The Germany donor body GIZ has applauded the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) for fostering good cooperation with them and putting the financial assistance extended to them to good use. Annette Kougbe, the Good Financial Governance Consultant who led the four-man team from GIZ, held talks with the Commission on Wednesday 17, October, 2018 to discuss possible extension of the bilateral cooperation of the two-year project they are currently supporting to strengthen the human rights of the most disadvantaged people scheduled to end early next year (2019). During the meeting held at the Commission head office on Twed Plaza, Kampala, the GIZ team leader appreciated the commission for sharing progress on performance of the project so far, by highlighting the various interventions as well as pointing out challenges it is facing. She commended them for being open and accountable.
“We appreciate that UHRC has brought to our attention the challenges it is facing during implementation of the project especially the partial funding requirement and even put it in writing. It is not only good for GIZ to account to its country, but for us not to take the challenges into our future co-operation,” she noted. The GIZ team which revealed that it had found the financial controls within the UHRC satisfactory was quick to add that it would consider reviewing the current terms of subsidy arrangements to a more flexible financing agreement with UHRC for future projects.
The GIZ visiting team was officially welcomed by the Acting Chairperson of the Commission Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba who thanked their Kampala office for having selected UHRC to be one of its partners. “The Commission greatly appreciates the technical and financial support from the Government of Germany that it receives through the partnership with GIZ- Kampala. I want to inform you that as a Commission, we feel happy and proud of the existing cooperation, support and cordial working relationship with the Kampala office in charge of Governance and Civil Society Programme-Human Rights Component under the able leadership of Dr. Michael Mors and his team,” Commissioner Katebalirwe Amooti said.
The Acting Chairperson reminded the delegation that during the discussion with the Mission from Germany in 2016, the Commission requested GIZ to extend the project from the initial coverage of only two regional offices of Hoima and Central to its regional offices of Arua and Moroto due to the high refugee population in West Nile and general limited awareness of human rights issues in the Karamaja region. “I am happy to report that working with the GIZ-Kampala team, the project has now been extended to Moroto in the districts of Kaabong and Nakapiripirit. Also starting with August this year, the Commission shifted its focus from the districts of Luwero and Mpigi to Mityana and Kayunga under the Central Regional Office; from Kole and Lira to Lamwo and Apac under its Gulu Regional office and from Hoima and Masindi to Kiryandongo and greater Kibale under its Hoima Regional Office,” he said.
Responding to concerns raised by Nora Keck the GIZ Planning Expert on Accountability, Public Finance and Administration on whether UHRC shares its impact assessment reports of the project interventions with the public, the Secretary to the Commission Mr. Patrick Mabiiho Nyakaana informed them that the reports are shared through formal channels as well as the UHRC social media platforms such as the official website. He further clarified that UHRC reports are also shared with development partners and other stakeholders during periodic review meetings; annual reviews of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and through the UHRC mandatory Annual Reports submitted to Parliament.
Mr. Mabiiho, who echoed the Chairperson’s appreciation for the support from the Government of the Federal Republic of German to the Government of the Republic of Uganda, used the occasion to brief the delegation on the progress so far made by UHRC in implementing activities under GIZ support which dates as far back as 2016. “In the period March 2017 to March 2018, tremendous progress has been made in areas of compliant handling through mobile legal clinics, offering legal advice to clients through the use of the Toll Free lines, investigation of complaints of human rights violations and capacity building in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). He added that in the area of monitoring the state of human rights, the Commission had inspected places of detention with special focus on the rights of vulnerable persons (Elderly, children, women, PLHA and PWDs), trained members of Human Rights committees in Prisons and held capacity building trainings in monitoring human rights implications of the Oil and Gas industry for local government staff,” he said.
He revealed that the Commission also reviewed bye-laws for Lango and Acholi districts to ensure that they comply with human rights standards; carried out civic education using its civic education vans, radio talk shows, and community barazas; and produced and distributed IEC materials. He said a Human Rights Education Handbook was developed and is now being used as standard reference material for all officers in the Commission responsible for delivering Human Rights Education across the country.
During the same meeting, Mr. Mabiiho proposed areas of future collaboration between UHRC and GIZ including the need to now concentrate on carrying out training for duty bearers who are mainly the policy makers in the area of the relationship between corruption and human rights, in addition to the current awareness programmes on the rights of citizens. “Much as UHRC trains the citizens to demand for their rights, there is need to also focus on the duty bearers to balance it with the impact it creates on the realization of rights especially now that we have made a deliberate effort to put more focus on the economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) which directly impact social service delivery among the populace.”
Other areas for future collaboration proposed by the Secretary were for the Commission to implement programmes that focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since these are anchored in human rights and are currently new areas of focus globally. He also said there is need for increased focus on the Human Rights Based Approach to Development (HRBAD) as a way of enhancing the protection and promotion of Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), poverty as a human rights issue, human rights education with special focus on the rights of disadvantaged/vulnerable persons like the elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS, PWDs and Women. He further said the Commission plans to increase monitoring the protection of rights of refugees, human rights training of security agencies and monitoring the state of human rights in the Oil and Gas sector as well as in places of detention.
The Director Research Education and Documentation (RED) Mr. Byonabye Kamadi who was also in the meeting said the current on-going exercise of recruitment of new personnel into the forces will constitute a new target group for UHRC to provide human rights training. He requested GIZ for further support in terms of motor vehicles to address the Commission’s mobility challenges given its wide geographical mandate. The Director also assured the team of UHRC’s strategy to now start handling human rights complaints arising from allegations of corruption as part of its mandate since it’s provided for under the Whistle Blowers Protection Act of 2010. He explained to the meeting that cases of corruption can ably be handled by the Commission by applying the principles of the Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA).
Mr. Byonabye also highlighted concerns of the current limited geographical coverage by the GIZ project against the huge demand for human rights services in the country as one of the critical challenges that the Commission is currently facing. He therefore requested the GIZ to consider extending support to areas covered by other regional offices of the Commission country wide so that the impact of the project can be felt at the national level.
The UHRC team explained the Commission’s broad mandate of protecting and promoting human rights for everyone including vulnerable persons vis-a vis that of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Office of the Prime (OPM), allaying fears of duplication and overlapping of mandates raised by the GIZ visiting team.
Ms. Kougbe assured UHRC of their commitment to supporting human rights programmes and appealed to the Commission to focus more on the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially the realization of access to food and monitoring government compliance on all aspects of SDGs including implementation of the treaties ratified by Uganda.