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OHCHR and AU Commission strengthen cooperation for human rights in Africa

The UN Human Rights office and the African Union Commission confirmed their longstanding cooperation to promote and protect human rights in Africa by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The agreement, signed during the 14th African Union Summit, provides for technical assistance, training, capacity building and mutual cooperation in the field of human rights.

The African Union 14th Summit concluded on 2 February..- African UnionUN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay and the Chairman of the African Union Commission Jean Ping signed the MOU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which hosts the African Union Commission (AUC), OHCHR’s presence in East Africa as well as the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), regional arm the United Nations.

During the signing ceremony, Pillay reminded attendees that the partnership between the AU and OHCHR was guided by a general framework for cooperation set by resolutions of the General Assembly, decisions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union and ECA, as well as treaties and other legal instruments signed between the then Organisation of African Unity and the UN.

For several years, the UN Human Rights office has been working hand-in-hand with the AUC and the African Union’s human rights bodies. In Addis Ababa, OHCHR and the AU co-chair the Human Rights, Justice and Reconciliation Sub-cluster which considers key policy and thematic human rights issues on the continent. The Office also assists each year with technical expertise and support to the sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The new agreement represents “a firmer, clearer and more specific framework for a better and more focused cooperation between our two organizations in the field of human rights”, said the High Commissioner. She also said she was confident that within the context of the UN-AU Ten Year Capacity-Building Programme, the MOU will be pivotal in strengthening the work of human rights actors on the continent.

Strengthened institutional cooperation on a range of human rights issues, as envisaged by the new MOU, should benefit human rights protection and promotion in Africa. High Commissioner Pillay reiterated her Office’s commitment to further assist the AUC including through the joint development of a comprehensive human rights strategy for Africa.

“Prompt adaptability together with robust and decisive action and inspired leadership are key to the effective implementation of human rights and in reaching out to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged”, she added.

8 February 2010