President of the AfCHPR; Hon Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson the ACERWC, Hon. Maya Sahli-Fadel, Commissioner of the ACHPR; Mr. Omar Farouq, ECOSOCC as well as staff from the AUC and other AU organs. On the EU side the participants included Amb. Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and on Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 Women, Peace and Security; Ms. Birgitte Markussen, Deputy Managing Director Africa, EEAS, as well as EU staff working on human rights-related issues.

The AU-EU Joint CSO Steering Committee provides an important space and mechanism for participation and influence of both institutions on human rights and democratic governance. The first seminar of the AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights and Democratic Governance was in 2009. During the seminars the AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue Civil Society the representatives of African and European CSOs met to debate on the human rights issues present on the African and European continent and to find solutions. The Seminars were organized in Steering Committee who are independent from the AU-EU institutions. In 2009, the human rights challenges which were addressed are freedom of association and torture. In 2010, they were women, peace and security as well as migrant's rights. In 2011, right to housing and elections were discussed. In 2013, freedom of association human rights and land issues as well as security and human rights and the domestic workers Convention. In 2015, the seminar was focused on freedom of expression. During the Seminar discussions, recommendations are presented which are conferred to the AU-EU human rights dialogue.

In approving the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the AU-EU Joint CSOs Steering Committee, the African Union and European Union are making an important step towards realizing a true partnership of citizens of Africa and Europe rather than a partnership of African and European institutions.

Commenting on this development, AFIC’s Head of Secretariat, Gilbert Sendugwa observed that,

“…a proper mandate of CSO Steering Committee guarantees their ability to comment and advise institutions on the situation of human rights and democracy in Africa and Europe which is a step in the right direction”.

AFIC being a member of the Joint Steering Committee recognizes the need for a proper mandate approved by both AU and EU.

Jean-Ville123On 26th March 2017, the Pan-African Conference on Freedom of Expression (FoE) and Access to Information (ATI) in Africa adopted the Kampala Declaration of Pan-African Conference on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information. The declaration calls upon the African Union, European Union and African governments among other stakeholders to take measures to advance freedom of expression and access to information in Africa.

The two-day conference was co-hosted in Kampala, Uganda by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and the Government of Ugandaunder the auspices of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (Partnership) with support from the European Union. It drew over 50 civil society leaders from 29 African countries who over the two days discussed the status of freedom of expression and citizens’ right of access to information in Africa. Both rights are protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and recognized the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This meeting was birthed in November 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda during the EU-AU Human Rights Dialoguewhich adopted recommendation of the Civil Society Seminar on the Subject.

At the conference, participants focused on reviewing the state of FoE and ATI in Africa as well as exploring the changing legal and regulating framework of internet, the promotion of FoE and media to support democratic governance and the protection of Journalists and challenges faced by women advocating for FoE in Africa.

Mr. Jean Louis Ville DEVCO Director for Development and Migration noted that today’s threats to FoE often know no boundaries and that the Freedom of expression is in decline in most parts of the world –a trend that is also agreed by all major watchdog organizations such as Reporters without borders and Freedom House. , etc.

Hon. Aidah Nantaba, Uganda’s Minister of Information, Communication, Technology & National Guidance called one African countries to expedite the adoption and effective implementation of citizens access to information laws. She observed,

“…as Africa, we can still do better! Almost seven decades after the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and almost three decades after adopting the African Charter on Peoples and Human rights, some parts of the continent have not attained the envisaged level of freedoms of expression and access to information”

The minister thus called on governments to scale up efforts to aggressively take legislative and other measures to promote the right to information and freedom of expression.

To stress the importance of freedom of expression, European External Action Services’ Luigia Di Gisi concluded that without freedom of expression and freedom of media, an informed, active and engaged citizenry is impossible.

Participants noted that there is a diversity of contexts in the legal and regulating frameworks of internet in Africa. Majority of African countries do not have legislation on internet, only 16 countries have Data Protection Laws, 14 have Data Protection Bills that are being discussed and the others have not even a thought to start the process yet.

As a whole Civil Society Organizations in Africa promoting FoE and ATI are mostly concerned about the threats, harassment, intimidation, physical violence and even killings of journalists while carrying out their work which are neither investigated nor perpetrators punished. The continued violation of the rights of human rights defenders in the various sub-regions of Africa, in their efforts to promote and protect universal right to freedom of expression was also noted as a major concern.

The Kampala Declaration provides an important advocacy document with which to engage with States, Inter-Governmental bodies, CSOs and media on the promotion of freedom expression and access to information in Africa.

AU-EU partnership logos

Kampala March 12, 2017

Under the auspices of the African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Partnership, Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) will host a major Pan-African Conference on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

The conference will be held from March 25-26, 2017 at the Commonwealth Speke Resort, Munyonyo and will be attended by over 50 experts and advocates of freedom of expression from across African continent. The conference will be opened by senior officials from the African Union Commission, European Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Government of Uganda.

Commenting on the event, Gilbert Sendugwa, AFIC’s Executive Director and member of the Joint AU-EU CSO Steering Committee on the partnership on human rights and democratic governance noted,

“this conference represents one of the key actions to implement the AU-EU Roadmap approved by the Heads of State Summit in April 2014”.

He added that where there has been notable progress, in many African countries the situation of freedom of expression has taken a deep regress. Arrest and intimidation of journalists, closure of media houses, and internet shutdowns among other violations have been common.

During the 12th Human Rights Dialogue of the African Union and European Union held on November 24, 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda both parties endorsed civil society recommendation to hold a Pan African Conference at which the situation of freedom of expression would be discussed.

In a statement in Mogadishu, Mr. Omar Faruk Osman chairperson of the CSO Steering Committee observed that unlike other professions, journalists are killed for doing their work. Journalists need a safe environment in which they can hold power to account without retribution. This cannot be achieved without addressing impunity of crimes against journalists. He added. 

Over the past few years, the African Union and the global community at large have prioritized and adopted measures to ensure a protective environment for freedom of expression practitioners.  This conference will discuss ways to bridge the gap between freedom of expression policy and practice in Africa.

OC report picture March 17Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in partnership with the Open Contracting Partnership and Hivos are pleased to present the Open Contracting in Uganda: A Scoping Study. This report presents the state of (1) disclosure of open data, documents, and information about the planning, procurement, and management of public contracts; (2) participation and use of contracting data by non-state actors; and (3) accountability and redress by government agencies or contractors acting on the feedback that they receive from civil society and companies.

The study aimed to:

i.    Document current levels of openness in public contracting in target systems;
ii.    Map key stakeholders and their capacities and enthusiasm for advancing open contracting; and
iii.    Develop of recommendations on realistic targets and use cases for open contracting moving forward.

This study found that Uganda promotes open contracting as reflected in the legal and policy environment, infrastructure, and human resource initiatives. Within the top leadership, there was political willingness to promote open contracting. However, this willingness has yet to translate into total commitment and action. It also found that there is competence to implement open contracting initiatives especially around proactive disclosure of contract information since the launch of the procurement portal.  Public participation needs to be enhanced.

The overall finding of this assessment is that Uganda has the potential to implement open contracting initiatives, considering that large quantities of contracting data are proactively disclosed through the government procurement portal. Issues regarding existing policy, data capacity, and civic engagement should be urgently addressed to institutionalize open contracting. Goals should be aimed at achieving early success and gaining demonstrable benefits with respect to improving service delivery, and the government should strive to build a sound foundation for sustainability over the long term.

A number of recommendations were made, including having the government, particularly at the top executive level, fully commit to open contracting; tasking a government body like the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) to champion open contracting; and creating awareness among public officers, citizens, and the private sector on the benefits of open contracting. Commitment from the top executive level will pave the way for more opportunities for open contracting in the private and public sectors.

On the whole, it was noted that although the Government of Uganda is implementing a number of initiatives on open contracting, there is lack of effective coordination and direction. Thus, it is important to establish leadership to champion open contracting in a structured and coordinated manner.

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