On June 28-29, 2016, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) African Center for Justice (ACJ) program brought together justice sector actors from across central Africa to discuss best practices and mutual and unique challenges to protecting consumer rights. The workshop, which combined training with opportunities to exchange experiences, convened stakeholders from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. It was the final in a series of workshops on sustainable development topics for stakeholders in a region experiencing rapid economic growth. Workshop participants — including lawyers, judges, government officials, legal training institute personnel, academics, and civil society representatives — received training focused on identifying gaps to transformational changes in consumer rights policy and responding to the specific needs of judges in upholding consumer rights throughout central Africa.
The workshop gave judicial actors the opportunity to learn about and discuss comparative, regional, and international legal standards on consumer rights, including the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection.
Participants learned how access to safe drinking water, food, health, education, and a healthy environment are basic human rights severely lacking throughout the region. The workshop discussions revealed shortcomings and gaps in legal protections for consumer rights and in the application of existing law in each of the countries. Participants analyzed and discussed the possibilities of potential reforms to ensure the efficiency of access to justice in consumer rights cases.
In particular, participants analyzed how a lack of monitoring and enforcement of consumer rights negatively impacts the independence of the judiciary, as well as how executive branch institutions engage with consumer protection reform efforts. They pointed to the work of the East African Community and its member states on progressive integration of policies on competition and consumer rights protection into domestic law as a relevant model for implementation. The workshop also provided judicial actors the opportunity to learn about and discuss comparative, regional, and international legal standards on consumer rights, including the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection.
Government officials observed that consumer rights go beyond political dynamics and affect all individuals, providing optimism for prospects of reform and government engagement on the topic. The workshop strengthened participants’ capacity to identify and implement reforms and solutions for consumer rights protection challenges across central Africa and enabled stakeholders to recognize the shared interest in promoting the right to access goods and essential services, protecting the right of participation, and providing remedies for consumer disputes.
To learn more about our work in Africa, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].