UNESCO and African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights agree to strengthen their cooperation


On 14 August 2018, UNESCO and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), formalizing the cooperation between the two organizations to promote freedom of expression and freedom of the press. This agreement, which fits within the framework of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, will reinforce standards and policies related to access to public information, safety of journalists, ending impunity for crimes against journalists, reinforcing the rule of law and the protection of human rights in Africa.

“This agreement is an important one because Africa remains a global priority of UNESCO, and freedom of speech, of communication, and protection of journalists are key elements towards freedom of expression and public access to information,” said Deputy Director General Xing Qu.

UNESCO's Deputy Director General Xing Qu and President of the African Court Justice Sylvain Oré signing the MoU. © UNESCO

President of the court, Justice Sylvain Oré, explained that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is the fruit of previous successful collaborations between UNESCO and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and building on these efforts is critical. “It is very important to train journalists, it’s true, but also the judiciary because the judiciary is indispensable in order to end impunity.”

More specifically, the agreement will facilitate capacity building activities such as workshops, training of trainers for judicial training institutes and support exchanges as well as promote inter-regional cooperation, in order to achieve the shared objective of strengthening the regional legal framework and judicial contribution on human rights and in particular freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

UNESCO’s association with the Court began with the organization of an inter-regional dialogue in Arusha, Tanzania, as part of the 2016 commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The dialogue facilitated discussion among African judges on international standards on safety of journalists and ending impunity. It included knowledge sharing on the African human rights framework, the role of inter-regional courts of human rights and ways to promote freedom of expression and journalists safety issues at regional and national levels.

This partnership led to a training of members of the judiciary (judges, legal officers, lawyers) in Africa on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, carried out in 2017. The project included seminars and the first ever African Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the subject. Judges from 13 different countries, as well as the ECOWAS Court of Justice, attended the seminars, which focused on enhancing the knowledge and understanding of judges on international and regional frameworks concerning freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. Nearly 900 participants, from 42 African countries, participated in the MOOC to acquaint themselves on freedom of expression issues, through content tailored to fit the African context. This MOOC was based on a similar course launched in Latin America, where more than 7,500 judges and legal professionals were trained since 2013.

UNESCO’s ongoing work will also strengthen the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular SDG 16 for “Peace, justice and strong institutions”.