Human Rights and SDGs

Human Rights Principles and Standards:  a Central Framework for Achieving the Agenda 2030 and Uganda’s Vision 2040

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda, have organized a colloquium on Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals themed: The Rights Model to Achieving Agenda 2030: Anchoring Human Rights Principles and Standards within the Framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for UgandaThe colloquium taking place at Protea Hotel in Entebbe, May 10-11 2017 draws participation from diverse stakeholders including; the government, civil society, academia, the UN and the media.

The overall aim of this colloquium is to strengthen Uganda’s SDGs implementation and coordination processes and to create awareness on the linkage between human rights and SDGs.  It is envisaged that the end of the colloquium, different stakeholders shall appreciate the significance of this linkage particularly, putting the rights-holders at the center of the SDGs.

The Millennium Declaration Summit of 2000 convened towards a new global partnership was aimed at reducing extreme poverty and committed member States of the United Nations to eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In effect, by 2015, more than one billion people were lifted out of extreme poverty, child and maternal mortality reduced, and net primary school enrolment increased. Uganda achieved approximately 33% of its MDGs targets namely; reduction in household income poverty, increased access to safe drinking water, net primary school enrolment;  life expectancy and controlled malaria. Despite these achievements, regional inequities in progress manifest significant gaps.

Globally, the realization of the MDGs was disproportionate for diverse reasons. At the design level, the MDGS implementation framework loosely anchored human rights principles and standards, hence affecting the implementation processes and the expected outcomes from all the MGDs.

Nonetheless, lessons learned from the implementation of the MDGs paved way for further commitment by the UN member states to a new development agenda termed “Agenda 2030”, which highlights 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 related targets. Agenda 2030 is geared towards eradication of all forms of poverty; realization of all human rights and achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. The Agenda calls upon member states to take leadership and establish national frameworks for achieving these goals.

In Uganda, this commitment is illustrated by the development of the country’s vision 2040 and the subsequent incorporation of some of the SDGs targets into the national planning framework and specifically, the National Development Plan II (NDPII), which aligns human rights principles and standards, an achievement championed by the National Planning Authority (NPA) with the assistance from the UN Human Rights, Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and other stakeholders.

This planning framework opts for programming from a human rights lens and it is anticipated that the Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) to NDPII will have a significant effect on the realization of the SDGs targets for Uganda and Vision 2040.

Uganda is also credited for having established its national SDGs coordination framework. However, there is need to strengthen this framework through the integration of human rights principles and standards. It is envisaged that supporting Uganda’s commitment towards the realization of the SDGs targets shall not only contribute to addressing the gaps experienced with the realization of the MDGs targets but also provide opportunity for the realization of a wide range of human rights for all its citizens.

Why then are human rights principles and standards a central pillar for the realization of SDGs and Uganda’s vision 2040?

Prior to the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, Uganda demonstrated its commitment to addressing gaps experienced with the implementation of the MDGs through a  transformative agenda of Vision 2040 development plan to attain  upper middle income economy status by 2032. The realization of this plan is expressed in NDP II, which integrates 69% of the SGD targets. This is a positive step by the government of Uganda in fulfilling its international human rights obligations.

Notably, human rights and development both aim to promote well-being and freedom, based on the inherent dignity and equality of people. Within the development context for Uganda, the integration of human rights in the development framework including vision 2040 is necessary for improving people’s lives with better processes. Cognizant of the fact that the SDGs are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, linking it with human rights principles and standards will enhance sustainability of outcomes including inter alia; narrowing gender gap, empowering the rights-holders, realization of economic and social rights and lastly, strengthening good governance frameworks for the country.

Furthermore, achieving the SDGs also focuses on the realization of the rights of the vulnerable, excluded and marginalized populations and those whose rights are at risk of being violated, such as women, children, widows, orphans, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, etcetera.