African showcases sow seeds for long term successes
‘All eyes on Africa’, as the front cover of this edition of IBN says: for numerous reasons the continent - which remains the world’s most neglected and under-estimated - has been at the forefront of our minds lately, underlying the decision to give this edition its particular emphasis.
The FIFA World Cup brings extraordinary attention and focus not just to a host country and culture, but to its wider environment. The wonderful sporting skills on display play out in the world’s media against a backdrop of opinion and commentary on the struggles against poverty, food crises, corruption and suppression of freedoms. It is also heartening to see so many African success stories being highlighted to give the complex picture of African realities a depth that is closer to the truth.
Our African Regional Forum Conference, held in Cape Town, South Africa, in March, was a landmark event for the IBA in Africa, in both attendance and scope of subject matter. It illustrated in the variety and range of its sessions how the commercial arena, with all its great opportunities of trade and natural resources, is so closely interdependent on wider issues of peace, justice, the rule of law and the more material aspects of essential infrastructure. The World Bank, it was noted, estimates that Africa has an infrastructure financing gap of approximately US$35 billion per year. The consequences, of course, are so much more than financial. The Economist’s recently published tables of the countries in the world with the lowest life expectancy record that no less than 39 of the 40 countries at the head of this list are African.
The Secretary General of the United Nations – as he was mandated to do by the 1998 Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC) – recently convened the Review Conference of the Court. This is an opportunity to take stock of the state of international justice, and strikingly, he chose to do this in Africa – in Kampala, Uganda. It was perhaps a response to a commonly expressed perception that only citizens in Africa are being indicted by the Court. However, with the exception of Sudan, African countries have actually requested the ICC’s jurisdiction. As the Court’s former President, Judge Philippe Kirsch, notes in his interview in this issue, African states were among those to recognise early the benefits such an international court might bring.
‘The commercial arena ... is so closely interdependent on wider issues of peace, justice, the rule of law.’
The ICC is still a young institution, and has to tread carefully and properly in establishing its processes and manner of operation. Much emphasis - including by the IBA through our dedicated office in The Hague, Netherlands - has been placed upon identifying potential improvements, as well as to encouraging wider engagement with the Court. For example, the IBA recently made a widely-publicised call for more female African lawyers to register to take part in the Court. They are much needed to provide appropriate support for the many female victims of cases being examined.
However, the real focus should not be on the Court, but the actions of State Parties to the Rome Statute, which ought to pass implementation legislation domestically, cooperate with the Court, and coordinate international pressure for arrests. Such actions are likely to contribute significantly to the long-term benefit of Africa, where indicted persons continue to go untried.
The IBA’s Human Rights Institute, for some of the reasons outlined above, continues to give prominence in its work to Africa. Our close involvement with many of our member Bars there has been especially rewarding – strengthening capacity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia, to name just a few. Beyond the temporary attentions of the world’s media, we will continue to work on the foundations, which we strongly believe will help enable the flowering of more African successes and celebrations in the years to come.
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