The Commissioner of Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) , Joseph Whittal says the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement must involve vulnerable people.
He made the call when he participated in a two-day meeting of Human Rights Experts and other key stakeholders at Banjul in the Gambia.
The meeting was aimed at discussing issues relating to trade and human rights in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) Agreement and asserted the consideration and implementation of the recommendations of the meeting.
The discussions centered on “Inclusive Implementation of the AfCFTA with Participation of Vulnerable Populations”.
The meeting, being the 5th National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) forum was organized by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the core of the ACHPR public ordinary sessions.
The objective of the forum was also to provide a platform for the African NHRIs, the ACHPR, the OHCHR, as well as the international human rights mechanisms it supports, and other key stakeholders to deliberate on issues with respect to human rights and a right to development approach in the implementation of the AfCFTA, focusing on the vulnerable and minority groups who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the liberalization of trade if no human rights safeguards are executed.
The programme which comprised of expert presentations, panel discussions, and plenary sessions provided opportunities for NHRIs to discuss and make recommendations on thematic human rights issues.
It also created a platform to exchange experiences on participants’ efforts in supporting the work of the ACHPR in promoting and protecting human rights and collective (people’s) rights in Africa.
The forum featured important sessions as follows: Introduction to AfCFTA: Background, Status of ratification, negotiations, and implementation, Deep dive into the AfCFTA: A focus on linkage between trade, development, and human rights, and AfCFTA and Human Rights: A focus on gains, opportunities, gaps, and potential risks for vulnerable populations.
Others are overview of the NANHRI Baseline study and stakeholder mapping on the AfCFTA report & the Guiding Framework on Mainstreaming Human Rights in the AfCFTA., Perspectives from Development Partners on the AfCFTA, Thematic Breakout Groups and feedback on key outputs and Presentation and adoption of the Draft Resolution.
The climax of the meeting reflected on the resolutions on integrating human rights and the right to development in protecting vulnerable and marginalized groups in the implementation of the AfCFTA to be presented to the ACHPR for consideration at the 73rd Ordinary Session, and also recommendations on equipping NHRIs with technical expertise on integrating human rights and the right to development in protecting vulnerable and marginalized groups in the implementation of the AfCFTA frame.
The highlight of the forum was the session on the 35th Anniversary Celebrations of the Establishment of the ACHPR-Reflections on Enhancing the Collaboration between NHRIs and the ACHPR.
Participants at the forum were key stakeholders, including representatives of the NHRIs, the ACHPR, the AfCFTA Secretariat, State Representatives, Representatives of African Regional Treaty Bodies, relevant United Nations (UN) Agencies, Civil Society Organisations, Academic Institutions, and Development Partners.