The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) organized a Workshop for NGOs on Observer Status Application before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the Committee) on November 25, 2022. The Workshop brought together participants from various civil society organisations (CSOs) registered in Ethiopia. 

The overall objective of the workshop was to support NGOs to enhance their engagement with the African Commission and the Committee. In her opening remarks, Albab Tesfaye, the Director of the Office of Chief Commissioner at EHRC, stated that “NGOs play a prominent role in the work of regional human rights bodies,” and underscored that “NGOs working on human rights in Ethiopia should endeavour to attain observer status with the African Commission and the Committee, as it is the first and basic step towards improved engagement with regional human rights bodies.” 

The meeting observed that even the few Ethiopia-registered NGOs which have attained observer status with the African Commission do not engage with the body, and that there are no Ethiopia-registered NGOs which have observer status with the Committee. Mesud Gebeyehu, Executive Director of the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organisations (CEHRO), partly attributed Ethiopian CSOs’ limited engagement with regional human rights bodies to the poor environment under which they operated for many years under the repealed CSOs Proclamation.

The workshop highlighted inter alia, the importance of engaging with the African human rights bodies and the opportunities available to NGOs for such engagement. The workshop delved into the criteria for granting observer status, the documents required for application, the process which should be followed, the benefits of having observer status and the duties of NGOs which have observer status. Some of the benefits of attaining observer status includes participating in the sessions of the African Commission and the Committee as well as their subsidiary bodies, presenting statements on human rights developments in the country during public session and taking the floor for interventions, accessing these bodies’ documents which are of interest to them and which are not confidential, receiving invitations to participate in closed sessions on issues of particular interest to the NGO and proposing the inclusion of items in the session agenda of the Commission and Committee. 

EHRC undertook to provide advisory and technical support to Ethiopia-registered NGOs in their efforts to apply for observer status with the African Commission and the Committee. The workshop concluded by reminding participants of the importance of engaging with these regional bodies to advance their work on human rights.