Monday, March 28, 2011

West Africa: Human rights and the process of regional integration

Senegal-based National Organisation for Human Rights (ONDH) on March 23 engaged stakeholders in Banjul on a one-day workshop on “Human Rights approach in the process of regional integration in West Africa”.
The workshop, held at the Baobab Holiday Resort, The Gambia is a preparatory programme to the build up to a two-day discussion group in April 2011 on regional integration in West Africa and the human rights process involved.

ONDH is currently steering a six months project funded by the European Union (EU) through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to promote the participation of Non-State Actors (civil society) in the process of regional integration within the sub-regional economic bloc in order to response to the concerns of economic operators and civil society representatives, who, since the 1980s organise themselves to express their positions in participating in everything that committed and defend their interests as actors and citizens.
The objective of the programme is to upgrade the participants on the execution of the project through the sharing of objectives, the excepted results and the activities to be developed in collaboration with partners, users and other stakeholders in the process.
The event 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 executive summary on the project, Head of the Project and ONDH President Djibril Aziz BADIANE said the project will be implemented and executed over a period of six months in Senegal, Gambia, Mali and Burkina Faso with an overall objective of making effective a free trade zone and establish the bases of a customs union correlated with texts and regulations ratified by ECOWAS.
BADIANE said all projects are localized since “they cannot talk about integration by staying in Senegal and talk to the Senegalese only”. “We should also talk to Gambia, Mali and Burkina Faso and if we succeed, then we can talk to other West African countries,” he said.
He said 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.
Earlier on, Mr. Cherno Jallow, ONDH Focal Point in Banjul said the event is not a lecture as they expect a healthy exchange among the participants. “We expect from you a robust contribution so that at the end of the day we will come up with solid recommendations,” he said in his welcome address.

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