To improve the job prospects of young Africans, countries in Africa need to focus on human rights, the environment and sustainable development, according to representatives of African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who met over the weekend at the NGO Forum in the Gambia.
Those changes need to include the human rights of LGBT people, according to a report from one group of NGO representatives that focused on economic, social and cultural issues (ECOSOC). The report from the ECOSOC group at the NGO Forum stated:
[L]oss of potential and lack of access to gainful employment, education and health services was … seen through the legal, cultural and religious discrimination experienced by LGBT Africans in 38 countries where homosexuality is still outlawed.
Recently the World Bank has been looking at the cost of homophobia when citizens who are educated and willing to contribute to the well-being of their communities are denied opportunity to work.
States also continue to agree on working with vulnerable and criminalized populations around greater access to HIV prevention and care, while actively imprisoning HIV workers or, in the case of Cameroon, refusing to conduct an investigation into the brutal murder and torture of Eric Lembembe (director of a local HIV organization serving LGBT people) last July.
A number of countries imprison their health workers and activists, accusing them of promoting homosexuality when they are merely educating the general public and these marginalized communities about access to health care. A clear distinction needs to be made in the right to access information and healthcare as not only a moral and humane issue, but also an economic one.
It was noted even in countries in West Africa who not do have criminal statutes against homosexuality i.e. Chad or Gabon, but LGBT citizens are still having a difficult time completing school or finding a job because of cultural or religious beliefs about their sexual orientation. These countries need to develop new laws and mechanisms to reduce stigma and discrimination so that LGBT people can emerge from poverty and homelessness as well.
Governments and faith communities need to extend protections and poverty reduction programmes, health services and equal business opportunities to all citizens without distinction of sexual orientation. African family life should be protected against exterior cultural and religious movements that legitimize rejection of African family members purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Resolutions adopted by the full NGO Forum did not specifically mention LGBT issues. The forum, which was sponsored by the Gambia-based African Centre for Democracy & Human Rights Studies, adopted these recommendations from the ECOSOC group:
Encourage African member states to consider ratification of the Optional
Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [which allows individuals to appeal to the U.N. Human Rights Committee if they believe their human rights have been violated.]
Develop an integrated, holistic approach involving human rights, environment and sustainable development to drive new employment opportunities for Africa’s younger generation.
Engage cultural and religious leaders in serious review of positive and negative beliefs and values that prove to be barriers to economic development and well-being for the continent.
Protect Africa’s multiculturalism as an integral value of a sustainable economic development strategy. This should include a serious reform of 50 years of failing bilateralism where environmental, social and cultural breakdowns need to be addressed.
The economic group’s report also stated:
Failure to meet educational and health care goals in many countries is a very common barrier to sustainable development and human potential in Africa. Lack of access to healthcare and maternal mortality is still a major African problem. … The educational system is also failing graduating youth who are qualified but cannot be offered work. Even returning educated and skilled members of the diaspora cannot be gainfully employed or mobilized as part of Africa’s economic stimulation. …
After 50 years of bi-lateral agreements, it is time to ask harder questions as to why countries like Nigeria can produce 2.4 m gallons of oil a day and still have 50% of its citizen living on $2 per day? The failure of resource allocation, management and exportation needs to be seriously reviewed with a goal to reduce exports of raw materials from Africa to increasing production of finished goods. This would have a dramatic impact on the unemployment situation in many African states. There is also a failure to utilize Africa’s enormous resources that avoids environmental pollution and associated trauma experienced by local communities.
Incidents of resource wars in places like the Congo and Sudan, particularly Darfur, illustrate this environmental catastrophe which robs people of religious and cultural diversity and the sharing of wealth for the common good. Darfur was seen as an example where the international community is complicit in the failure to support UN Human Rights Council’s mandates against sanctions and embargoes, without offering appropriate humanitarian relief or long-term political solutions. Governments conduct ethnic cleansing and limit wealth distribution to a few while millions suffer and perish. There needs to be more connection between stewardship of Africa’s resources and public transparency.
A water project from Togo was cited as a positive example of how society can hold companies responsible for paying for use or pollution of water principally as a human rights issue and an example of linking government and corporate transparency to the use of natural resources with a human rights instrument for the first time and benefitted the collective community rather than a minority elite….
In suggesting new and renewed efforts to strengthen African family life, some key areas need to addressed. These are celebrating Africa’s multiculturalism, creating a sustainable economic development strategy through a serious reform of bilateralism where environmental, social and cultural protections can be engines to drive new employment opportunities for Africa’s younger generation.
The role of civil society is crucial to shape and encourage this transformation, transparency and accountability. It is also time for the emerging instruments of Africa’s political, economic and cultural that have helped us get this far to take a bolder and deeper commitment by African states to review and consider endorsement the Optional Protocol on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This new and more binding protocol than any declarations heretofore can help civil society repair many of the issues discussed in this discussion paper, including protecting minority rights, employment programs for young Africans, equal access to health and education and the protection of the environment through good and transparent governance.
The Protocol was entered into in May 2013 and has been ratified in 10 countries (9 in Africa) and signed by 39 African countries of a total initial commitment of 46 international states. The NGO community, upon review of the binding extent of the Protocol, is encouraged to advocate this new strategy with their governments and more explicit in holding their governments more accountable than ever.
As Commissioner Kalfallah concluded this important review and analysis by NGO representatives, “Regardless of people’s religion or culture, there are still basic rights governments needs to respect. We need to end the exploitation of Africa’s resources, particularly in regions of conflict and their energies to the just distribution of wealth, so our children may not only eat, but find meaningful employment for the common good.”
The NGO Forum was held just before the regular meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is scheduled for Oct. 22 to Nov. 5, also in the Gambia.
- Steps toward LGBT equality via D.C., Rome, the Gambia (76crimes.com)
- Africans seek protection for LGBT Africans, and you can help (76crimes.com)
- Gambia: Raising red flags over human rights in the Gambia (ionglobaltrends.com)
- The African Human Rights Day is an annual opportunity to celebrate and advocate the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone across the African continent. (appablog.wordpress.com)