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African Human Rights Issues Under the Spotlight

Franciscans International hosted an advanced workshop in Geneva for Franciscans from eleven Francophone African countries in March.  Most of the 11 participants, from Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Rwanda, Tchad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Cameroon and Madagascar, had already worked with FI through submitting a UPR report on their country’s human rights situation. The workshop focused on developing their working knowledge of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and other UN human rights mechanisms through which FI addresses the root causes of human rights abuses. 

The workshop strengthened their capacity in relation to UN advocacy, with an action-oriented structure. It included group discussions and practical sessions on how to use the UN human rights mechanisms, and a focus on best practices experienced by FI and other experts and human rights defenders.
A round-table discussion on ‘Harmful Traditional Practices in sub-Saharan Africa’ involved Mr. Norbert Fanou Ako, Director of Enfants Solidaires d’Afrique et du Monde, Benin, and Mrs. Audrey Rinaldi, Human Rights Officer at the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Mr. Jean-Claude Vignoli, Programme Director at UPR-Info, gave a presentation evaluating the first cycle of the UPR and led a session on monitoring the implementation of UPR recommendations with a specific focus on Africa.  

During the week, the group participated in the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council. They heard discussions on critical human rights issues including torture and arbitrary detention, freedom of religion or belief, the right to food, adequate housing, and children’s rights.

In preparation for returning to their countries of work, the Franciscans were encouraged to focus on addressing the injustices they experience daily and engage in effective advocacy strategies. Through this approach, they, along with FI, will be able to contribute to positive change by addressing injustice at national and international levels through effective advocacy work.  By the end of the workshop the participants felt equipped with the skills and knowledge to utilise relevant UN mechanisms to contribute to the protection of human rights in their respective countries.