West Africa has some of the lowest scores in the global human development index, low literacy rates, weak transparency policies and daily threats from terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking and organised crime.
West Africa is home to approximately 380 million people. While many West African countries used to be governed by military juntas, they evenutally embraced multi-party systems in the 90s. In recent years, more and more countries in the region have experienced peaceful transitions from governing coalitions to the opposition following democratic elections.
While democratic rule is on the rise, many concerns persist with regards to press freedom, freedom of expression and freedom to protest. Access to information is often very complicated. Increasing insecurity and terrorism threats have further restricted civil and political rights. Control of social media is an increasing concern in the region.
Economic, social and cultural rights have also been flouted for many decades, which has led to extreme poverty conditions, poor health standards and low literacy rates. The fulfillment of these basic rights has been a long-standing challenge. Many governments have failed to provide basic social services to their citizens.
Gender violence and gender discrimination are still wide-spread in cultural practices across the region. Women and children are known to be victims of human trafficking both within the region and outside, often for sexual exploitation. Corruption, organized crime and terrorism have aggravated the human insecurity in the region.
The irresponsable explotation of natural resources by both multinational companies and artisanal mining practices, has had devastating impacts on the environment and the health of workers, their families and their immediate environment.
Human rights violations are numerous and wide-spread across the region. The United Nations has advocated since many years that a human rights based approach to development is critical to make progress. Most West African countries have ratified international human rights treaties, however their application remains deficient. This is partially due to the lack of well functioning, independent and corruption free judiciaries, capable of holding the governments to account.
Action plans have been developed to implement recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism, however much remains to be done to live up to universal human rights standards across the region.