LASPNET Launches Report on Status of SDG 16 Implementation in Uganda

On 13th November 2020, the Legal Aid Service Providers’ Network (LASPNET) at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala launched a report on the status of implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) in Uganda.  SDG16 sets out to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The report is an outcome of a research which was carried out in the districts of Kampala, Nakaseke, Kaliro and Masaka, to track the status and extent to which the SDG 16 targets on peace; justice and strong institutions have been implemented. The report indicates that various interventions have been undertaken by the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) to ensure realisation of some aspects of SDG 16.  These include strengthening the policy and legislative framework to promote the rule of law and access to justice, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, children and persons with disabilities.

The report also reveals some hindrances that ought to be addressed. These include corruption in JLOS, deficits in respect, protection and promotion of human rights, as well as challenges regarding adherence to the rule of law.

Speaking at the event, Nicole Bjerler, the Head of Facility at the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) emphasized the importance of SDG16 both in its own right as it recognizes that peace, rule of law and inclusion are crucial for sustainable development, but also in view of its transformative nature, as strong and accountable institutions are critical enablers to help deliver progress on other SDGs. She welcomed efforts made by all stakeholders including Government and civil society organisations to make SDG16 a reality.

“The Government, through JLOS, has put in place structures and institutions that are key to ensuring access to justice, such as courts, police, prisons, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. On the side of civil society, legal aid service providers have played a commendable role in making SDG16 a reality by supporting vulnerable and marginalised segments of society in accessing justice,” she said.

She called for more comprehensive implementation of these policies and laws to meet the needs of Ugandans. “Although there is a policy and legal framework in place, their consistent and coherent implementation remains work in progress, as the justice system still faces various challenges at every step in the justice chain,” She cautioned.

Sylvia Namubiru, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LASPNET, re-echoed the need to tackle challenges that have undermined the performance of justice actors and led to diminishing levels of trust in JLOS services.

“Therefore, we would like to reawaken government actors responsible to ensuring that Uganda meets its global obligation of promoting strong and inclusive societies geared towards peace and justice for all,” she said.

Musa Modoi, Technical Advisor on Human Rights and Accountability for JLOS, in defense of JLOS said there has been great improvement in observance of human rights as a result of JLOS engagement, including by ensuring timely access to justice as evidenced in the establishment of online court sessions conducted during the heightened breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Anatoli Muleterwa, in charge of Community Policing at the Uganda Police Force highlighted the progress made by the Uganda Police Force in upholding human rights and the rule of law albeit challenges for example individual errant police officers violating citizen’s rights; whom they are holding to account.

To address the identified gaps, the report makes several recommendations. These include nurturing a culture of respect for human rights; ensuring adherence to the rule of law; deepening interventions on gender equality; promoting access to justice through enactment of the Legal Aid Law, and the need to resource and nurture informal justice structures to complement the formal justice system.  and supporting informal justice systems. Other recommendation include intensifying the fight against corruption; ensuring legal empowerment of citizens; strengthening the JLOS institutions; and building public trust in the institutions, and enhancing citizen participation in planning processes.