Institutional Development

PALU has four governing bodies, with complementary responsibilities in terms of policy, strategic and financial oversight. These are:

  1. General Assembly: The General Assembly, which consists of all of the institutional and individual members of PALU, is its supreme decision-making organ. It meets at least once every three years, sets broad direction and reviews overall policy, strategy and activities, and elects the Executive Committee.
  2. Council: The Council, which is made up of the Executive Committee members, as well as the Presidents of the Regional and National Lawyers’ Associations (Bar Associations and Law Societies) of the continent, meets at least once a year to review the progress of the organization. The Council is primarily responsible for overall governance and policy direction. It also makes rules and regulations for the proper administration and management of the organization and oversees and monitors their implementation. It is also responsible for initiating and considering policies that govern PALU and its relationships with other parties and lays the same before the General Assembly for adoption. Among other things, it approves the annual activity report and audited accounts of the organization.
  3. Executive Committee (Board): This is the governance organ that acts as the Board. The Executive Committee is responsible for policy direction, monitoring of policy implementation by the Secretariat, overall oversight over administrative, financial and programmatic activities, and appraising the performance of the CEO. The ten-member Executive Committee represents the organization and formulates its goals, policies and strategies. Among other things, it adopts the annual budget and annual audited accounts of the organization. It meets around three times a year and reviews the finances of the organisation at each of its meetings. As indicated above, the Treasurer and Secretary General play a more comprehensive role in visiting and engaging the Secretariat in between Board meetings and reporting to the full Board.
  4. Secretariat: The Secretariat, headed by a Chief Executive Officer, implements the Organization’s programs and activities and reports to, and is evaluated by, the Executive Committee. The Secretariat is responsible for directing programs, technical, managerial and personnel functions. PALU currently has 9 full-time members of staff. It also frequently brings on board volunteers and interns.

Continental Advocacy and Outreach

PALU engages the length and breadth of the African Union (AU) organizational landscape, and, among other things, has acted as Consultant for the AU, the African Court itself, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the African Governance Architecture (AGA). Over the years, PALU has developed an enviable place for itself as a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) engaging and engaged by the AU organs and institutions, and also the major Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other African Regional Organizations. This is aided by PALU having a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the AU, formalised in 2006, which led to PALU being routinely involved in the activities of the Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the African Court on Human & Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the African Union Commission on International Law (AUCIL) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP), amongst others.

A continuing area of concern for PALU is that the various independent organs and institutions that make up African Governance Architecture (AGA) still appear to operate in silos, with the citizens of Africa not yet seeing and feeling fruits of more intensive co-operation, collaboration and complementarity, as was envisaged in the legal and policy instruments that established AGA. We have strived to raise this issue at all available opportunities and to give practical examples of where and how we envisage more joint work. This can at best be described as a work-in-progress.

Some of the notable advocacy projects that PALU has undertaken towards the AU include:

  1. Prepared the draft Protocol on the extension of the jurisdiction of the African Court to also include an international criminal jurisdiction (International Crimes Protocol). PALU supported the AU, its organs and institutions, RECs and Member States as they negotiated and adopted the Protocol, and are engaging the Member States as they sign and consider ratifying it;
  2. Developed the African Court’s legal aid funding framework, institutional structure and fund-raising strategy, culminating in an AU Statute setting up a Trust Fund for Legal Aid for the three key AU Human Rights Institutions, which was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU (the AU Summit) in its January 2016 Summit;
  3. Launched a project that seeks to catalyse a deeper understanding of the interaction between the different institutions of the African Human Rights System and the complementarity that exists between them in their promotional and protective mandates. The research project will soon culminate in the publication of a practical Guide for practitioners to effectively engage the aforementioned institutions.
  4. Adoption of the African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework (AUTJPF), after a process in which PALU has been engaged in, from its very outset back in 2010, up until its successful adoption in February 2019. PALU has undertaken research, documentation, consultancy and advisory, and overall advocacy activities toward this framework, either acting individually, or in the larger consortium of CSOs supporting its aims. We pay special tribute to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), which, on the part of civil society, was the initiator and has been the driving force and leader in the collective efforts to see this process to conclusion;
  5. PALU has continued to work, as lead Consultant, on the development of the 10-year Action and Implementation Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Africa (10-YAP). We envisage that the document will be refined, completed and placed before the AU policy organs at their January/ February 2020 Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

PALU also regularly engages the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), thus gaining practical and valuable knowledge, skills and experience on how African RECs and Regional Organizations interact with the AU. From time to time, PALU engages directly in in-country advocacy, especially in crisis situations, where PALU is often called upon to share its evolving understanding of how (sub) regional, continental and international norms, institutions and actors could play a role in sustainable resolution and building of resilient, open, democratic societies.

Conferences & Seminars

PALU has organised a series of conferences, trainings, seminars, either alone through project funding, or in partnership with a range of governmental and non-governmental actors (based in Africa, Europe, and North America) to achieve shared goals and objectives with a particular focus on activities and programmes aimed at mainstreaming human rights, good governance, socio-economic development and the just rule of law in Africa. Some of the most notable examples are as follows:

  1. Regional Seminars on Complex International Commercial Transactions and Dispute Resolution (both litigation and arbitration) and Vulture Funds, with the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), a member of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group.
  2. Series of regional seminars and colloquia on the African Legal and Human Rights System, to capacitate Lawyers and civil society representatives in engaging the emerging human rights, governance, peace and security architectures at both regional and continental levels, with the support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA), and with additional support from the Open Society Foundations and Ford Foundation.
  3. With the support of the Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC), PALU created the Task Force on Combatting Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), a small group of carefully selected lawyers and other activists who are knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in combatting IFFs, and who can advise and assist PALU in the programming work in this important area. This complements our work with the AU-led Consortium on Combatting IFFs from Africa, our involvement in the Stop the Bleeding (STB) Campaign, and our participation in the Multi-Sectoral Working Group on Combatting Corruption in Africa (MSWG). During the 50th Anniversary of the (O)AU, the Executive Council of the AU underlined the need to effectively combat the Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) from the continent, as it gravely impedes its development efforts. Serious action to tackle IFF will free millions of dollars for development at national, regional and continental levels in Africa and strengthen the economic sovereignty of African states and intergovernmental organisations. This is therefore an area of extreme interest to PALU, the legal profession and African citizenry.
  4. Through its African Lawyers Initiative on Compliance in Business Relations, with the support of the Siemens Integrity Initiative, PALU organized four regional training Seminars for private and public-sector counsel working primarily in the energy sector, seeing a total of thirty-nice (39) African Lawyers’ Associations participating therein, making it the most far-reaching series of events that PALU as organized to date. Also, in this project, PALU organized two continental conferences of National and Regional Lawyers’ Associations and developed and adopted the Code of Ethics on Anti-Corruption and Professional Compliance Standards for Lawyers Working in Africa, which was disseminated to all Lawyers Associations in Africa and is continuously receiving broader adhesion from legal professionals in Africa.

Advocacy Efforts before Regional Courts and Tribunals

In an effort to hold States accountable vis-à-vis their responsibilities under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights (African Charter) and various other international treaties that they have adhered to, and in exploring the links between litigation, jurisprudence and transitional justice, PALU remains the most prominent and active external partner of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court) and also the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). It has been directly involved in more litigation at these Courts than any other institution. PALU was the first organisation to be granted Amicus Curiae status at the African Court and also the first organisation to be appointed as a Legal Aid Provider at the African Court, and has helped the African Court in more than twenty (25) cases to date, mainly by providing pro bono legal aid to indigent litigants, but also through requests for Advisory Opinion; and more than fifteen (17) cases at the EACJ, either through direct filing of the References, counsel representation of litigants, or by way of Amicus Curiae briefs. The table enclosed provides a summarised overview of all the cases litigated as of 1st February 2020

Furthermore, some of the key achievements are as follows:

  1. Organised a training for the Staff of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) on litigating at the African Court with a view to increase the referral of cases between the two institutions. This further included an exchange dialogue with the Commissioners on the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and complementarity principles. The Commissioners later invited PALU to continue its support of the African Commission and explore further possibilities for enhanced collaboration.
  2. Represented the African Commission in its pioneering referral to the African Court, which was the first such referral to succeed on the merits, i.e. the case of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights versus the Republic of Kenya (in the matter of the Ogiek Community of Mau Forest vs Kenya).
  3. Undertook a Baseline Study on the ECOWAS’s Court of Justice Implementation of Human Rights’ decisions, which we analysed all decisions of the Court and created a table of cases that had been adjudicated on as of the end of August 2018. We thus addressed the challenge of accessibility and availability of decisions of one of the major judicial institutions on the continent, which too often made it difficult to monitor the implementation of its decisions and conduct external research. With the newly formulated table, which also contains a brief summary of each case, it will make easier to monitor the level of implementation, and to update and add other cases as they are being decided.
  4. Filed a Request for an Advisory Opinion on the Decriminalisation and Declassification of Petty Offences. PALU filed the case in its name but on behalf of PALU and our partners in the continental Campaign to Decriminalise and Declassify Petty Offences in Africa. Petty offences are criminal offences, which do not criminalise specific acts, but rather the status of individuals including but not limited to those who are economically poor, homeless or unemployed. Examples include being arrested for being idle, loitering or simply being a vendor on the streets. Such laws serve no legitimate purpose besides to discriminate against the poor, sex workers and, lately, gender non-conforming persons. The African Court accepted our Request; marking the first time it has accepted a Request from a CSO. In addition, to the extent that the laws in question were mostly enacted during colonial rule, as a means of subjugating the native citizens of the colonies, and they have since been re-appropriated by post-independence governments, addressing them also contributes to transitional justice for past atrocities by both colonial and post-colonial governments.

Membership Outreach

PALU is dual membership forum for individual African Lawyers and Lawyers’ associations, with the following categories:

  • Individual (Annual) Membership: 100$ for the first year, and 50$ per year thereafter
  • Life Membership: a once-off payment of $ 1,000;
  • Special Endowment Membership: a once-off payment of $ 10,000;
  • Institutional Membership is for Bar Associations from across the globe, with a fee which ranges from $1000 to $2000 as determined by the size of the association.

To increase our membership outreach, we have also adopted a variety of new strategies to increase the number of our members, both institutional and individuals, and in turn secure more revenues from our membership. Some of them are as follows:

  • PALU has reached out more intently to its Francophone constituencies, which ultimately led to more Bar Associations willing to nominate candidates for election into the PALU Executive Committee, in response to the value added of joining and representation. As a result, out of 9 elective positions on its new Board (for the period 2018 – 2021), PALU now has 5 Francophones and 1 Lusophone member, making it the most linguistically diverse Executive Committee yet.
  • PALU has increased the opportunities of becoming a member of PALU by offering discounts for those registering for its Annual Conferences. This has not only led to more participants seizing this opportunity, but also to more of them being repeat participants in subsequent conferences.
  • PALU has adapted its institutional membership fees to be more responsive to the differences in size and financial situations, by lowering the fees for smaller Lawyers’ Associations and by offering a discounted rate to those that make such a request. While this lowers its income in the short term, it attracts more institutional members to pay their dues diligently which has a positive long-term impact on the organisation.
  • PALU has re-energised its Members’ Committee for Information and Communications Technologies (PALU ICT Committee) which is helping it to improve its online offerings for its members into an integrated Membership Engagement System (MES), which will make it easier for members to register and pay online, and participate in general or Committee activities online. This is bound to attract more members.


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