The idea of a Forum of Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights came as a result of three International Conferences on Democracy and Human Rights organized since 2005 by the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights and UNESCO.

Held in Cairo, these high-level meetings, the purpose of which was to discuss and reflect on human rights and democracy with a view to achieving these ideals in Africa and the Arab region, brought together representatives of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI), governments, diplomats, international experts and members of international, regional and non-governmental organizations. The International Organization of La Francophonie, the League of Arab States, the African Union, ISESCO and the Office of the United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights were also associated.

The first Cairo conference (2005) focused on the Arab region. It gave rise to a rich debate on the nature and prospects of democracy and human rights, particularly in view of the new contemporary challenges affecting this region. Emphasizing the indivisibility of democracy and human rights, participants recalled that “no democracy can be built on the basis of discrimination” and that freedom, justice, equal rights, citizenship and democratic participation of all in the democratic exercise of power are fundamental principles of any democracy” (Cairo Declaration 2005).

The second Cairo conference (2007) focused on democracy and human rights in Africa. The main objective of this event was to provide space for reflection and debate on the role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Africa. In this perspective, particular attention was paid to the promotion and implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and awareness-raising on the need for the Charter’s prompt ratification and for the diffusion of its contents among governments and populations to make it a truly functional international instrument for the promotion of democracy.

The third Cairo conference (2008) focused on democracy and human rights in both Africa and the Arab region. Coinciding with the conclusion of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, its aim was to take stock of its achievements in terms of challenges facing both regions. It was at this meeting that it was decided to create a Forum of Arab-African Dialogue, in an effort to strengthen ties between relevant actors from these two regions and to provide a permanent space for dialogue and exchange of their experiences, lessons learned and best practices in the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights.

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