Fiat lux! Deriving a right to energy from the African Charter on Human and People's Rights
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The African continent is plagued by energy poverty, which refers to the lack of access to electricity and a reliance on traditional biomass for cooking. The linkage between access to modern energy services and development is well established, and the lack of access to modern energy sources constitutes an impediment to the promotion of sustainable development in Africa. In this regard, it is important to recall that the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Banjul Charter) expressly provides for an African right to development under article 22. Furthermore, article 24 (the right to a generally satisfactory environment) includes a reference to development. The relationship between the right to development and a right to a generally satisfactory environment is not clear from the wording of the Banjul Charter. However, the recognition of the importance of sustainable development in the African Union (AU) normative framework allows for an integrative approach that affirms that articles 22 and 24 are important components in the promotion of sustainable development which means that AU human rights law needs to respond to the challenge of energy poverty on the African continent. The time has come to derive a right to modern energy from articles 22 and 24 as components of sustainable development. General Comment 15 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN Committee on ESCR) on the right to water (at the international level) provides a useful matrix in this regard. We therefore affirm the importance of a right to energy not only for the laudable objective of sustainable development of the African continent, but also for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, 2000. We argue that a right to energy constitutes an important point of departure for an A Unormative response to energy poverty on the continent.
- Faculty of Law