CSOs Re-awaken Government’s Commitment to the Protection of Human Rights in Uganda

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process that involves the review of human rights records of all UN Member States, to assess their compliance with human rights obligations and commitments.

The UPR is a state driven process, under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which provides the opportunity to member states to declare the actions they have taken to improve human rights situations in their respective countries, and to fulfi ll human rights obligations. The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on 15th March 2006 by resolution 60/251. Each country is reviewed every four and a half years.The process reminds member states of their responsibility to respect and uphold all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The ultimate aim of the mechanism is to improve human rights situations in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.UNHRC recommends active CSO participation and infl uence throughout the UPR process. Most importantly, CSOs prepare parallel/shadow reports that other countries utilise for reference while making recommendations tofellow countries. Although they do not have a formal role during the actual review process, after the review process is complete, CSOs lobby their governments to implement the recommendations that they have agreed to.Uganda’s fi rst UPR process was held on 11th October 2011 and, in preparation for the process, only 4 CSO clusters submitted one report under the human rights themes. However, for the second UPR process due to take place in November 2016, Human Rights Network (HURINET), with the support of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), equipped CSO in Uganda with skills on how to effectively participate in the UPR process. HURINET built the capacity of the CSOs to understand and harness regional and international mechanisms of human rights including the UPR process. HURINET mobilized 167 Civil Society Organisations across the country that constituted the National Stakeholders Forum on UPR.

Using the media and other regional platforms, these CSOs (referred to as the UPR foot soldiers) have popularised the UPR and held consultations with grassroots communities to obtain credible and reliable information regarding their human rights concerns. These CSOs produced and submitted 15 shadow reports to UNHRC from the 13 thematic clusters under the National Consultative Forum.Unlike in the past, where CSOs’ interface with Government was mainly confrontational, the increased participation of CSOs in the UPR process has strengthened CSO engagements with Government. In fulfillment of its undertakings after its first UPR assessment in 2011, the Government of Uganda (GoU) initiated a National Action Plan (NAP) on human rights. CSOs actively participated in this process, consulted widely and provided a range of proposals on what Government should prioritize through a CSO position paper on priorities.

In addition, the Government representatives from the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the NAP/UPR interfaced with members of the CSO National Steering Committee that is: Human Rights Network (HURINET); Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC); Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG); and African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), and assessed the state of implementation of the UPR in the country. Also, the CSOs participated in the validation of the Government report on the state of implementation of the 2011 UPR recommendations. DGF stands ready to support and bridge the efforts from both civil society and the GoU towards a constructive Universal Periodic Review process and the development of the National Action Plan for Human Rights.