NEPAD has in fact become a programme of the African Union, thus contributing to the institutional challenge of setting up this organisation; it was acknowledged by the General Assembly of the United Nations as the main development programme for the African continent; finally, it has won international backers and in particular the G8 countries.
The FIDH has positively welcomed the willingness of African Heads of State to take over the development of their continent within a democratic framework and regards NEPAD as a major boost for human rights.
In fact, practically everything in NEPAD falls within the ambit of human rights, from democracy and good governance, to health, education, food and strengthening of the rule of law...
However, two things must be said:
it is correct to say that NEPAD is formally rooted in human rights since the texts to which it refers - and principally the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance- contain many provisions on human rights; furthermore, NEPAD reaffirms “the total and continuous commitment on the part of the African Heads of State to the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights (...) the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all related conventions”.
it is also correct to say that there are fears that these roots remain purely formal.
For example, it is worrying that at the time of the inception of the project, the programmes envisaged were little more than a repetition of the political principles advocated by the Bretton Woods Institutions - which had precisely been so disparaged by many of the African Heads of State and whose disastrous impact on human rights is now widely recognised.
It is also alarming to see how NEPAD seems to favour a vision of human rights oriented more towards civil and political rights, the respect of which is above all aimed at reassuring investors - particularly private investors - on whom NEPAD depends for the resources necessary for its operation.
It is especially alarming to see that issues of health, education or of development in general are not tackled in the perspective of rights to which the private individual or the community are entitled, and which are guaranteed by the State.
Being rooted in human rights means nothing unless the developed countries themselves assume responsibility for the bankruptcy of the African continent and honour their international obligations, principally with regards to official development aid, reduction or cancellation of the debt and access to the markets.
As for the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which today comprises 24 States , the FIDH regards it as a tool which could be used to strengthen the body of fundamental rights in Africa - but which could also turn out to be an empty shell, a political protection for indefensible regimes, if it does not have the guarantees of a free functioning to carry its mission to a successful conclusion.
The APRM must supplement and strengthen the existing mechanisms relating to human rights, like the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Although the FIDH understands the philosophy of this mechanism, which is not to punish but to support a gradual improvement of rights and freedoms through co-operation and dialogue, it nevertheless hopes that the first reports will be uncompromising in stating the condition of human rights and the need for immediate commitment to find a solution.
In order to meet these many challenges, the purpose of this guide is to help ensure that NEPAD is no longer simply a “vision”, but a reality, fully in accordance with the rights of the African people.
Foreword by Sidiki Kaba
President of the FIDH