Prior to the Guidelines, the relationship between the Committee and CSOs had been largely informal and ad hoc. The Guidelines were adopted in conformity with article 42 of the Charter and articles 34, 37, 81 and 82 of the Rules of Procedure on representation and co-operation with civil society organizations.
The objectives of organizations applying for observer status should be in keeping with the objectives of the AU Constitutive Act and the Charter. In order to avoid duplications, several CSOs sharing similar objectives are encouraged to apply as a coalition. In order to prevent CSOs that are illegal or inactive from securing observer status, applicants are expected to be “registered in a member state without restriction to carry out regional and continental activities”. They should also provide proof of at least three years registration as an organization of civil society or in the Diaspora working to defend, promote and protect the rights of the child prior to the date of submission of the application, as well as proof of operation during this three-year period. They must also have a recognized headquarters, democratically adopted statutes and a representative structure.
CSOs with observer status may request the Committee to include a particular issue on the agenda, and are also entitled to receive information on the time, location and agenda of the sessions of the Committee. During the sessions, they may present oral statements as well. They could also be invited, with the authorization of the Chairperson, to participate in the deliberations of the meetings of the Committee. But this participation does not confer voting rights, since they are ‘observers’. They can also obtain documents, provided these documents are not confidential, or deal with issues concerning the observers. This right to obtain documents should include state parties’ periodic reports submitted to the Committee by states parties to the Charter.
However, attached to the benefits exist reciprocal obligations by CSOs to the African Committee, such as establishing a close, co-operative relationship with the Committee and hold regular consultations with the latter on all issues of common interest; they are to submit, as well, analytic reports on their activities every 2 years. And where CSOs are in default regarding their obligations, measures could be taken against them by the Committee. Such measures include: sanctions of non-participation in sessions; denial of documents and information; denial of the opportunity to propose items to be included in the Committee’s agenda and of participating in the Committee’s proceedings.