MANDATE OF THE WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS/COMMUNITIES IN AFRICA
The Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa is one of the special mechanisms overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Working Group was created in 2000 during the Commission’s 28th Ordinary Session. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Resolution 51, Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Communities in Africa, 6 November 2000. Its purpose is to protect and promote the human rights of indigenous peoples and communities throughout the African Union (AU) Member States.
COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS
The Commission appoints the Working Group’s Chairperson and members either by a consensus or by a vote. See ACommHPR, Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2010, Rule 23(2). The mandate of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa has been renewed by the Commission several times, typically every two years. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Resolution 123, Resolution on the Composition and Renewal of the Mandate of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa, 28 November 2007. The Working Group is composed of the Chairperson, Commissioner members, and African expert members. See, e.g., id. As of October 2014, each individual appointed as Chairperson has been a Commissioner, and all the Commissioners who belonged to the Working Group were simultaneously serving on the African Commission.
The Working Group undertakes a number of duties, including sending urgent appeals to Member States and letters to non-State actors, studying and publishing research on relevant human rights situations and conditions, and conducting visits to Member States.
Guidance on Alleged Violations
The Working Group sends urgent appeals to Member State officials regarding alleged violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights. The urgent appeals remind the State of its international obligations, and often request information regarding what measures have been taken to address the situation. See, e.g., Soyata Maiga, Intersession Report of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa, Intersession Activity Report, 54th Ordinary Session (2013).
The Working Group also sends letters to non-State actors and institutions, encouraging them to develop protocols that safeguard the human rights of indigenous populations while the institution or actor carries out its functions. See, e.g., Soyata Maiga, Intersession Report of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa, Intersession Activity Report, 53rd Ordinary Session (2013).
Research and Publications
The Working Group has prepared many reports and publications on indigenous peoples’ human rights. In 2003, it created the Report of the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities, which developed the framework for the treatment of indigenous peoples’ human rights in Africa. The Working Group also prepared a summary of that report, entitled Indigenous Peoples in Africa: The Forgotten Peoples?. See, e.g., Soyata Maiga, Intersession Report of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa, Intersession Activity Report, 52nd Ordinary Session (2012).
The Working Group also collaborated with the International Labour Organization to research and prepare a report on the legislative and constitutional protections for indigenous populations in 24 African countries.
In addition to publishing reports, the Working Group has collaborated with civil society organizations and government officials to produce a film entitled A Question of Justice: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Africa.
The Working Group undertakes country visits to Member States, with their consent. During these visits, which are also known as missions, the Working Group engages with government officials, international and regional civil society organizations, and indigenous communities. The Working Group gathers information about the problems indigenous populations are facing, and makes recommendations to the State on how to improve them.
According to Rule 60 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, after the completion of a mission, the Working Group has a duty to publish a Mission Report, which may be found on its website. These reports contain general recommendations to the State, and often include specific recommendations to the African Union, international community, and civil society, among others.
The Working Group has also published its Mission Reports in book format, which are available in English and French. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Report of the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities: Research and Information Visit to the Republic of Uganda 14–17, 24–29 July 2006 (2009).
The Working Group is responsible for seeking and receiving information from individuals, governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions, and other stakeholders concerning cases or situations that involve the human rights of indigenous peoples.
Along with information gathered from such actors and during missions, the Working Group disseminates and obtains information through promotional activities, such as workshops, sensitization seminars, and expert meetings. The Working Group often coordinates these activities with other relevant Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups under the Commission or the United Nations.
On the basis of information received, the Working Group may propose that the Commission take a certain action or decision, or the Working Group may raise awareness of an issue in its reports, press releases, or other activities.
The Working Group submits Intersession Activity Reports to the Commission each year, which outline the activities the Working Group has undertaken. The Commission also prepares an annual Activity Report that it submits to the African Union Assembly, which includes information gathered from the Working Group, summarizing positive developments and areas of concern regarding human rights in Africa.
The Working Group also publishes a bi-annual newsletter entitled The Voice of the Indigenous, which describes the Working Group’s activities and promotes awareness of indigenous rights.
The Working Group may be contacted by:
Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa
31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District
Western Region P.O. Box 673 Banjul
- Email: The Working Group’s website contains an automated system to send the Chairperson emails, by selecting the “Contact Commissioner” link.
The Working Group does not accept individual complaints or requests for provisional measures. Such communications must be addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. For additional information, see the Commission’s Guidelines for the Submission of Communications or IJRC’s resources on the African human rights system.