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Resolution on the Situation of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in Africa

7 November 2003

The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 34th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Eighth Human Rights Book Fair, held at the Corinthia Atlantic Hotel in Banjul, from November 3-5 2003.

Mindful of the fundamental importance of recognising minorities and indigenous peoples within African countries and in the constitutions of those countries as essential to securing their rights and to the promotion of constructive co-existence, conflict prevention and sustainable development;

Recognising the standards in international law for the promotion and protection of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, including as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (UNDM), the International Labour Convention (ILO) 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC);

Considering the emphasis given in international law to self-identification as the primary criterion for the determination of who constitutes a minority or indigenous person; and the importance of effective and meaningful participation and of non-discrimination, including with regard to the right to education;

Alarmed by the armed conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan;

Emphasising the essential integration of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples in the processes and outcomes of development;

Concerned by the ongoing plight of non-citizens in various African countries, and the double discrimination faced by women and the people living with disabilities, who are also members of minority and indigenous communities;

Alarmed by the acts of cannibalism that have recently been brought to light against the Batwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo;

The NGO Forum calls on African Governments to:

  • Recognise the existence of minorities and indigenous peoples including through the entrenchment of their rights within national constitutions;
  • Ensure open, just and transparent methods for granting legal status to domestic NGOs, which is a necessary requirement, inter alia, to allow minorities and indigenous peoples’ organisations to function as well as to enable them to apply for Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  • Secure the participation rights of minorities and indigenous peoples without any form of discrimination in: all political bodies and institutions; within decision-making processes; within processes aimed at conflict resolution; in the allocation and distribution of land and in access to natural resources, most notably in cases where they have been expelled from their traditional lands, cut off from traditional means of livelihood and denied the opportunity to benefit from the natural resources located on these lands, such as in Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia;
  • Progressively realise the right to education of minorities and indigenous peoples with the aim of strengthening their capacity to participate in decision-making processes that affect them and the countries in which they live;
  • Implement fully, the vital points articulated by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in their Recommendations issued on the Rights of Indigenous Children (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 34th Session, September 15-October 3 2003);

The NGO Forum calls upon the African Commission to:

  • Question the Delegation of the DRC on the omission of any reference to the Batwa in their Periodic Report being considered at this 34th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  • Consider methods of addressing the impunity with which the perpetrators of cannibalism against the Batwa in the DRC are being allowed to function;
  • Address in its work during this session and in future sessions the insufficient degree to which The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) fulfils the requirements of a right to development as addressed in the 5th Report of the UN Independent Expert on the Right to Development (UN Doc. E/CN.4/2002/WG.18/6);
  • Consider submitting a statement on the situation of non-citizens in Africa to the forthcoming thematic sessions on discrimination and non-citizens being held under the auspices of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in February-March 2004;
  • Adopt the Report of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in the knowledge that the NGO Forum supports its findings;
  • Highlight its concerns during the consideration of the Periodic Report of Sudan at this session regarding the continuous targeting of civilians by the Government forces and the Government’s reluctance to allow humanitarian and human rights organisations access to all regions despite the positive developments in relation to peace negotiations.

Adopted at Banjul, November 5th 2003.