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What is the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action on Accelerating Prison and Penal Reform in Africa (2003)?
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The participants at the second pan-African Conference on Prison and Penal Reform in Africa, held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso between 18-20 September 2002, recommend:

1. Reducing the prison population

Criminal justice agencies should work together more closely to make less use of imprisonment. The prison population can only be reduced by a concerted strategy. It should be based on accurate and widely publicized information on the numbers and kinds of people in prison and on the social and financial impact of imprisonment. Reduction strategies should be ongoing and target both sentenced and unsentenced prisoners

2. Making African prisons more self-sufficient

Further recognition should be given to the reality that resources for imprisonment are severely limited and that therefore African prisons have to be as self sufficient as possible. Governments should recognize, however, that they are ultimately responsible for ensuring that standards are maintained so that prisoners can live in dignity and health.

3. Promoting the reintegration of offenders into society

Greater effort should be made to make positive use of the period of imprisonment or other sanction to develop the potential of offenders and to empower them to lead a crime-free life in the future. This should include rehabilitative programmes focusing on the reintegration of offenders and contributing to their individual and social development.

4. Applying the rule of law to prison administration

There should be a comprehensive law governing prisons and the implementation of punishment. Such law should be clear and unambiguous about the rights and duties of prisoners and prison officials. Officials should be trained to follow proper administrative procedures and to apply this law fairly. Administrative decisions that impact on the rights of prisoners should be subject to review by an independent and impartial judicial body.

5. Encouraging best practice

Further exchange of examples of best penal practice is to be encouraged at national, regional and international levels. This can be enhanced by the establishment of an all-African association of those involved in penal matters. The rich experience available across the continent can best be utilized if proven and effective programmes are progressively implemented in more countries. The Plan of Action to be developed from the proceedings of the Ouagadougou Conference will serve to further such exchange.

6. Promoting an African Charter on Prisoners' Rights

Action should be taken to promote the draft African Charter on Prisoners' Rights as an instrument that is appropriate to the needs of developing countries of the continent and to refer it to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Union.

7. Looking towards the United Nations Charter on the Basic Rights of Prisoners

The international criminal justice community should look towards developing a United Nations Charter of Basic Rights for Prisoners with a view to strengthening the rule of law in the treatment of offenders. African experience and concerns should be reflected in this Charter, which should be presented to the 11th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Criminal Justice in Bangkok, Thailand, 2005.

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