The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ East Africa Regional Office (EARO) was established in 2002 to provide assistance to the countries of the sub-region for the protection and promotion of human rights. The Office is also responsible for building the human rights capacity of the organs and institutions of the African Union.
East African countries have suffered from weak democratic institutions and governance challenges. The lack of an independent judiciary and the lack of accountability present significant human rights challenges.
The sub-region has been heavily affected by the economic, environmental and food crisis, with negative consequences for the overall enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. In spite of this, some countries in the sub-region are making steady progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Political and territorial disputes and the lack of consensus on the utilization of the Nile waters pose challenges to the stability of the region and call for an increased surveillance of the respect for human rights.
Long-standing crises, such as the conflict in Somalia, raise major humanitarian and human rights concerns and affect the entire sub-region. Women, internally displaced persons, refugees, minority groups, children and migrants are particularly vulnerable.
In some countries of the region, civil society organizations play an important role in monitoring and promoting human rights. Moreover, national human rights institutions increasingly engage with UN and AU human rights mechanisms and bodies.
The Africa Union
The African Union organs and institutions are increasingly active in the areas of peace and security, economic and political governance, human rights and humanitarian questions. With the signing of the 10 year capacity-building programme (10YCBP) between the UN and the AU, and the signing of the MoU between OHCHR and the AU, EARO takes part in all implementation meetings organized by the Regional Coordination Mechanism and the cluster system to ensure that human rights are taken on board in all programmes and activities geared towards the implementation of the 10YCBP.
In January 2012, OHCHR organized a dialogue between the Special Procedures Mandate-Holders of the UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and People’ Rights (ACHPR) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Dialogue was part of the ongoing consultations between the international and regional mechanisms, based on General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 and Human Rights Council resolution 12/15. Mandate-holders of both organizations pledged to cooperate more and to coordinate their activities, through information-sharing, joint public statements, joint awareness-raising events, possible joint missions, peer learning, and joint follow-up on the status of the implementation of country-based recommendations.
EARO has selected the following thematic priorities for the biennium 2012-2013:
- Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Rule of law, accountability/combating impunity, strengthening administration of justice/democratic institutions
- Strengthening human rights mechanisms
- Protecting human rights in the context of migrations, in particular, refugees and IDP issues
- Protecting human rights in the situation of armed conflict, violence and insecurity, in particular humanitarian emergencies.
The East Africa Regional Office notes the following expected accomplishments which correspond to its work plan for the biennium 2012-2013:
- Increased integration of human rights standards and principles, including the right to development, into the policies and programs of the UNECA and the UNCTs in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Djibouti.
- Increased ratification of international and regional human rights instruments
- The African Union Commission and the AU human rights institutions progressively strengthened to promote and protect human rights and to implement their human rights related decisions and recommendations
- The Governments of Djibouti and Tanzania increasingly comply and engage with UN and AU human rights mechanisms and bodies in terms of preparing and submitting relevant reports;
- Recommendations from the UN treaty bodies and UPR process are increasingly considered and followed up in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Tanzania;
- Awareness level on human rights standards relevant to law enforcement activities (in particular related to discriminated and vulnerable groups) is increased among police and prison officials in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Tanzania.
- The investigation units of NHRIs in Ethiopia and Tanzania are established/strengthened in order to handle civil and political, as well as ESCR complaints, particularly regarding discriminated groups including Albinos (Tanzania), refugees, migrants, persons living with disabilities and women