Call for Research Papers Proposals
“Human Rights Adjudication in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities within the African Union and Sub-Regional Human Rights Systems”
October 2022, Harare, Zimbabwe.
The closing date for submitting an abstract is 6 April 2022.
The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (hereinafter “RWI”), Lund, Sweden, in collaboration with its academic partner institutions under the Regional Africa Programme 2017-2023, members of the Regional African Human Rights Academic Network (hereinafter “Academic Network”), are organising the 2022 Regional Africa Human Rights Academic Network Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, hosted by the University of Zimbabwe, in October 2022.
The theme of the conference is “Human Rights Adjudication in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities within the African Union and Sub-Regional Human Rights Systems”. Researchers, scholars and academic staff affiliated to any institution member of the Academic Network, or to any institution affiliated to the Regional Africa Programme, are invited to submit proposals within the theme and sub-themes of the Conference as identified below.
Young or early career researchers or scholars are encouraged to apply. Papers presented at the Academic Network Conference, are eligible for a double-blind-peer-reviewed publication in an accredited scientific journal. In person participation at the Conference will be supported with the generous contribution of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Online participation could be considered by the organisers, if necessary.
Conference Theme: Background
The theme for the 2022 Academic Network Conference is “Human Rights Adjudication in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities within the African Union and Sub-Regional Human Rights Systems”. This broad theme will enable participants to engage with a multitude of comparative issues existing within the African human rights systems and, if feasible, to reflect these against the regional human rights system beyond the African continent.
After the suspension of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal in 2010 the African continent is home to three supranational courts with a human rights mandate, one regional, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (African Court or Court) and two sub-regional, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice (ECOWAS Court). In addition, the African Union system offers the possibility of human rights adjudication before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Committee of Experts).
Successful adjudication before these institutions depends on whether a matter falls within the material, personal, temporal and geographical jurisdiction of the courts and quasi-judicial bodies. It is also dependent on the fulfilment of the applicable admissibility criteria. In this regard it is fair to suggest that the material jurisdiction of these courts and quasi-judicial bodies differs greatly, both in terms of scope but also in how and where their mandates are presented.
To exemplify the latter, the material jurisdiction of the African Court is clearly stipulated in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court Protocol), while the material jurisdiction of the EACJ in human rights matters is based on an interpretation of the general mandate of the East African Community (EAC). There are furthermore significant differences regarding the personal jurisdiction, i.e., in the access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies as well as the admissibility criteria applied. In terms of the application of admissibility criteria, while exhaustion of local remedies is essential before the African Court, the ECOWAS Court, as an example, does not apply such a criterion. These, and other considerations have a direct effect on where, how, and when human rights adjudication takes place, and it also influences the subject matter of the claims presented as well as the outcome.
In recent years we have witnessed many challenges to human rights adjudication on the African continent. For instance, access to the African Court has been limited through the withdrawal of the Article 34(6) declaration made by states parties to the African Court Protocol, preventing individuals and NGOs from directly accessing the African Court. Access to the African Court by NGOs has also been restricted by the withdrawal of observer status of some NGOs before the African Commission, more restrictive criteria in obtaining such status and the denial of access by NGOs with observer status before the African Commission to the advisory jurisdiction of the Court.
Moreover, the material jurisdiction of the EACJ has arguably been complicated by the failure of the EAC to approve a protocol to operationalise the extended, human rights, jurisdiction of the EACJ. Although human rights adjudication takes place before the EACJ, the difficulties of having to litigate under fundamental and operational principles of the EAC instead of a delineated and dedicated human rights mandate are visible in the jurisprudence of the EACJ.
As the different parts of the African regional and sub-regional human rights develop there is palpable tension between the desire to have regional and sub-regional bodies establish and enforce uniform human rights standards and the need to respect the sovereignty and diversity of the different member states. Related to this are the issues of uniform interpretation of treaties.
Call Objectives and Conference Thematic Areas
The overall objective of the Academic Network Conference is to advance the understanding and scientific knowledge regarding the way the Regional and Sub-regional Human Rights Systems in Africa contribute to access to justice on the continent. In fact, since the beginning of the implementation of the RWI Regional Africa Programme in 2017, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute together with its regional African partners have pursued the realisation of the overall objective of the programme, which is a demonstrable improvement in access to justice for all and implementation of human rights commitments in Africa. This objective is framed by the premise that the key challenge for increased respect for human rights regionally is not primarily a lack of standards and institutions, but making existing standards and institutions work.
Within the framework of this programme, the Regional Africa Academic Network was established with the aim of bringing together universities from across the continent to generate research and resources, build capacity, and develop spaces for inter-sectoral dialogue. Among other activities supported and undertaken by the network, the organisation of the Annual Conference intends to create a space of reflection, dialogue and knowledge sharing between members of the academic community, representatives of civil society organisations, bar associations and regional bodies that contribute to the advancement of human rights adjudication in Africa.
This Call aims to promote better understanding and to generate further knowledge regarding the regional and sub-regional human rights systems in Africa. In particular regarding the practice, methods and jurisprudence of human rights adjudication that take place before the African Commission, African Court, African Committee of Experts, the EACJ and the ECOWAS Court.
This year’s Call is open for abstracts relevant to the theme “Human Rights Adjudication in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities within the African Union and Sub-Regional Human Rights Systems”.
Considering the above, research related to the following areas is encouraged:
- Prospects and challenges of regional and sub-regional human rights adjudication on the continent. Common denominators, best practises and the way forward;
- Shared jurisdiction and methods of interpretation applied by the African Court, ECOWAS Court and the EACJ. Dialogue, cross fertilisation and cooperation;
- Development of rule of procedures, internal working methods and policies within regional and sub-regional human rights bodies in Africa. Challenges, opportunities and best practices;
- Methods of interpretation within human rights adjudication. Comparative best practises among regional and sub-regional human rights courts and quasi-judicial bodies;
- Jurisprudential developments regarding access to justice for vulnerable individuals or groups, including, but not limited to, women, indigenous people, minority groups, persons with disabilities, children, the elderly, internally displaced people, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees;
- Feminist jurisprudence with a focus on how regional and sub-regional human rights bodies contribute to promote and reinforce gender equality in Africa. Challenges, opportunities and best practises;
- Adjudication of environmental rights within the regional and sub-regional human rights systems in Africa. Emerging practises and the way forward;
- Implementation of human rights decisions and recommendations of regional and subregional human rights bodies at national level. Comparative studies in other regional human rights systems, structural or systemic barriers, challenges and opportunities.
Researchers, scholars and academic staff affiliated to academic institutions and non-academic institutions4 partners within the RWI Regional African Programme are eligible to submit an abstract for the 2022 Academic Network Conference. Junior or early career researchers or scholars and female scholars and researchers are particularly encouraged to apply. The organisers aim to ensure a balanced gender participation at the Conference.
Research methodology workshop
With the contribution of senior scholars from the African Academic Network, junior or early career researchers or scholars affiliated to academic and non-academic institutions partners within the RWI Regional African Programme with and accepted abstract, will be invited to participate in a research methodology workshop. This is aimed at supporting the development of their papers, at strengthening their research, to guarantee their presentation at the Annual Conference and to increase the potential for their publication in the peer reviewed journal as indicated above.
The research methodology workshop will take place during mid-June 2022, in Nairobi, Kenya. Travel, accommodation and per diem for the participation at the workshop will be afforded by the RWI Regional African Programme, with the generous contribution of Sida. Participation in this workshop by junior or early career researchers will be by invitation only. The organiser’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.
Regional African Academic Network Conference
The Regional African Academic Network Conference will take place during mid-October 2022, in Harare, Zimbabwe, hosted by the University of Zimbabwe.5 During the conference, selected papers will be presented and discussed in different panel sessions, chaired by senior scholars and researchers from the Academic Network. It is expected that all selected participants will be able to travel to Zimbabwe to attend the Conference. Travel, accommodation and per diem for the participation at the workshop will be afforded by the RWI Regional African Programme, with the generous contribution of Sida. Online participation could be considered by the organisers, if necessary.
Publication of Conference papers
Research papers selected for presentation at the conference will be eligible for publication in a double-blind-peer-reviewed accredited scientific journal. The publication will have the format of a special edition, co-edited by Dr Alejandro Fuentes, Raoul Wallenberg Institute (Sweden), and Prof Annika Rudman, University of Stellenbosch (South Africa). The decisions of the coeditors regarding any aspect of the publication process are final and not subject to appeal.
Researchers, scholars and academic staff affiliated to academic and non-academic partners of the RWI Regional African Programme are invited to submit their abstract for participation in the Academic Network Conference, including the documents indicated below, by 6 April 2022, to Kasiva Mulli at the following email address: email@example.com and copy to firstname.lastname@example.org
The following documentation should be attached:
- Up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV);
- Abstract (300-500 words) – A short description of the suggested research indicating to
which theme or sub-theme the proposed paper is related;
- Motivation letter (200-500 words) – A personal statement explaining your motivation to
participate at the conference, indicating whether you should be considered as a junior or
early career researcher or scholar and, therefore, being eligible for the participation at the
research methodology workshop.
An email confirming that your application has been received will be sent to all applicants.
- Deadline for the submission of abstract: 6 April 2022.
- Decision regarding the selection of abstracts: 13 April 2022.
- Research methodology workshop in Nairobi: mid-June 2022.
- Deadline for the submission of the first draft of the paper (only for junior or early career
researchers or scholars admitted to the workshop): mid-August 2022.
- Deadline for the submission of the full draft of the paper for all participants at the conference
(including junior or early career researchers or scholars): mid-September 2022.
- 2022 Regional African Human Rights Academic Network, organised by the University of
Zimbabwe, in Harare: mid-October 2022.
- Deadline for the submission of the final draft of the paper for publication: mid-November
- The finalisation of the peer-reviewed process and editing of the papers selected for
publication is planned for March 2023.
The organisers reserve the right to extend the deadlines and dates indicated in this Call, in case that organisational needs will require it. Any modification will be duly notified to accepted applicants.