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I was asked to say something about what ACPF is for me. Normally, one would answer such a question from an organizational perspective, but an organization is nothing more (nor less) than the people that together constitute that institution. As I happen to know the people that build and now constitute that organization, I feel I can say something about not just the institution, but about the staff of ACPF, too.
 
For me, ACPF is one of only a handful of truly pan-African organizations that have the legitimacy to speak on behalf of children in Africa. Although its identity is rooted in universal human and child rights instruments and although it is informed by child rights activists, academia and policy makers from around the world, it is staffed by people that were born from African parents, were raised in African value systems and bring up their own children in the reality of Africa today. From the stories their children tell them, form what they see with their own eyes as the walk home from doing their groceries, and from discussing politics with their friends and families, these people know what it means to live in Africa: the good, the bad, and the ugly. They live the changes that are happening, they feel what goes well and needs to be encouraged, and know what goes not so well and needs to be challenged. ACPF is a group of people that initiate work from their heart, but then uses their intellectual powers to research the facts, their networks to share knowledge and experiences, and are not afraid to challenge duty bearers to do what is in the best interest of the African child.
 
Having had the privilege to have worked with ACPF from its inception, I wish ACPF to take centre stage in setting the agenda for African children. Continue to champion those that are forgotten, neglected, overlooked, abused and violated. If those that have the power to make a difference would only listen to what you have to say on behalf of the children, Africa is going to be an even much better place to live!
 
Toast to another decade of putting Africa's children first!

 

 

When I first heard of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), my first impression was that it is a forum for policy makers and experts who meet to compare notes on the plight of children on the African Continent, brain storm and theorize on what should be done to address the many problems plaguing some of the children on the African continent, share a cup of tea, shake hands, leave and prepare to attend the Forum’s next event.

However, after my interaction with ACPF through:

(a) Its support in facilitating a Stakeholder Conference of the Malawi Law Commission on February 27, 2012 on Intercountry Adoption with the aim of providing an informed input into the process of the Review of the Adoption of Children Act, Cap. 26:01 of the Laws of Malawi;

(b) participation at the Fifth International Policy Conference on the African Child (IPC) held in Addis Ababa from 29th and 30th May, 2012; and

(c) consideration and adoption of a Study on Violence Against Children Living and /or Working on streets, of the Malawi Human Rights Commission funded and facilitated by ACPF,

I realized that ACPF is not just about mere policy formulation and rhetoric, it is a Forum whose aim is to realize tangible results which will change for the better the plight of some of the children on the African Continent. It is a forum that is inclusive in its composition and approaches; and is genuinely interested in improving the welfare of African children.

The fact that ACPF involves holistically the countries on the African continent but also engages individually with the African countries, makes its approach to solving the problems of children on the African Continent practical, unique and easy for different countries to buy-in to the ACPF’s proffered solutions.

 

 
ACPF 10th anniversary is definitely a cause for celebration.  However, as much as it is a cause for celebration, it poses a challenge.  ACPF was established to serve the best interest of Africa’s biggest and most critical segment of population- its children. ACPF's stellar track record over the past decade has raised the bar in terms of regional and global expectations of this organization.

African children suffer varying degrees of marginalization and violence. ACPF has kept abreast of the evolving needs of the African child; most importantly they have done this while adopting a child’s rights approach. ACPF should be commended for expanding its international network. ACPF has kept excellent rapport with both the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child based in Geneva and the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child.  It has prioritised issues of concern such as budgeting for children; inter country adoption and combating violence against children including Female Genital Mutilation. A highlight of ACPF 2012 achievements is the adoption of its Guidelines for Action on the Inter country adoption of children in Africa. Another is the opening of a Child Protection Center which inter alia; caters for the right of the child to protection notably children involved with the justice system. The ACPF annual conference has been a great success providing opportunities for networking and exchange of experience amongst stakeholders at the African and global level.

I am confident that over the next decade ACPF will further assist African States to meet their obligations under both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Areas of focus will be putting in place an infrastructure conducive to the implementation of the rights of the child such as:

  • Harmonisation of national legislation with both CRC and ACRWC;
  • Formulating national strategies with clear-cut, time-bound, and measurable objectives.
  • Strengthening the mandate and resources of national entities in charge of coordinating the rights of the child.
  • Establishing a central data system capable of revealing pockets of marginalization, to guide policies and target victims of exclusion ;
  • Allocating adequate financial, human, and institutional resources. Such allocations will be made visible in the national budgets.
  • States’ partnership with civil society in policy formulation, monitoring, and implementation.
  • Implementing systematic and sustainable campaigns to raise awareness of Child’s rights among different segments of society. Human rights education for children is crucial to create an environment conducive to the respect and protection of human rights.


I am confident that ACPF will continue its legacy to ensure that every African child fully enjoys his/ her rights without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.  I look forward to following this remarkable organization's progress.

I congratulate African Child Policy Forum on its completing 10 years.

We were introduced to ACPF by  Frances Sheahan who was documenting children’s legal protection centres for ACPF and wanted to write about the work HAQ: Centre for Child Rights did in this area. This was in 2007.

In 2009, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights was organising its first international colloquium on children and governance. In researching for potential participants we came across ACPF’s report on child friendliness of governments and decided to write to Dr. Assefa Bequele (that was June 2, 2009). Since I did not have a personal email id for him, I wrote at the organisational one. It was month before I got a reply from him---by which time we had almost given up !

In one of his early mails to me he wrote, “Many people assume Assefa is a woman’s name. Just to let you know it is a very popular and very masculine Ethiopian name! I hope you get the joke – I am only trying to implify things for you, in case you may not know how to address me.” And I replied-  “Yes I know your gender! I found out...just so that I do not make faux pax, which incidentally I am extremely prone to”. This was the beginning of an endearing relationship between not just our two organisations, but between us as individuals too.

Assefa attended the first ever global meeting on children and governance in India, hosted by HAQ in November 2011. He and ACPF thus became an important part of HAQ’s journey.

I had the good fortune to visit ACPF and Adis Ababa twice- once for the preparatory meeting on the next African child well being report on budgeting and then for the release of the report in 2010.

It was also the time that I interacted with the ACPF team and understood the methodology for developing an Index. I have no hesitation in acknowledging that HAQ’s Child Rights Index (2011) would not have been born, had it not been for the encouragement and sometimes even the push from my friend Assefa. We were in touch with Yehulashet Mekonen, cross-checking and verifying our methodology, which we have drawn upon from the ACPF report, and are deeply indebted to him for his patient support. However, our joy at being able to have come out with the Indian child rights index would have been incomplete had Assefa not been here with us on that occasion. This was also our second global colloquium on children and governance in November 2011.  

ACPF’s work is also included in the book “Every Right for Every Child-Children and Governance”, which I compiled and edited, and for which Assefa wrote a chapter on developing a child friendly index. It is significant that at the release of this book, Assefa should say, “We have been actually grappling with issues of policy and governance at ACPF in a rather isolated way, without quite realising it. It is HAQ that made us realise that that is what we were doing…”

Hence, if I look back our association is not very long in terms of years, it may not seem very long. But it has been a mutually supportive relationship that transcends years and geographical space. That is the need of the day.

I congratulate African Child Policy Forum on its completing 10 years. Its work on bringing children’s issues on to the centre stage of policy and discourse in Africa is pioneering. The child friendly index that it brought out in 2008 has inspired many such efforts across the world, including the Child Rights Index –India by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights. The quality of ACPF’s research and publications is an inspiration for its quality and professionalism.

In its unique position as pan African organisation, ACPF has been successfully been able to bring multiple players- governments, civil society as well as international organisations into dialogue with each other to influence policy and discourse. This is also evident in the august board that ACPF has.

Ten years is a very important threshold in the life of an organisation. It has been the time for dreaming and building. The subsequent years are of consolidating, reviewing, and planning ahead. It is a time to also renew energies and revisit and reiterate dreams that sometimes get lost along the way.   I wish ACPF all the best in this new phase and hope it will continue to address critical issues that affect the children in Africa and bring them into debate and action, and that we will discover and realise some common dreams together. 

My very best wishes are with the ACPF team.

 

African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is a Pan-African child-focused research Centre working with partners, international NGOs, governments and other stake-holders to influence programs, policies and practices which offer adequate protection for the African child. Its activities are strictly in line with the provisions of relevant international Treaties, Conventions, and Charters.

As a Nigerian-based child focus NGO, Children’s Rights Network (CHRINET) has, in the past two years participated in ACPF organized or facilitated programs and conferences. One of such conferences was the one held in Abuja, Nigeria in April 2012. It was Inter-country adoption, an issue poorly understood even by majority of educated Nigerians. This was followed by a bigger conference on the same issue in Addis-Ababa in the same year. Later the same year  ACPF also facilitated CHRINET’s participation at the Third Pan African Forum on Children  and African wide Movement for Children (AMC) Annual General Meeting in Addis-Ababa and  Nairobi respectively.

ACPF has certainly been playing a major role in shaping policies relating to how children are more properly treated. Their activities have assisted in bringing to the front-burner the desirability or otherwise of the Inter-country adoption policy in Nigeria to the extent that the Nigerian government is presently giving consideration to the Hague Convention of 1993.

Finally, ACPF has impacted positively on the African Child by giving direction to all stakeholders through its in-depth analysis and reliable data on the plights of children and means of mitigating such problems.

 

What the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) has meant to my child rights practice

  • How does Zambia compare with other Southern African countries in defining minimum age for criminal responsibility, leaving school and employment?
  • Where can we get examples of good practical Africa-specific child participation mechanisms?

Check the ACPF’s, ‘In the Best Interest of the Child: Harmonising Laws in Eastern and Southern Africa Report.’

  • Where can we find a good practice case study on diversion from the criminal justice system?

Try the ACPF’s, ‘Realising Rights for Children: Good Practice in Eastern and Southern Africa.’

  • Which is the best child-friendly African Government?

Read the ACPF’s series of, ‘The African Report on Child Wellbeing of 2008: How Child-Friendly are African Governments?’

  • How can we analyse the Zambian budget from a child perspective?

Read the ACPF’s, ‘The African Report on Child Well being of 2011: Budgeting for children.’

The above are some of the frequently asked questions by programming staff and my responses in our organization, the Zambia Civic Education Association (ZCEA), a human rights, not for profit, non governmental organization that promotes and advocates child rights. To us at ZCEA, the ACPF has been a hub of well researched Africa – specific information and data on a variety of issues and topics that enhance the realization of children’s rights in Africa. The ACPF has helped us a local NGO to advocate and pressure our government to implement both article 4 of the CRC and article 1 of the ACRWC to ensure its full compliance to the provisions in both the CRC and the ACRWC to which it is a State party.

The ACPF has further been a pillar of support and solidarity for common collective action in Africa such as the elimination of violence against children. It has organized many meetings across the continent to bring together various experts from multi disciplines to bear on the root causes, legal reforms, responses and rehabilitation of child victims of violence which has resulted in gains in progressive positive impact on governments’ policies. In Zambia we can cite the prohibitions of corporal punishment, removal of school going age girls for marriage and gender based violence in the Education Act of 2011. The further inclusion of a specific clause for children in the Bill of Rights of the draft Constitution 2012 has been a result of intensive lobbying backed by evidence generated by the ACPF. Personally, thank you ACPF for facilitating the process of my election as the East and Southern African representative on the International NGO Council on Violence against Children (InCo – VAC) and support of my missions to attend the InCo – VAC’s meetings.

 
 
 
As a participant and presenter at the ACPF’s successful Global Conference on Child Justice held in Kampala, Uganda in 2011, and from reading the documents that came out of that conference, and reviewing its various programs, activities, and research, as well as from my interactions with its staff since 2011, ACPF, is undoubtedly a leader and model for other NGO’s and civil organisations working to achieving child justice on the Continent and beyond. ACPF is a rare gift to African governments who have all committed themselves to protecting and safeguarding the rights and welfare of the African child through the signing and ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. I urge them to make use of this gift!
 
I would like to see ACPF expand its scope of activities, research and programs to other regions of Africa and recruit its personnel across the Continent, to enable it perform that leading role more effectively and inclusively.

I wish ACPF the warmest and heartiest congratulations on its 10 years anniversary and continued blessings! Also, I congratulate you on the appointment of the new Executive Director who has all it takes to lead this great organisation to greater heights.

Good luck!

 

It is a great pleasure to congratulate the African Child Policy Forum on its tenth anniversary. ACPF fulfills an essential role, in Africa and beyond, in raising awareness of the conditions of children throughout the continent and in initiating change of those conditions. Its function as a politically independent, not-for-profit, “think tank” and platform for rights based policy development and dialogue has been invaluable. ACPF work is crucial for children, and, as children embody the future of society, also for the development of society as a whole.

In May 2012, together with Principal Legal Officer Laura Martínez-Mora , I had the privilege of attending the Fifth International Policy Conference for the African Child in Addis Ababa on the theme of: “Inter-country Adoption: Controversies and Alternatives”. This conference gave us a highly appreciated opportunity not only to see the ACPF at work, but also to present the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, to illustrate its operation, and to explain its potential for African States which were not yet bound by this instrument. We are pleased that the resulting Guidelines for Action on Intercountry Adoption of Children in Africa, endorsed by the African Union, contain a firm recommendation that all African States should join the 1993 Hague Convention.

In its recently published paper “African Children and the post-2015 Development Agenda”, ACPF, once again, calls the world’s attention to the continued inadequacy of national child protection systems in Africa. The paper points out that the existing gap is being “exacerbated by globalization which has led to new and emerging protecting needs…”. Practical global instruments such as the 1993 Hague Adoption Convention and the 1996 Hague Protection of Children Convention assist in providing legal protection to children in the increasing number of situations where the causes or need for such protection transcends national boundaries.

ACPF, together with UNICEF and other partners, including the Hague Conference on Private International Law, may wish to encourage African States to join these instruments, and to assist them in the practical implementation thereof. The international, indeed global, dimensions of the legal protection of children present new challenges to Africa and, therefore, to the ACPF, but also offer new hope for greater awareness, in Africa and around the globe, of the plight of Africa´s children.

Bon courage, ACPF, for the next decade of raising awareness and promoting effective legislation, policies and practices throughout Africa for the well-being and protection of children!

The ACPF promotes in its work the four pillars of the United Nations Charter, namely Peace, Justice, Freedom and Human Rights, and reflects the conclusion by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the realisation of human rights is a necessary condition for the achievement of the first three.  The ACPF therefore contributes to the work of the United Nations in Africa and the world.
 
Both governments and NGOs/CSOs in Africa respect the ideas of the ACPF. It therefore often plays an important catalytic role in the use of grass root information and knowledge in the decisions made by governments regarding the survival and development of children in Africa. The preparation and publishing of very well researched reports about the situation of children in Africa and the convening of key policy meetings are important contributions to this process.

 

It was by pure chance that DCI thought of involving ACPF in the preparation and realisation of the Kampala Conference in 2011. We knew the organisation very well and were aware of its impressive work, but it was only during an expert meeting in Geneva, late 2010, where we met with ACPF’s former director and considered joining forces. Little did we know that our joint collaboration would go on to be a major engagement and challenge: trying to raise-awareness on children being deprived of liberty in Africa, making their situation known internationally; and engaging national, regional and international relevant stakeholders in defining child-friendly justice systems for Africa. This initial joint collaboration proved to be a real success, and also strategic for both organisations; also demonstrating how our child rights agendas very much coincided, particularly with regard to Justice for Children.

Since then, we have worked hard to bring together our different experiences and expertise in the area of juvenile justice. The Guidelines on action for children in the justice system in Africa - the most important output of the Conference – may well be considered a critical tool in guiding states in their implementation of juvenile justice systems adapted to the specific needs of children.
DCI’s collaboration with ACPF was subsequently sealed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which is particularly enriching for DCI considering its important presence through its national sections in Africa.

ACPF continues to prove itself a wonderful and reliable partner within the African continent.

There is still a long way to go after these first ten years of work, and we are sure ACPF will continue ensuring that the children of Africa and their human rights are not forgotten or neglected.

Long life to ACPF!

 

Reflecting on what to say about ACPF, took me down memory lane and back to the time when I first interacted with ACPF.  Just to put my reflection in context, organisations, though they are entities on their own, only remain vibrant and relevant because of the individuals that work there.  This to me is what cut the edge for ACPF.  The individuals, the passion, charisma and love for making a difference in the lives of children on the continent is the air around ACPF from the top Director down to the support staff.  It just takes one interaction at any level vibe is on.   If I am to describe the contribution of these individuals within ACPF this is what I would say: “Ordinary people doing extra ordinary things for children”.   African people driven by the spirit of pan-Africanism, leveraging opportunities and networks acquired overtime to create an African centre of excellence for policy action. The Uganda Child rights NGO Network got hooked to ACPF through the individuals in 2004. From then on, the benefits have been wide ranging from participating in policy dialogues, knowledge generation, networking opportunities, creating platforms for pursuing a collective agenda…etc.  Through these opportunities, UCRNN gained knowledge and its visibility and profile at the pan African level grew tremendously.

As we look back at the decade of action and count the gains, there is need to keep and institutionalise the culture that defined the agenda, the people drive, passion and charisma. The current societal, economic and technological developments raise the stake even higher for organisational interdependency. The coming decade should therefore be informed by these experiences and guided by the notion and conviction that the challenges facing Africa’s children are enormous and given that these challenges can take a geopolitical dimension, the role for ACPF cannot be over emphasized. As a leader in the pan African scene, ACPF has to continue steering the course and being the lynch pin for actors in the region. What should stand the test of time is the people culture that has been the driver in the past decade.

 

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund seeks to change the way society treats its children and youth. A key strategy in our implementation is building partnerships with like minded institutions locally, nationally, regionally and continentally. For strong partnerships to be established, the willingness of the organisations is critical. ACPF has developed key analytic reports on child wellbeing in the region as well as strong monitoring tools for children’s rights and wellbeing for the continent and this makes them a critical partner for any child rights organisation especially the Fund.
 
ACPF has been a very supportive and receptive partner of the Fund from initial contact.  ACPF has been educating the continent and the globe with regards to the wellbeing of children and providing great recommendations through its numerous reports. ACPF gives a true African perspective and puts a face to the problem of children in the continent through its research and policy work. These reports constantly attest to the fact that the challenges we face in South Africa is not unique to us but similar across borders.  

ACPF constantly engages with other NGOS and regional organisations like the Regional Advocacy Network for Children (RANCH) hosted by the Fund to support and strengthen the civil society’s response to children’s issues. Their support and willingness to share the work that they have produced continentally with the region including tailoring this work for the Southern African civil society working on children’s rights is commendable.

In 10 years time it will be great to see ACPF’s research and policy recommendations being used by child rights organisations all over the continent as well as policymakers. ACPF should continue to be the voice of the African child and continuously pull evidence on issues that are not being spoken about.

ACPF to me is about passion. A passion for African children and passionate about making a difference. ACPF is about being seen and heard and persevering even when the going gets tough. ACPF is definitely not about security (given their registration-less period); nor about routine work (given the abundant flow of ideas and publications); and it is not about being average (given their high self-imposed quality criteria).

I have always been impressed with the constant flow of creativity which the organisation managed to produce – let me correct that: which ACPF’s staff managed to produce.  Always remaining positive and open to discuss any challenge which came their way. While I have known ACPF ever since its start-up, my most intense interaction was when building a strategic partnership between ACPF and Plan International around 2010. Plan International was the seemingly ‘bigger’ partner and could therefore be perceived as more ‘powerful’. But ACPF equaled (if not outsized) this international organization in terms of its political influence and the power to change things. And reflecting back, after all these years, what stays with me can only be expressed in the words of Margaret Meade: “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”