Call for Papers: Soft law and human rights: The Impact of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa

Posted on September 03, 2015

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites papers for a conference on the Impact of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa.


On 9 December 2015, the Centre for Human Rights will host a conference on the impact of the Model Law on Access to information for Africa (Model Law) and other similar soft law, and on the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. Specifically, this conference will explore the influence of the Model Law on the development, adoption and review of laws governing access to information (ATI) in Africa, their effective implementation, and their broader influence of soft law within the African human rights system. The Model Law was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) in February 2013, following a two-and-a-half-year-long process coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights.


In November 2010, the African Commission adopted resolution 167 (XLVII), ‘Resolution on securing the effective realisation of access to information in Africa’. By this resolution, the African Commission decided to begin the process of developing a model ATI legislation for Africa, led by its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Special Rapporteur). The African Commission adopted the Model Law on 23 February 2013 and formally launched it on 12 April 2013, during its 54th Ordinary Session.

Though non-binding, the Model Law was developed as a tool to assist African States in the development of new, or amendment of existing, ATI laws in compliance with regional and international instruments that imposed an obligation to adopt such laws. Since the publication of the first draft of the Model Law in April 2012, the ATI landscape on the continent has improved significantly, with an increase in African states with ATI laws from 5 to 16, and a noticeable trend of strengthened normative content of ATI laws on the continent. While the direct influence of the Model Law in fast-tracking the development of ATI bills or the adoption of ATI laws is on record in some cases, in other instances the role of the Model Law has been evident only by virtue of obvious similarities between the text of the Model Law and newly developed ATI bills or adopted ATI laws.

Furthermore, being the first of its kind to be adopted by the African Commission, the Model Law forms part of, and is an important landmark in, the increasing elaboration of ‘soft law’ (non-treaty) standards under the auspices of the African Commission. Other examples are General Comment on article 14(1)(d) and (e) and General Comment No 2 on article 14(1)(a)(b)(c) and (f) and 14(2)(a) and (c) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). The African Union has also adopted model laws such as the African Union Model National Law on Universal Jurisdiction for International Crimes and the African Union Model Law on Counter-Terrorism. A reflection on the influence of the Model Law thus also provides an opportunity to inquire into the role of soft law standards within the African human rights system and the African Union generally.

The conference thus seeks to examine as far as possible, with reference to concrete examples and empirical data, the impact of the Model Law on the adoption, review and implementation of ATI laws in Africa. In doing so, the conference aims to create a forum for sharing opportunities, experiences and the challenges of utilising the Model Law in the development and review of ATI laws. Drawing from these discussions, new strategies will be formulated to ensure the increased adoption, review and effective implementation of ATI laws in Africa, and the broader implementation of similar emerging soft laws standards within the African human rights system and the African Union.

About the Conference

The conference is scheduled to take place on 9 December 2015 at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights. It is expected that papers presented at the conference will ultimately be published in 2016 as a volume of selected essays, or in the African Human Rights Law Journal.

The conference aims to attract academics, practitioners, activists, advocates, civil society organisations, lawyers, and policymakers working on ATI and other closely related fields, from across the continent and beyond. In particular, individuals and organisations that have collaborated with the Special Rapporteur on her ongoing project on the ‘implementation’ of the Model Law and all others with first-hand knowledge of the impact of the Model Law in any Member State, or on the development, adoption, review or implementation of legal frameworks on ATI and other relevant soft law standards.

Conference Themes

Papers are invited on three broad themes:

Theme 1:

Papers are invited on three broad themes:

Theme 1:

The Model Law and its influence on access to information in Africa

The Model Law: its rationale and process of adoption

Case studies on the influence of the Model Law on the development or finalisation of ATI bills, the promulgation of ATI bills into law, and the review or amendment of ATI laws

Theme 2:

Implementation of ATI laws in Africa

Addressing implementation gaps in terms of existing ATI laws

Exploring the realisation of ATI though the implementation of legal frameworks on access to information, such as constitutional provisions or other generic laws focussing on transparency and accountability

Theme 3:

The role/influence of soft law within the African human rights system

Analysis of the role and influence of African Union soft law on standards such as General Comments on article 14 of the Maputo Protocol and other relevant African Union Model Laws.

Submission specifications

Interested persons should submit abstracts of not more than 400 words to [email protected] no later than 26 September 2015.

Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by 28 September 2015.

Fully developed draft papers must be submitted no later than 23 November 2015. These drafts will be shared with participants prior to the conference.

Following the conference, the papers are expected to be reworked by authors and re-submitted for publication by 31 January 2016.


Limited funding is available to cover the costs of travel, accommodation and meals for those authors whose papers are selected for presentation at the conference. All applicants who require financial support must submit a letter of motivation for financial support along with their abstracts.


- Author Centre for Human Rights

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