The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has embarked on sensitizing different Ministries, Government Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the roll-out of its updated Human Rights Recommendations Database and search engine innovation.
While officiating at a high-level breakfast meeting organized by UHRC for Permanent Secretaries, Commissioners and Directors of MDAs, the Chairperson UHRC Med S.K Kaggwa appealed to the participants from various MDAs to endeavor to submit accurate and authentic information in their reports about human rights, whenever called upon.
“The Commission notes that there is an urgent need for stronger commitment by MDAs, to implement and follow-up on human rights recommendations. The utilization of this database will ease Uganda’s reporting mechanism since there will be a one-stop center for all Government reports regarding recommendations and information required by national, regional and international treaty bodies. We call upon you to appoint focal point persons to regularly update this database in order to ease the reporting process,” he said.
He noted that the main objective of the meeting was to introduce the database to relevant MDA so that they are equipped to participate in regular reporting and implementation of recommendations made to Uganda at national, regional and international levels. “This is really going to be an important tool to use. It provides a comprehensive monitoring way for capturing progress made and assessing government implementation of recommendations in fulfillment of its commitment to human rights and obligations,” Mr. Kaggwa said.
He revealed that the current updated database was first launched on August 4, 2016 with the support of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In 2017, it was modified and updated and it is now ready for use by the various MDAs.
In her presentation during the meeting, Ann Nyakato from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ National Social Affairs Department appreciated government and the UHRC for this new innovation which is intended to ease the process of gathering reports by the various MDAs. She specifically lauded the UHRC Systems Manager Mr. Omita Sulaiman for the tireless effort that he put into ensuring that this database is in place.
She said Uganda has made great strides in ratifying and domesticating international and regional instruments except one relating to the convention on protection of persons from imposed disappearance. She however, noted that discussions on having Uganda ratify it are still going on within government.
“As soon as you become a state party to a treaty you have to provide an initial report after two years and then you are required to provide a provisional report in four to five years. Under the United Nations (UN) Uganda is a state party to eight core instruments for which we have to make periodic reports. We are also obliged to report under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism,” she said.
She listed a number of treaties where Uganda is required to report every four years under the UPR; under UN every two years; to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights every two years and to the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of a Child. She also gave a status report on how Uganda is fairing in respect of eight Human Rights treaties such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for which Uganda submitted an initial report in 2005 and the next report was due in 2008. She also said that on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Uganda submitted the initial report in 2004 and its next report was due in 2008. She noted that in both these treaties, Uganda is 10 years behind its reporting schedule to report on the total of 20 recommendations in respect of the two treaties so far received.
The other report Ms Nyakato highlighted is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women for which Uganda submitted an initial report in 1995 while others were submitted in the subsequent years of 2000 and 2009. She expressed regret because whereas the next report by Uganda had been due in 2014, government had not yet submitted it making the country to be four years behind schedule. She however informed participants that a draft report that combines the 6th and 7th reports among others is now available.
“You will note and agree with me that compiling a country status report is a huge, huge mandate and responsibility. A big volume of report30 to 50 pages is required on each treaty provision and recommendation. You are supposed to report on each and every policy and you need a lot of detail which you cannot get from one MDA, so it has to be collective effort. Treaty reporting is like a conveyor belt where all of us have a role to play. If one person doesn’t play their role the whole process gets blotted,” Nyakato said.
The Deputy Head OHCHR Nicole Bjerler in her opening remarks made reference to the words of former UN Secretary General Koffi Anan thus: You will not enjoy Development without Security or security without development and you will enjoy neither without respect for human rights. “So this (Database and search engine) is a real link between human rights and development as well as security and the need to make sure those human rights obligations that Uganda has ratified are implemented,” she said. She also noted that the Database will help to track all recommendation coming from different mechanisms, national, regional and international. It will allow MDAs, she said, to capture progress on what you have done to implement these recommendations and will help you to report to treaty bodies with whom you have ratified different treaties.
“It will also allow you to take stock of the situation of human rights, allow you to involve each other in planning, policy making and implementation and to showcase the progress you have made on each recommendation,” Ms. Bjerler said.
The Director, Monitoring and Inspection at UHRC, Ms. Ruth Ssekindi explained the background to the database and search engine, the justification and its main features and set up. “The Database/Search engine is being hosted by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) as the main Administrator, with an overall capacity to view and evaluate all the inputs into the system. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), by virtue of its role of reporting on behalf of the Government of Uganda shall have observer rights with an overall capacity to view all the inputs into the system,” she revealed. She said the MDAs have user rights to view all information related to those recommendations that are relevant to each of them and to populate and update implementation of the recommendations.” On the other hand, members of the public shall only have access to view information related to the recommendations and the feedback provided by the MDAs.
She further noted that the Database has been conceptualized as a vital tool for MDAs to keep regularly abreast of recommendations that Uganda has received from the different international, regional and national human rights mechanisms, the actions required for implementation by the responsible government agency and to provide information on the current status of implementation in an effective and timely manner.
“It is a comprehensive monitoring tool for disaggregating, capturing progress made and assessing government’s implementation of human rights recommendations in fulfillment of its human rights obligations. This will further complement the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Human Rights by facilitating the availability of information for credible and efficient state reporting processes,” she said.
The Sheraton Hotel breakfast meeting will be followed by a three-day residential practical training for technical officers from selected MDAs targeting their designated focal points from 10th – 12th April 2019 in Entebbe.
These trainings are aimed at creating awareness among policy makers on the structure and utilization of the updated Data Base; equip participants with technical skills on the practical application of the updated Data Base including the monitoring and evaluation components that should inform their strategic plans in identifying baselines, indicators and targets.
Future trainings are intended to help to support the nominated MDA focal point officers with hands-on skills for updating the required information pertaining to their respective agencies on progress made or otherwise with regard to the recommendations made to Uganda by national, regional and international mechanisms.
Among the MDAs which attended the Sheraton high level meeting was Uganda Prisons Service, Uganda Police Force, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), National Council of Sports, Electoral Commission, National Planning Authority, Ministry of Works and Transport, National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U), Judicial Service Commission, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC). The others included representatives from the Office of the DPP, Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory, NIRA, Ministry of Tourism, Uganda Communications Commission, Ministry of Local Government, Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Equal Opportunities Commission, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the hosts; UHRC and OHCHR among others.