Tuesday, May 3, 2011

ONDH re-engage stakeholders on human rights and regional integration

“The consequences of barriers have resulted in a specialization of speculative economies in Africa and delayed the development of countries particularly industrial and agricultural areas.”
Djibril Aziz Badiane
The Senegal-based National Organisation for Human Rights (ONDH) on April 29, 2011 re-engaged stakeholders in Banjul in a one-day workshop on “Human Rights Approach in the Process of Regional Integration in West Africa”.
The workshop, which brought together over 40 state and non-state actors at the Baobab Holiday Resort, at Bijilo, is a followed up to a March 23, 2011 preparatory workshop held in The Gambia by ONDH and funded by the European Union (EU) through the sub-regional economic bloc, ECOWAS.
The ONDH is currently steering a six-month project to promote the participation of the Non-State Actors (civil society) in the process of regional integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in order to respond the concerns of economic operators and civil society representatives, who, since the 1980s organised themselves to express their positions in participating in everything that committed and defend their interests as actors and citizens.
With a purpose to upgrade the participants on the execution of the project through the sharing of objectives and excepted results and the activities to be developed in collaboration with partners, users and other stakeholders in the process.
The project is also meant to inform and educate participants on the opportunities offered to the Non State Actors (NSAs) by the EU and ECOWAS cooperation; to interact with attendees on the state of the premises of regional integration and the problems actors and populations are facing; and to familiarise the participants with the instruments of ECOWAS in promoting and protecting human development and gender, monitoring and evaluating the programmes especially the free movement of persons and goods.
In his opening statement, Mr. Martin U. OKoi, the Director, Civil Litigation and International Law Department at the Attorney General Chambers, who represented Justice Minister Edward Gomez, said of all the human rights endeavours, he thinks the topic of the workshop is the most crucial in modern day democracy.
“It implies for the respect for fundamental human rights in the process of regional integration,” he said. “The free movement of people, goods and services is important, to respect all due processes at all times and the presumption of the rule of law is that all due processes should be followed as laid down in the laws of The Gambia.”
Mr. OKoi said the internal legal sovereignty of every nation must be respected, while noting that due process is a basis for development, peace and harmony.
“We should all bear in mind that where ones rights ends, is where someone’s rights begin,” he said.
On his part, Musa Balajo, the Accounting Assistant ECOWAS Zone 1, said the sub-regional body’s mission is to promote economic integration among Member States.
He said ECOWAS coordinates its effort with the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) in any military intervention, while the Authority of Heads of State has created a mechanism for conflict management.
“The ECOWAS Member states bears primary responsibilities for maintaining peace and security in the Sub-region, for which Zonal Bureaus have been established, the zonal bureaus are working closely with ECOWAS Council of the Wise,” he explained.
On the Senegambia border disagreement, he said the Zonal Bureau in Banjul, representing Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Senegal and The Gambia, has reported that matter to the ECOWAS President in Abuja, Nigeria.
He said though, the President has not get back to the Bureau yet, he believes that he will not just sit on the information and watch.
Mr. Balajo, who was representing the Zone 1 Bureau Head Moussa DABAL, the purpose of ECOWAS conflict transformation framework is to prevent violent conflict within and between member countries.    
While noting the sub-regional economic bloc is in the process of transformation from an “ECOWAS of States” to an “ECOWAS of People”, he challenged Member States and civil society to step up efforts to popularize the various ECOWAS Treaties and Protocols, especially the Protocol on Democracy, Elections, and Good Governance.
When he took his turn, the President of ONDH and the Head of the Project Djibril Aziz BADIANE stressed that human rights cannot be detached from Governments, democracy, good governance, and solidarity.
In this respect, he said it is paramount for the Ministry of Justice to know what civil society is doing and vice versa.
“Presented as one of the safest levers of socio-economic development of Africa, the regional process, in fact, raises a series of problems relatively distant from populations concerned,” he said.
According to him, the phenomenon of immigration intra and extra community constitutes a challenge to be considered as well as security, food sovereignty, good governance, peace and sustainable development.
He also noted that the consequences of barriers have resulted in a specialization of speculative economies in Africa and delayed the development of countries particularly industrial and agricultural areas.
And a pretext to bring decision makers to integrate these concerns in public policies of development, poverty reduction or control for the benefit of populations and the poor is often left stranded.
He reiterated that the lack of communication between actors and partners involved are many, hence they will also be conducting forums at boarder villages where the initiative will be communicated to the people in local languages.
“When rights are violated it is our obligation to react. You cannot say that you leave it to God, no God is far away and we cannot talk about integration without the respect for human rights,” he argued.
He said when a government obliged itself to uphold certain duties, but refuse to do so, then that tantamount to bad governance. When we talk about human rights, we do not mean to attack or criticize Governments, but to bring to the fore the fundamental rights of the people.
“Governments should not see non-state actors as enemies; instead they should see us as very important organs working in the interest of the people. It is vital to see many human rights institutions working in The Gambia,” he said.
Mr. BADIANE reiterated the need to adopt flexible approaches in dealing with conflicting issues, with alternative dispute resolution.
“You cannot say that he insulted me, my eyes turn red, and I slap him and saw blood.”

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