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Joint statement: AfDB should open spaces for civil society and communities, during the Annual Meetings and beyond.




Over 45 African and international organizations call on the AfDB to open spaces for civil society and communities during the Annual Meetings and beyond.

From May 22 to the 26, the Board of Directors and other key management staff of the African Development Bank (AfDB) will be gathering for the 58th Annual Meetings in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt). Once again , though, civil society and communities directly affected by AfDB-funded activities will not have a chance to participate.

The AfDB, despite its mission to spur sustainable development and help the most marginalized across the African continent, remains an institution where decision-making processes tend to happen behind closed doors and with a top-down approach.

During the Annual Meetings, Bank Directors will be speaking among themselves and with some stakeholders from other institutions and the private sector. Those who should be the primary beneficiaries of AfDB projects – and who are most directly affected – will not have a seat at the table. Community members and civil society activists will not have the opportunity to have their say, to express their needs, and to raise their concerns around the negative impacts of some of the Bank’s activities.

While the recently updated AfDB’s Integrated Safeguards System (ISS) includes a commitment not to tolerate reprisals, the fact that the Bank decided to hold its Annual Meetings in Egypt sends a contradicting and worrisome message. Egypt is currently infamous for its closed civic space. Thousands of people – including human rights defenders and journalists – are still arbitrarily detained, simply for peacefully defending human rights or speaking truth to power. Because of the regime crackdown on any critical voice, citizens exercise self-censorship for fear of retaliation. Foreign activists are also a target: just recently, the Egyptian regime denied entry, without providing a reason, for an Italian human rights activist who had a valid visa and accreditation to participate in the COP27.

The Annual Meetings can be a crucial advocacy and lobbying platform for civil society organizations. Similarly to other development banks, the AfDB should reintegrate the Civil Society Forum as part of the programme of the Annual Meetings. It should also reform its design, to make the forum more inclusive, accessible, transparent, and open to a diverse range of civil society groups, without limiting the number and types of topics addressed in the agenda.

Unfortunately, the lack of opportunities for participation during the Annual Meetings is only the tip of the iceberg. Civil society organizations have long been advocating with the AfDB to open up spaces for participation.

Civil society groups have also repeatedly raised concerns about the shortcomings of the policy review processes , which tend to lack transparency and have limited opportunities for civil society participation, and about the actual implementation of the Bank’s safeguards.

For instance, the inclusion of language on reprisals in the new ISS – where the bank commits to ensure people can safely speak out in the context of its projects – is a welcome and long-awaited step. But it will remain nothing more than a piece of paper that can easily be ignored, if the AfDB doesn’t take concrete actions to change processes, incentives, and culture to adopt a human rights-based approach, to prevent reprisals before it is too late, and to react quickly when cases of reprisals are raised.

As we write this letter, there are dozens of human rights defenders facing threats and attacks simply for speaking out against the negative impacts of AfDB-funded projects and peacefully defending the rights of their communities. Their voices are crucial: the Bank should stand up to ensure they are not silenced.

This week, as the AfDB is holding its Annual Meetings, it must keep African communities at the forefront. Sustainable development is impossible without the voices of those most affected by development. The AfDB should be for the African People and not African Governments.

The signatories are calling on the AfDB to do the following:

  1. Ensure meaningful participatory processes in policies, programmes, and projects, including through reprisal-sensitive consultations and engagement;
  2. Open spaces for civil society and community engagement, including at the Annual Meetings, and consider the implications of holding AfDB events in contexts where civil society cannot freely operate;
  3. Engage with clients to emphasize the importance of independent civil society and open civic space in achieving sustainable and inclusive development;
  4. Prioritize community-led development and human rights-based approaches;
  5. Raise the bar on access to information, transparency and accountability;
  6. Take steps to assess reprisal risks, prevent reprisals, and adequately respond to them when they occur.


  1. AbibiNsroma Foundation – Ghana
  2. Accountability Lab Liberia – Liberia
  3. Action For The Protection Of Endangered Species (ACES) – Cameroon
  4. African Law Foundation (AFRILAW) – Nigeria
  5. Appui aux Initiatives Communautaires de Conservation de l’Environnement et de Développement Durable (AICED) – Democratic Republic of Congo
  6. Association Burkinabè pour la Survie de l’Enfance (ABSE) – Burkina Faso
  7. Bank Information Center (BIC) – United States
  8. Both ENDS – The Netherlands
  9. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO ) – Uganda
  10. Centre de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et Démocratie (CDHD) – Democratic Republic of Congo
  11. Coalition des OSC sur la transparence à la BAD – Mali (for Africa secretariat)
  12. Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy – Liberia
  13. COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding – Nigeria
  14. Foundation For Environmental Rights,Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) – Nigeria
  15. Gouvernement des Amis de Yadio et Assangbadji (ONG GAYA) – Côte d’Ivoire
  16. Green Advocates International – Liberia
  17. Green Development Advocates (GDA) – Cameroon
  18. Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan
  19. IBON Africa – Kenya
  20. IFI Sinergy Group – Cameroon
  21. International Accountability Project (IAP) – Global
  22. Jamaa Resource Initiatives – Kenya
  23. Le Monde Des Enfants – Guinea
  24. Lumière Synergie pour le Développement (LSD) – Senegal
  25. Network Movement for Justice and Development – Sierra Leone
  26. Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU) – Nigeria
  27. Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale (OEARSE) –  Democratic Republic of the Congo
  28. Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization Public Union – Azerbaijan
  29. ONG Coeur d’or d’Afrique – Côte d’Ivoire
  30. ONG Environnement et Comportements Sains en Côte d’Ivoire (ECOSCI) – Côte d’Ivoire
  31. ONG-OPV (Ordre pour la Paix et la Vie) – Côte d’Ivoire
  32. Pain aux Indigents et Appui à l’auto Promotion (PIAP) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  33. Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF) – Nigeria
  34. Public Interest Law Center (PILC) – Chad
  35. Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME) – Burkina Faso
  36. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Développement du Tonkpi (ROSCIDET)pour le Développement – Côte d’Ivoire
  37. Sightsavers – Ghana
  38. SOS Jeunesse et Défis – Burkina Faso
  39. Sustainable Holistic Development Foundation (SUHODE) – Tanzania
  40. Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) – Uganda
  41. United Youth for Peace Education Transparency and Development in Liberia – Liberia
  42. Witness Radio – Uganda
  43. Women with Disability Self Reliance Foundation – Nigeria
  44. Women’s Health Development (FESADE) – Cameroon
  45. Youth for Promotion of Development – Cameroon
  46. Youth Transforming Africa Narrative (YOTAN) – Liberia


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EU stands behind the empowerment of Human Rights Defenders



Ensuring Responsible Business Conduct by Private Sector in Uganda

DanChurchAid Uganda joins the European Union to commemorate the European Union Day, as we strive for justice, accountability, and human rights, not only within Europe but across the globe.

DanChurchAid Uganda in partnership with the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U), and Witness Radio (WR), would like to appreciate the European Union for the financial support towards the ‘Monitoring, documentation, and advocacy for human rights’ project in Uganda (MDA-HRU).

The 36-month project (2023 to 2026) aims to hold the private sector and government accountable for environmental human rights abuses and violations, through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

A beacon of hope

At its core, this project is a beacon of hope for communities in the Mid-Western sub-region (Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale and Mubende) and Karamoja sub-region (Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido and Karenga) of Uganda, where the private sector’s involvement in land-based investments (LBIs) has led to a myriad of environmental human rights abuses and violations.

The challenges faced by these communities are diverse which include limited capacity among Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) to monitor, document, and report violations which has perpetuated a cycle of human rights violations such as land grabbing, and lack of adequate and untimely compensation, among others.

Moreover, the lack of credible information about the impacts of Land Based Investment (LBIs) on violations has hindered efforts to demand accountability and access to justice for affected persons.

Empowered communities

In order to address these challenges, it is important to have, an empowered community comprised of human rights defenders. This project is geared toward building the capacity of land and environmental defenders to monitor, document, and report violations through the utilization of technology which is a key innovation in this project.

Through this collaborative action, 590 Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and LEDs will receive enhanced training and support to effectively monitor, document, and report violations. Additionally, mechanisms will be established to provide timely response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities facing threats and attacks.

Engagin the private sector in responsible business conduct

One of the critical outcomes of this action plan is the engagement of the private sector in dialogue on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). The Project will build on the gains from the Business and Human Rights annual symposiums to promote Responsible Business conduct through the creation of a platform to dialogue effectively with the private sector. The project will raise awareness, advocate for the development of policies, and enforce regulations to ensure the protection of land and environmental rights through multistakeholder engagements.

As we celebrate European Union Day, let us remember that the pursuit of justice knows no borders.

By supporting initiatives like this collaborative action in Uganda, we uphold the values of responsible business conduct, human rights, accountability, and environmental justice for all.


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Upholding Women’s Land Rights in the implementation of development projects will accelerate progress.



Witness Radio – Uganda Statement: On the International Women’s Day, 2024.

Upholding Women’s Land Rights in the implementation of development projects will accelerate progress.

Wakiso, Uganda. 08th/03/2024. As the world commemorates International Women’s Day 2024 under the theme “Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress” it is imperative to underscore the critical importance of safeguarding women’s human and land rights.

In Uganda, where women play a pivotal role in agricultural production and rely heavily on the land for their livelihoods, the issue of land rights emerges as a central battleground in the fight for gender equality and women empowerment.

Women in Uganda face systematic barriers when it comes to land ownership and control despite their significant contribution to agricultural productivity.

Customary norms and cultural practices often favor male inheritance and land ownership perpetrating a cycle of discrimination and marginalization against women.

This disparity leaves women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, particularly in the context of land grabbing and eviction.

Tragically, women who assert their rights to land frequently encounter severe threats and human rights violations/abuses.

Witness Radio has documented numerous cases of violence against women smallholder farmers and women rights defenders (WHRDs), including gang rape and physical assault perpetrated by economically powerful and politically connected individuals and institutions with vested interests in land grabbing.

These egregious acts not only violate women’s rights but also perpetrate a culture of impunity and injustice.

The failure to investigate and prosecute violence against women smallholder farmers and WHRDs further exacerbates the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, leading to more human rights abuses.

Additionally, the aftermath of land evictions often leaves women and their families vulnerable with men sometimes abandoning their responsibilities and leaving women to bear the burden alone.

At the heart of the 2024 theme lies a recognition of the pivotal role women play in driving societal progress. Investing in women encompasses various aspects, including education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and legal rights. However, securing women’s access to and control over land is equally crucial as it intersects with multiple dimensions of their lives.

When women have secure land rights, they are empowered economically and socially. Land ownership enables women to participate meaningfully in economic activities, access financial resources, and contribute to households and community well-being.

Moreover, it enhances women’s agency and autonomy, enabling them to make choices that positively impact their lives and families.

Additionally, access to land is closely linked to food security and healthcare. Secure land rights enable women to engage in sustainable farming practices, improve agricultural productivity, and ensure adequate nutrition for their families.

Furthermore, land ownership can serve as a pathway to accessing health care, thereby promoting women’s overall well-being.

However, the current legal framework governing land rights in Uganda falls short of adequately protecting women’s land rights. Biased laws and customary practices perpetrate gender disparities leaving women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Amending land rights is a critical step towards addressing issues affecting women about land rights and promoting gender equality.

In conclusion, protecting women’s land rights is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic investment in accelerating progress towards gender equality and healthier lives. As we commemorate International Women’s Day 2024, let us reaffirm our community to ensure that women everywhere have equal rights to access, own, and control land resources. By prioritizing women’s land rights, we can unlock the full potential of women and girls as agents of change and drive transformative progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels



The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.

From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.

The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.

In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.

The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to

  • fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
  • avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
  • strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.


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