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Final communique - 6th meeting of Heads oh United Nations Human Rights in West Africa

The Heads of United Nations Human Rights Offices in West Africa held their sixth consultative meeting in Dakar, Senegal, from 16 to 17 March 2011, hosted by the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA).

The meeting was inaugurated by Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights in the presence of Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and senior officials from UNOWA.

The meeting was attended by the Regional Representative of the High Commissioner for West Africa, the Heads of United Nations Human Rights Offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo, the Human Rights Advisor to the UNCT in Niger and the Chief of the Human Rights and Gender Section of the United Nations Office for West Africa. In attendance also were the Chief of the Africa Branch, the acting Head of Africa Section II at Headquarters and the ECOWAS Court of Justice.

Participants had fruitful discussions with the High Commissioner for human rights, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for West Africa, the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria, OHCHR’s Head of Human Resources Section, colleagues from OHCHR’s Policy, Planning and Monitoring Section, the Honorary President of the International Federation for Human Rights, UNWOMEN’s Deputy Regional Representative for West Africa and the staff from UNAIDS.

They examined the situation of human rights in West Africa and held discussions on the following priority themes : human rights in electoral processes, humanitarian issues, combating impunity and gender and human rights. Considering the volatile security situation in some countries, the participants stressed the importance of mainstreaming UNSCR 1612 and 1882 and monitoring grave violations against children such as killing or maiming ; recruitment or use of children as soldiers ; rape and other grave sexual abuse ; abduction of children ; attacks against schools or hospitals ; denial of humanitarian access ; mobilizing resources for long term reintegration of children affected by armed conflict including child soldiers. They also reviewed human rights challenges in post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian and development context.

They expressed concern over violations of human rights during electoral processes. In view of forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, participants reemphasized the strategic importance of a human rights presence in United Nations engagement in electoral and political processes. The meeting expressed its support to the United Nations Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and especially the Human Rights Division, for their courage and exemplary work being done in a particularly hostile environment in the context of the Ivorian post-electoral crisis.

Participants were pleased to notice that most activities outlined in the roadmap adopted at the fifth meeting held in Monrovia in October 2010 had been implemented. They recalled and stressed the importance of the forum in inter-alia sharing best practices and developing strategies for the implementation of priorities jointly identified by United Nations Human Rights Offices in West Africa.

The Heads of United Nations Human Rights Offices in West Africa welcomed the enhanced partnership with UNWOMEN including in supporting the implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Plan on UNSCR 1325 and the Secretary-General’s Campaign to end violence against women, with UNAIDS in the area of human rights, and with the ECOWAS Court of Justice on combating impunity and promoting the rule of law in West Africa.

Participants will continue working on priority issues identified in previous meetings : elections, combating impunity, gender and violence against women with a focus on the ECOWAS Plan of Action for the implementation of UNSCR1325, human trafficking, and human rights issues relating to peace processes including UNSCR 1612 and 1882, unconstitutional changes of government, security sector reform and the promotion of social, economic and cultural rights. They commended the effort taken in the preparation for the regional conference on human rights, justice, peace, security and development under the auspices of UNOWA in close collaboration with ECOWAS, the African Union and the Mano River Union.

The seventh meeting of United Nations Human Rights Offices in West Africa shall take place in Togo in the first semester of 2012 and will be hosted by the OHCHR Office in Togo.

Participants expressed their deep gratitude to the SRSG and UNOWA for the warm welcome given to them and for all the facilities they kindly put at their disposal.

Participants also expressed their profound gratitude to the High Commissioner for attending the sixth session, OHCHR Headquarters and the Africa Branch in particular for the unfailing support to human rights field presences in the sub-region.

Done in Dakar on this 17th day of March 2011.
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For more informatioPatrice Vahard, Senior Human Rights Advisor, Chief, Human Rights and Gender Section
United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) - Telephone (Direct Line)+221338698552 - Inter Office 1938552

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