African Group: Statement on candidates for UN Human Rights Council elections

To: Member States of the African Group
Re: African Group candidates for UN Human Rights Council elections

We are writing to express our concern over the lack of competition in the African Group slate for the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) elections, and the late manner in which the candidates from the African Group were announced for the 2019 elections to the Council. Going forward, we urge Member States of the African Group to present competitive slates for Council election and to follow the practice of announcing their candidacies by the High-Level Segment of every year’s March session of the Council, at the latest.

UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 60/251 decided that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and shall fully cooperate with the Council. Closed slates deny the Member States of the General Assembly the opportunity to pursue that objective in their choice of Council members. The lack of competition all but guarantees election for all the candidates in a closed slate, irrespective of their human rights performance. This turns the election into an appointment process that violates the spirit of the Council’s membership rules and undermines the credibility and effectiveness of the Council.

Furthermore, UNGA Resolution 60/251 decided that when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto. We urge all candidates running for election to prepare and publish their pledges in a timely manner. The elaboration of voluntary pledges and commitments should be based on broad, inclusive, timely and meaningful consultations with a range of actors including civil society, parliamentarians, national human rights institutions, ministries, and the broader public. In publishing timely pledges, candidate States encourage engagement and ownership by other actors to follow up on, and contribute to, their implementation, with the ultimate goal of improving the human rights situation on the ground.

Each year, pledging events take place in Geneva and New York for candidate States in early September. This year’s late announcement of some candidates meant that a majority of African Group candidates were unable to participate in those events. The pledging events provide a critical opportunity for Member States and civil society to directly and constructively engage with candidate States for the Council, with the aim of enhancing transparency and accountability in Council elections and improve adherence to Council membership standards.

Therefore, we urge Member States of the African Group to announce their candidacies by the High- Level Segment of the March session of the Council at the latest.

We also urge Member States of the African Group to bear in mind the membership standards contained in General Assembly resolution 60/251 and ensure that the slate of African Group candidates is competitive. Having States that are accused, by a range of independent sources, of committing gross and systematic human rights violations running for Council elections negatively impacts the Council’s credibility in the eyes of the public. Furthermore, closed slates deny the Member States of the General Assembly the opportunity to pursue the objective voting for candidates that 14th of February, 2020 uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and that fully cooperate with the Council.

Building on the close and constructive relationship we and other civil society colleagues have established with a number of African Group members’ delegations, both in Geneva and in New York, we look forward to engaging with you further on this issue.

For full transparency: a similar letter is being sent to members of other regional groups, raising our concerns over lack of competitive slates and the timing of announcement of candidacies.


CC: Mr. Calixte Aristide Mbari, Chef de Division, Democratic Governance and Human Rights, African Union

Mrs. Cessouma Minata Samate, Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union

Endorsing Organisations:

  1. ACAT-Burundi
  2. ADISI-Cameroun
  3. AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  4. Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
  5. Association des Femmes Cheffes de Famille (AFCF)
  6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  7. Centre de Recherche sur l’Environnement, la Democratie et les Droits de l’Homme (CREDDHO)
  8. Centre for the Reconciliation and Rehabilitation of Families (CERREFAM)
  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  11. Coalition Togolaise des Défensurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
  12. Concerned Nigerians
  13. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  14. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  15. Development Dynamics
  16. Human Rights Defenders Network-SL
  17. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  18. La Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CBDDH)
  19. Minority rights Group International
  20. Namibia Diverse Women’s Association (NDWA)
  21. Partnership For Justice- Focal point for HRDs Nigeria
  22. Publiez ce que vous payez Congo, Rep
  23. Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme (RPDH)
  24. Réseau des défenseurs des droits Humains d’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
  25. Reseau Ivoirien Pour La Defense Des Droits De L’enfant et de la Femme (Riddef)
  26. Right Livelihood Award Foundation
  27. ROTAB Reseau des organisations pour la Transparence et L’Analyse Budgetaire
  1. SOS Torture Burundi
  2. SOS-Esclaves Mauritanie
  3. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
  4. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
  5. Success Capital Organisation
  6. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN)