AfCFTA must focus on the vulnerable and minority groups — CHRAJ 

By Angela Ayimbire

Tema, Oct. 24, GNA – The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must focus on the vulnerable and minority groups, who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the liberalisation of trade if no human rights safeguards are executed.  

Mr Joseph Whittal, the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, who made the call has, therefore, prayed that African Governments adopt a right-to-development approach in the AfCFTA implementation.  

Mr Whittal stated at the fifth National Human Rights Institutions forum organised by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) and attended by Human Rights Experts and stakeholders at Banjul, the Gambia, a statement issued by CHRAJ and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Tema stated. 

The two-day forum was on the theme: “Inclusive Implementation of the AfCFTA with Participation of Vulnerable Populations”. It discussed issues relating to trade and human rights in the AFCFTA Agreement. 

It was organised in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the core of the ACHPR public ordinary sessions. 

Mr Whittal explained that the forum also provided a platform for the African NHRIs, the ACHPR, the OHCHR, as well as the international human rights mechanisms. 

He said the experts and key stakeholders deliberated on issues with respect to human rights and proper practices on inclusion and participation of the vulnerable population. 

He said a practical linkage between trade, development, and human rights; gains, opportunities, gaps, and potential risks for vulnerable populations about the execution of the AfCFTA agreement. 

The programme, which comprised of expert presentations, panel discussions, and plenary sessions, provided opportunities for NHRIs to discuss and make recommendations on thematic human rights issues.  

It also created a platform to exchange experiences on participants’ efforts in supporting the work of the ACHPR in promoting and protecting human rights and collective (people’s) rights in Africa. 

Prominent issues that featured at the discussion sessions, among other things, the background, status of ratification, negotiations, and implementation of the AfCFTA. 

The meeting climaxed on the resolutions on integrating human rights and the right to development, as well as equipping NHRIs with technical expertise in protecting vulnerable and marginalized groups in the implementation of the AfCFTA to be presented to the ACHPR for consideration at the 73rd Ordinary Session. 

Participating at the forum were key stakeholders, including representatives of the NHRIs, the ACHPR, the AfCFTA Secretariat, State Representatives, Representatives of African Regional Treaty Bodies, relevant United Nations (UN) Agencies, Civil Society Organisations, Academic Institutions, and Development Partners.