On 27-29 September I participated in the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica17), held in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a representative PROTEGE QV, an APC member organisation in Cameroon. This event was of great interest to us, since it is aligned with PROTEGE QV’s ICT4D programme, which advocates for free, open and affordable internet access for everyone. It was an ideal occasion to meet experts and activists in the internet freedom field, to gain new knowledge and insights, and to share our own experiences with other attendees.
PROTEGE QV is currently carrying out a project called “Watching Cameroon through the lenses of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms”, and our participation in FIFAfrica17 was meant to enhance our capacities in this area and help us successfully carry out the project.
One of the activities in the timeline of this project is a reading panel to review papers written on Cameroon’s situation with regards to the key principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. This timeline provided for the reception of written papers and their analysis by the reading committee from 10 September to 15 October. Coincidentally, the themes addressed at FIFAfrica17 centred around the African Declaration. My participation at this forum, as a representative of PROTEGE QV, was meant to further build my capacities around the 13 key principles of the Declaration. This goal was attained, and I left Johannesburg more than equipped to successfully conduct PROTEGE QV’s reading panel.
Other learnings from FIFAfrica17
Apart from the knowledge acquired on the 13 key principles of the African Declaration, I also learned a lot in the field of human rights protection mechanisms. For instance, I learned the steps to follow to gain observer status before the African Union Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. This is a learning I could also share with other organisations in Africa.
More generally, I learned that human rights protection mechanisms in Africa have strong potential, with three principal mechanisms for this purpose: a charter, a commission and a court. There is also ongoing work on drafting guidelines on access to information and elections in Africa. However, despite this complex web, human rights are still hugely violated in numerous countries on the continent, for reasons stemming from the fact that many legal instruments are not yet ratified and that member states lack the political will to improve the situation.
Benefits for PROTEGE QV from my participation
The Forum was built around themes which engage with various key principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. As such, concerning the short-term benefits for PROTEGE QV, I gained a better understanding of each of the 13 principles and their implementation. This is extremely valuable, precisely since one of the main parts of the research we are conducting is related to the implementation of the 13 principles regarding Cameroon’s situation.
Concerning the long-term benefits, I will recommend the creation of a human rights branch within PROTEGE QV’s programmes. Advocating for an internet that is affordable for everyone is another way of striving for human rights for all. Thanks to the Forum, we are really considering expanding our areas of expertise
Serge Daho's participation in FIFAfrica17 was made possible with the support of a travel grant from the APC Member Exchange and Travel Fund (METF).