On November 3, 2023, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – East African Regional Office (OHCHR-EARO) jointly organised a High-Level Conference to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted in 1948.
The Conference brought together representatives from government institutions, including senior state officials, the diplomatic community, international organizations, continental bodies, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), academia, and media. The Conference centered around two pivotal thematic areas: “Reinvigorating Civic Space and the Media Landscape in Ethiopia” and “Accountability for Violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.”
In his opening address, Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele highlighted some positive developments in expanding the civic space and promoting human rights, which have however been “overshadowed in recent years by serious human rights and humanitarian law violations in the context of violent conflicts which continue to unfold.” He emphasized that “the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration is an opportune moment for Ethiopia to recommit to the core human rights obligations the country embraced 75 years ago.” Commissioner Daniel stressed that “transitional justice and the national dialogue process are the only vehicles for ending the cycle of violent conflict” and called for a peaceful conflict resolution through dialogue. He called on international partners to continue their support to Ethiopia in fulfilling its human rights obligations.
Mr. Marcel Akpovo, Regional Representative of OHCHR-EARO underscored “the historical legacy of Ethiopia, as one of the few African Member States that negotiated the UDHR in 1948” adding that “Ethiopia must therefore take its place and leverage this anniversary towards further progress in human rights despite the current challenges.”
The Conference included panel discussions on the thematic areas of civic space and accountability. Panelists for the discussion on civic space included representatives from the Ethiopian Media Council, Agency for CSOs (ACSO), Ethiopian CSOs Council, Political Parties Joint Council, Federal Police Commission, and EHRC. Panelists for the discussion on accountability included Honourable Abeba Embiale, Vice-President of the Federal Supreme Court; H.E. Alemante Agidew, State Minister of the Ministry of Justice; the Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparations, and Guarantees of Non-recurrence; Expert from the Transitional Justice Working Group of Experts, Lawyers for Human Rights representative, and the Executive Directress Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. Discussants reflected on the achievements, challenges, and gaps in relation to enhancing civic space and in ensuring accountability and presented relevant recommendations.
During the Conference, the Ministry of Justice, Federal Supreme Court, Federal Police, and ACSO made concrete pledges and commitments in relation to their mandate areas, which will be presented at the UDHR 75 Anniversary High-level Global Summit in Geneva from December 11 to 12, 2023.