5th Annual National Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

5th Annual National Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - 10:45

19th - 20th September 2018



Leveraging SDGs to realize Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs)                                                                                                


For the last one and half decades, the international community has been preoccupied with implementing an international framework that seeks to address global poverty and achieving social justice for all.

Globally, whereas there has been progress in economic development, poverty, inequality and exclusion levels have consistently increased. This widening gap between the rich and poor is among the reasons global leaders under the United Nations converged to adopt the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 as a strategy to address the global poverty and inequality.

At the expiry of the timeframe of the MDGs in 2015, decline in global poverty had been achieved and progress had been observed in various sectors reflected therein. Although some set targets were not achieved, the MDGs acted as a foundation block for the continued advancement of the global development agenda leading to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Following the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, UN Member States agreed to adopt the SDGs as the next global policy development platform up to 2030.  

The SDGs 2030 agenda; “Leave No one Behind” commits to address the challenges of poverty and exclusion that are hindering human kind from living dignified life.  The SDGs are aimed at complimenting the efforts of the earlier international and regional binding human rights instruments and reinforcing the respect, protection, and fulfillment of social and economic rights including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Therefore the achievement of the SDGs has a direct bearing on the fulfilment of social and economic rights globally.   The 17 SDGs address various current global challenges including poverty; hunger; limited access to education and clean energy, poor healthcare, and unsafe water; these are at the core of the current limited enjoyment of the social and economic rights like access to adequate food, clean and safe drinking water, quality and equitable education, quality health care, and social security.

In addressing these challenges, SDGs are based on the principle of universality, a key norm in the realization of social and economic rights as the above highlighted challenges affect all people, poor or rich equally. In committing themselves to address these issues, each state is obliged to develop and adopt national plans with a human rights based approach and fully aligned with the set and measurable targets in the SDGs.

For the case of Uganda, the State developed and adopted its development agenda; Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2015/16 – 2019/20, prior to the adoption of the SGDs.  It is on this background that the alignment of the Uganda’s national development agenda to the SGDs need to be fully checked and interrogated. Cognizant of the broadness of the SDGs, the 5th Annual National Conference will pay adequate attention to the country’s preparedness to achieve certain key SDGs aligned to economic, social and cultural rights including:

Goal 1 (Poverty): End poverty in all of its forms everywhere specifically implementation of appropriate national social protection systems and measures and achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable (Target 1.3).

Goal 3 (Health): Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages with emphasis on achievement of universal health coverage (Target 3.8) and substantial increase in health financing (Target 3.c).

Goal 4 (Education): Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all with specific focus on completion of free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education (Target 4.1) and access to education for vulnerable children including children with special needs and children from poor households (Targets 4.5 and 4.a).

Goal 5(women rights): Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life(Target 5.5) and undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws( Target 5.a) and adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels (Targets 5.c)

Goal 8 (Labour Rights): Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all looking specifically at protection of labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers (Targets 8.5 and 8.8) and protection from forced labour, human trafficking and elimination of harmful child labour (Target 8.7).

Goal 10 (Inequality): Reduce Inequality within and among countries with focus on empowerment and promotion of social and economic inclusion of all (Target 10.2), ensuring equal opportunity and reduce inequality by elimination of discriminatory laws, policies and practices (Target 10.3) and adoption of wage and social protection policies to achieve greater equality (Target 10.4).

Currently, there is also growing encouragement of the private sector to play a leading role in the delivery of social services amidst the declining public investment and weak policy and institutional regulatory framework. This is hindering access to quality social services and consequently the enjoyment of social and economic rights by the poor, thus worsening vulnerability and exclusion. Therefore, the 5th Annual National Conference will examine the country’s capacity in terms of administrative, legislative and fiscal measures available to facilitate the achievement of the SDGs which are key in the attainment of the country’s development agenda set in Vision 2040 and fulfillment of social and economic rights of its people.   

The 5th Annual National Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The idea of an Annual Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was born in 2014, at the behest of Government processes that flagged the need for constitutional reforms. The Conference was at the time conceived as a forum to advocate for the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights in the Constitution. At the 1st Conference in September 2014, the question of the justifiability of ESCRs took center stage.  The 2nd Conference in September 2015 confronted the subject of the state of socio-economic services, focusing particularly on the issue of exclusion and vulnerability. The subject of development planning and use of the Human Rights Based Approach as well featured prominently at the 2nd Conference. The subject of business and human rights was flagged as a serious issue. One of the outcomes of the 2nd Conference was the birth of the Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) including a decision that the 3rd Conference addresses the subject of business and human rights under the theme: Accountability versus Social Responsibility in the Era of Business Human Rights Abuses in Uganda: International and Domestic Policy and Legal Responses.

From the 3rd conference, it was decided that the 4th conference address the subject of local government and the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. The 4th conference centered on the headway local governments have made in the delivery of social services. This was conducted under the theme: Local Government and Service Delivery in Uganda: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward. During the 4th conference, it was agreed that the 5th Annual National Conference addresses the issue of fully aligning the country’s national developmental agenda to the SGDs since achieving them has a positive bearing on service delivery and the enjoyment of social and economic rights by the citizens.  

Objective of the 5th Annual National Conference

The aim of the conference is to create awareness among the citizenry on the importance of the SDGs in the realization of the country’s development goals. The specific objectives are;

  1. To underscore the link between SDGs and Social and Economic rights and how the former can be used to achieve fulfillment of the latter;
  2. To push the state to fully incorporate SDGs in its development plans, strategies and policies and developing key indicators for tracking progress of implementation  SDGs highlighted above;   
  3. To empower the citizens with the necessary information needed to hold the state accountable for the realization of SDGs particularly those highlighted herein above;
  4. To examine the state commitment in the provision of adequate financing for the achievement of the SDGs; and
  5. To understand the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders responsible for the implementation of the various SDGs particularly those aligned to the social and economic rights.  

Expected outcomes:

The conference will set the agenda on the localizing SGDs in Uganda by raising awareness about their importance in the realization of Social and Economic rights. It will also further examine the capacity of the state in the implementation of the SDGs in terms of available policy, institutional framework and financial resources to finance education and health sectors and social protection programs that are key in addressing inequality and exclusion among the masses. The Conference will generate a report summarizing key debates and discussion, and a Resolution detailing key messages to policy makers resulting from the discussions at the Conference.


  • Initiative for Social and Economic Rights.
  • Public Interest Law Clinic, Makerere University
  • Global Rights Alert.
  • Uganda Human Rights Commission.
  • Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability.