The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) holds its 23rd Ordinary Session at the African Union headquarters

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) was opened yesterday, 09 April, 2014, at the African Union Conference Centre, in presence of representatives of the African Union Commission, Representatives of the UNOHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, Plan International, Save the Children and others partners and key stakeholders on the rights and welfare of the child in Africa.

In her statement, H.E. Mrs. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace , AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, on behalf of the AUC Commissioner for Social Affairs highlighted the challenges that are still impeding the full realization of child rights on the continent and she welcomed this Session as an avenue where possible solutions to address these challenges will be discussed.

A representative from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Commissioner Soyata Maiga also made remarks focusing on the way to further strengthen the collaboration between the ACERWC and other AU organs with human rights mandates. In her statement, the Commissioner reaffirmed the availability of the ACHPR to work closely with the ACERWC on issues pertaining to children rights in Africa.

In order to give the ACERWC its own visual and branding identity as an autonomous AU organ, the Committee’s logo was officially launched and presented to partners. It will be disseminated to various audiences so as to familiarize them with the vision, missions and mandate of the ACERWC.

During this Session, the ACERWC will be undertaking a number of activities including the Day of the General Discussion. The theme of the Day of General Discussion focuses on issues related to child marriage which basically complements the AU Campaign on Ending Child Marriage in Africa that is currently being implemented by the Department of Social Affairs.

Liberia report will be examined by the Committee and the consideration of a communication against a State party to the Charter is also going to be considered during this session.

Source: APO

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South Africa: Experts recommend ways of making health facilities more secure

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Community acceptance, provision of impartial treatment and psychosocial support for medical staff working under stress can all play key roles in making health-care facilities more secure amid armed conflict or other emergencies.

These are some of the recommendations that emerged from a workshop that took place in Pretoria, South Africa, this week as part of the “Health Care in Danger” project on the dangers facing health-care services. The last in a series of consultations with experts, the event was co-hosted by the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It brought together representatives of the World Health Organization, the World Medical Association, Médecins Sans Frontières and other major organizations, as well as managers of health facilities in the field, some of whom are confronted with danger every day.

“It’s a really good mix and extremely useful to combine international expertise with the experiences of people working in challenging places such as Iraq, Somalia, Israel and the occupied territories, and Mali,” said Bruce Eschaya-Chauvin, medical adviser for the Health Care in Danger project. “What I found particularly interesting is that the protection of many hospitals in dangerous environments can be enhanced by soft measures rather than by armed guards or sophisticated equipment.”

“We worked under stress, we faced fear, and yet our hospital was the only one that was not looted during the surge of violence,” said Abdoul Aziz Ould Mohamed, who managed a hospital in Timbuktu, Mali, for the Alliance for International Action (ALIMA) in 2012. “In my opinion, what kept us safe was that we were in contact with all the armed groups, well-integrated into the community and constantly communicating about the need to spare medical services.”

The ICRC recently reported that at least 1,800 incidents occurred in 23 countries in the last two years in which violence was used against patients, health-care personnel, ambulances or medical facilities. Forty per cent of the incidents were attacks on or within the facilities.

“South Africa decided to support this event because violence against people seeking or providing health care remains a serious concern, especially in countries on our continent and in particular in countries affected by armed conflict ” said Pitso Montwedi, chief director of the humanitarian affairs directorate within DIRCO. “We believe that governments have a key role to play in promoting and implementing solutions.”

Establishing a clear safety perimeter around hospitals and other health facilities, controlling entry points and setting up a secure supply chain for essential items are among the other measures the experts discussed.

“We will do our best to promote the recommendations via our network in more than 100 countries,” said Eric de Roodenbeke, chief executive officer of the International Hospital Federation, at the end of the workshop as he signed a partnership agreement with the ICRC on the Health Care in Danger project. “Although not all of the hospitals we work with are affected by violence, we can certainly enhance preparedness in time of peace.”

After Ottawa, Pretoria is the second capital city where experts have gathered to discuss the security of health facilities. The experts’ recommendations will be published before the end of the year.

Source: APO

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Cameroon: UN experts on minorities and indigenous peoples concerned about destruction of pastoralist homes

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, Rita Izsák, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, today called on the Government and the Catholic University in Bamenda, Cameroon, to urgently review the evictions and demolition of houses of a Mbororo pastoralist community. An estimated 300 people have reportedly been made homeless and evicted from their ancestral lands in the locality of Banjah, Bamenda.

The location of the evictions is the scene of a long-term land dispute between the Mbororo community and the Catholic University. Mbororo pastoralist communities, who identify as indigenous minorities, account for some 12 per cent of Cameroon’s population and often face conflicts over access to and ownership of land and access to water.

The University claims to have paid compensation to community members to acquire and build on the site. Community members claim to have been misled regarding payments and state that they would not voluntarily have agreed to quit their homes and land that they have occupied since 1904.

“I urge the authorities and the Catholic University in Bamenda to review these actions and their impact on this community and immediately seek a settlement with them,” said Ms. Izsák, who visited the Mbororo community in Banjah during her 2013 official mission* to Cameroon.

Mr. Anaya recalled furthermore that “indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation.”

The human rights experts highlighted that “appropriate alternative accommodation must still be provided to community members who have been left homeless and extremely vulnerable, even if the evictions are found to be legally justified based on international standards and within a participatory, consensus building process involving the Mbororo people.”

“Where possible,” the Special Rapporteurs stressed, “the Mbororo must be provided with the opportunity to return to their traditional lands.”

“We are saddened that a community whose survival depends on their lands and cattle is now deprived of access to their ancestral lands,” they said. “This also contravenes the UN Declaration on Minorities which requires the protection of existence of minorities, and their unique ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity within the territories in which they live.”

Three bulldozers, escorted by armed gendarmes reportedly arrived on 3 April 2014 to start demolishing the Mbororo homes. Community members have no alternative accommodation.

“I referred to this worrying case in my report on my visit to Cameroon presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014,” the Special Rapporteur on minority issues said. “I stand ready to continue consultations with all parties to identify possible solutions to avoid rendering this community even more vulnerable.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s mission report to the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Source: APO

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Canada Resumes Direct Bilateral Assistance to the Republic of Mali / Canada supports Mali’s development efforts to improve living conditions and reinforce democracy as well as security

OTTAWA, Canada, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, confirmed today that, following a successful democratic transition by means of Presidential and legislative elections, Canada will resume direct bilateral assistance to the government of the Republic of Mali. Canada’s bilateral assistance to Mali will contribute to the country’s development, to the improvement of the condition of women and children, and will support the government’s efforts to reinforce democracy and security.

“Our government supports a concerted international approach to the ongoing challenges in the Sahel region,” said Minister Paradis. “Canada’s long-term development assistance is critical to social and economic stability in Mali. We are satisfied that a civilian-led democratic government in Mali is working to overcome the challenges affecting the region.”

Quick Facts

• Canada was one of the first countries to suspend direct bilateral aid to the Government of Mali following the coup in March 2012.

• During the crisis, Canada continued its vital development work in Mali through support for multilateral partners, as well as for Canadian and international organizations.

• Mali is a country prone to recurrent drought and it continues to face the consequences of the food and nutrition crisis that affected much of the Sahel region in 2012. In 2014, the number of food-insecure Malians is estimated at 3.3 million.

• Humanitarian needs are compounded by the conflict in the north of Mali, which has caused the displacement of more than 472,000 people, including 171,000 Malians who fled to neighbouring countries to escape the violence. Women and children represent the majority of people affected and in need of assistance.

• Canada’s humanitarian assistance is helping meet the needs of vulnerable populations affected by ongoing conflict and food insecurities.

Source: APO

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African Ombudsmen and mediators to join AU peacemaking and preventive diplomacy initiatives

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Members of the African Ombudsmen and Mediators Association(AOMA) will henceforth join various African Union peacemaking and preventive diplomacy initiatives and missions. The AU Commission Chairperson, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma affirmed this engagement during an audience she granted a delegation of the AOMA, led by the Association President, Dr. Paulo Tjipilca. They met at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 9 April 2014.

The delegation paid a courtesy visit to the AUC Chairperson as well as to present the letter of credence to the Union, of its new Permanent Representative to the African Union and Chief Ombudsman of Ethiopia, Mrs. Fozia Amin.

Following a brief presentation of the association and its membership, Dr. Paulo Tjipilca expressed the association’s interest in integrating into the structures of the AU, being present and participating in its activities, including those of the AU Panel of the Wise.

AOMA and the AU Commission had in 2011, signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agreed to promote the strategic priorities of the AUC in the realms of democracy, good governance, promoting and protecting human rights, transparency and administrative justice, elections observation and peace and security.

Appreciating the important role of the AU in the continent and around the world, including the compelling vision of developing Agenda 2063, and the inspirational “E-mail from the Future,” the Association did not want to feel left out. Its president promised to provide the list of its members for consideration in various high level missions and initiatives.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma expressed delight in welcoming the delegation to Addis Ababa, and to work with the association in various areas. “Being their last line of defense, our citizens expect you to fully promote and protect their right,” she concluded.

Source: APO

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