About the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)

PALU is the premier continental membership forum of and for individual African lawyers and lawyers’ associations in Africa.

It was founded in 2002 by African Bar leaders and eminent lawyers, to reflect the aspirations and concerns of the African people and to promote and defend their shared interests.

Its membership comprises of the continent’s over five regional lawyers’ associations, over 54 national lawyers’ associations and over 1,000 individual lawyers spread across Africa and in the Diaspora, working together to advance the law and the legal profession, rule of law, good governance, human and peoples’ rights and socio-economic development of the African continent.

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To realise a united, just and prosperous Africa, built on the rule of law and good governance, PALU has adopted three core areas of thematic focus, namely institutional development, development of the legal profession, and the rule of law and good governance.

Institutional Development Theme

The strategic goal of the Institutional Development Theme is to build a modern, well-resourced and sustainable Pan African membership organisation with optimum institutional capacity to deliver on its mandate. Our organisational Development programmes are designed to build a Pan African organisation with the requisite corporate governance ethos, systems and structures to provide leadership on the African continent for lawyer-led initiatives that contribute towards the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Development of the Legal Profession Theme

The strategic goal of the Development of the Legal Profession Theme is to develop a competent, effective and independent legal profession in Africa. Here, we design and implement programmes that enhance the professional capacity of individual lawyers (which includes in-house lawyers), law firms and lawyers’ associations, to boost their ability to contribute to development of the African polity, economy and society. These include enhancement of professional ethics and integrity in the practice of the legal profession, preparing the African legal professional for the 21st Century, and building the capacity of regional and national lawyers’ associations to serve their members as well as the public interest.

Rule of Law and Good Governance Theme

The strategic goal of the Rule of Law and Good Governance Theme is to strengthen the standards of adherence to the just rule of law and good governance in Africa. Here, we design and implement programmes that catalyse the development and practice of African international law; we build a practice around law, peace and security in Africa; promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa; democracy, elections and governance in Africa; and that increase the levels of integrity in Africa’s economic governance.

Institutional Development

PALU has four-tier structure, with complementary responsibilities in terms of policy, strategic and financial oversight. These are:

General Assembly
The General Assembly, which consists of all of the institutional and individual members of PALU, is its supreme decision-making organ. It meets at least once every three years, sets broad direction and reviews overall policy, strategy and activities, and elects the Executive Committee. The members also constitute themselves into various Committees, Task Forces, Working Groups and Fora, under which they work throughout the year.
The Council, which is made up of the Executive Committee members, as well as the Presidents of the Regional and National Lawyers’ Associations (Bar Associations and Law Societies) of the continent, meets at least once a year to review the progress of the organisation, and of the continent.

The Council is primarily responsible for overall governance and policy direction. It also makes rules and regulations for the proper administration and management of the organisation, and oversees and monitors their implementation. It is also responsible for initiating and considering policies that govern PALU and its relationships with other parties, and lays the same before the General Assembly for adoption. Among other things, it approves the annual activity report and audited accounts of the organisation.

Executive Committee (Board)

This is the governance organ that acts as the Board.

It is made up of nine directly elected members, the President of the Bar hosting the Secretariat of the organisation, and the PALU Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who is an ex officio member. It is responsible for formulation of goals, policies and strategies, monitoring of implementation by the Secretariat, overall oversight over administrative, financial and programmatic activities, and appraising the performance of the CEO. It represents the organisation, and, among other things, adopts the annual budget and annual audited accounts of the organisation. It meets around three times a year. The Treasurer and Secretary General play a more intensive role in visiting and engaging the Secretariat in between Board meetings, and reporting to the full Board.

The Secretariat, headed by the CEO, implements the organisation’s programmes and activities and reports to the Executive Committee. It is responsible for engaging individual and institutional members, and the various Committees, Task Forces, Working Groups and Fora on a daily basis, and facilitating their work. PALU currently has nine full-time members of staff. It also frequently brings on board volunteers and interns.
To realise a united, just and prosperous Africa, built on the rule of law and good governance, PALU has adopted three core areas of thematic focus, namely institutional development, development of the legal profession, and the rule of law and good governance.

Continental Advocacy and Outreach

PALU engages the length and breadth of the AU organisational landscape, and, among other things, has acted as Consultant for the AU, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Pan African Parliament (PAP) as well as the African Governance Architecture (AGA).

Over the years, PALU has developed an enviable place for itself as a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) engaging and engaged by the AU organs and institutions, and also the major Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other African Regional Organisations. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the AU, formalised in 2006, which led to PALU being routinely involved in the activities of the Office of the Legal Counsel, the Department of Political Affairs, the African Court on Human & Peoples’ Rights, the African Union Commission on International Law and the Pan African Parliament, amongst others.

A continuing area of concern for PALU is that the various independent organs and institutions that make up AGA still appear to operate in silos, with the citizens of Africa not yet seeing and feeling fruits of more intensive co-operation, collaboration and complementarity, as was envisaged in the legal and policy instruments that established AGA. We have strived to raise this issue at all available opportunities and to give practical examples of where and how we envisage more joint work. This can at best be described as a work-in-progress.

Some of the notable advocacy projects that PALU has undertaken towards the AU include:

Prepared the draft Protocol on the extension of the jurisdiction of the AfCHPR to include an international criminal jurisdiction. PALU supported the AU, its organs and institutions, RECs and Member States, as they negotiated and adopted the Protocol, and we engage the Member States as they sign and consider ratifying it.
Developed the AfCHPR's legal aid funding framework, institutional structure, fund-raising strategy, and the AU Statute setting up a Trust Fund for Legal Aid for the three key AU Human Rights Institutions, which was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU (the AU Summit) in January 2016.
Undertook a research and dialogue project to catalyse a deeper understanding of the ideal interaction between the different institutions of the African Human Rights System and the complementarity that exists between them in their promotional and protective mandates. This culminated in the publication of a practical Complementarity Guide, for practitioners and activists to effectively engage these institutions.
Worked, with others, in the development of the African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework, from its very outset back in 2010, up until its successful adoption in February 2019. We have undertaken research, documentation, consultancy and advisory, and overall advocacy activities toward this framework, either acting individually, or in the larger consortium of CSOs supporting the process. We pay special tribute to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, which, on the part of civil society, was the initiator and has been the driving force and leader in the collective efforts to see this process to conclusion.
PALU has continued to work, as lead Consultant, on the development of the Action and Implementation Plan for the Human and Peoples’ Rights Decade in Africa. We envisage that the document will be refined, completed and placed before the AU policy organs at their next Ordinary Summit.
PALU also regularly engages the East African Community, Economic Community of West African States, Southern African Development Community and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, thus gaining practical and valuable knowledge, skills and experience on how African RECs and Regional Organisations interact with the AU.
From time to time, PALU undertakes direct, in-country advocacy, especially in conflict or crisis situations, where we are often called upon to share our evolving understanding of how (sub) regional, continental and international norms, institutions and actors could play a role in sustainable resolution and building of resilient, open, democratic societies.

Publications and Communications

One of our primary mandates is the collection, collation, analysis and dissemination of legal information to our members, governments, intergovernmental organisations and other users. We place a high premium on provision of international, regional and national laws, jurisprudence, scholarly texts and other news and information from Africa, concerning Africa, or of interest to Africa. To this end, we have established a library at our offices, for the benefit of our members and other stakeholders, especially those who litigate at the AfCHPR and the East African Court of Justice, which are both based in Arusha, Tanzania. We have already collected a variety of legal materials and documents and we continue to update them, with the generous support of individual members, CSO partners, development partners, and donors.

We continue to engage in advocacy, through letters, emails, advocacy or solidarity missions, and publication of Policy Briefs and advocacy resources for public consumption. These are used to disseminate information and foster debate on possibilities of engaging the various organs and institutions of the AU, the RECs, and other intergovernmental bodies more comprehensively, creatively and proactively, on matters of constitutionalism, democracy, good governance, rule of law, human and peoples’ rights, peace and security, regional integration and continental unity.

In the last two years we have placed a special focus on the African Continental Free Trade Area, as an important growth area for our continent in general, and legal practitioners in particular.

We also disseminate monthly e-Newsletters and special e-Bulletins, in English and French, to our wide and diverse membership and stakeholders’ database. These Communiqués provide information on recent developments, opportunities, events and issues around the African continent.

To complement these activities, we have developed an interactive website which serves as a platform for PALU members and stakeholders to get informed, share ideas and interact with each other through the various Committees, Task Forces, Working Groups and Fora. Our new Membership Engagement System allows members to hold virtual meetings; share information, ideas and business contacts; and discuss topics of interest. The website also contains a directory of key legal instruments of the AU, RECs, and other African Intergovernmental Organisations, as well as key national legislations.

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