Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs,
The Solicitor General of Uganda,
Chair of the Inter-Ministerial Committee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
The Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission,
Director, Monitoring and Inspections, Uganda Human Rights Commission
All esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the United Nations Human Rights Office, I warmly welcome you all to this Launch of the novel Human Rights Recommendations Database in Uganda.
First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to Uganda Human Rights Commission for collaborating with our Office in undertaking this initiative which started as far back as 2012 prior to my engagement as Country Representative of OHCHR, Uganda Office.
The Government of Uganda is a signatory to several core international human rights treaties and has, as a result, assumed obligations to submit status reports to the monitoring bodies at the UN on a periodic basis. In this regard, the UN Human Rights Office in Uganda, in line with the overall objective of strengthening State engagement with international human rights mechanisms, has continued to prioritize support to the Government of Uganda to meet its reporting obligations under various treaties. Over the years, we have observed that one of the main challenges for the engagement of the State of Uganda with the international human rights mechanisms has been the lack of a functional structure for state reporting which has consequently undermined coordination among the various State institutions to facilitate efficient and timely preparation of progress reports to treaty bodies.
In 2012, in a bid to facilitate increased dissemination and implementation of human rights recommendations to Uganda, OHCHR supported the development of a framework for monitoring the implementation of recommendations that Uganda has received from the various international human rights mechanisms, including the treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures. The framework developed indicators for monitoring the implementation of these recommendations based on the human rights indicators guide developed by OHCHR globally. This framework clustered the recommendations according to theme, mechanism and responsible government institution. The framework was presented to civil society organizations and the Uganda Human Rights Commission in March 2013 upon which it was suggested that the framework be further developed into an online Database/search engine where human rights organizations including UHRC and the government sectors can easily access, search and identify recommendations that Uganda has received, the action required for implementation (indicators), the responsible government agency for implementation as well as the baseline and current status of implementation.
It was also agreed that the UHRC would host the database on their website. UHRC’s role in spearheading this Database is central in light of its constitutional functions “to monitor the Government’s compliance with international treaty and convention obligations on human rights.” UHRC therefore has the primary stake on account of its mandate as the National Human Rights Institution of Uganda to track Government’s progress on the implementation of the human rights recommendations from international and regional mechanisms. On a broader scale, the Database was conceived to be a vital tool to assist the systematic monitoring of human rights recommendations from both national and international human rights mechanisms. In one sense, the Database is aimed to facilitate state reporting to treaty bodies and to the UPR but also to ensure the wide dissemination of these human rights recommendations to the general public for accountability.
The creation of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights as a standing body responsible for Uganda’s human rights reporting obligations, to track and coordinate the implementation of human rights recommendations, provided an entry point to popularize this Database as a value addition to its work. In September 2013 therefore, UHRC introduced the Database concept to this Committee, which it welcomed. In September 2014, the initial version of the Database was developed. The piloting process commenced in January 2015 targeting six Ministries and Departments including Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Uganda Police Force, Uganda Prisons Service and the UPDF. These pilot MDAs were trained and supported to populate the Database with relevant updates while in the process giving valuable feedback that has been used to further improve the system that is to be launched today.
So far we have observed a positive response from the pilot institutions indicating their appreciation of the Database despite some challenges. While it is not about creating new work, the Database calls for a new way of doing things to allow other stakeholders appreciate what Government is doing to protect and promote the human rights of its citizens. This being the start of a long-term process and as plans are underway to roll out the Database to additional MDAs in the future, we hope to see more enthusiasm from the targeted MDAs. Government entities need to regularly update the Database with relevant information on actions being taken to implement each recommendation as this will bring efficiency in compilation of information and will help avoid the ad hoc manner in which State reports have been prepared in the past and the persistent delays in their submission. As such, populating the Database needs to be integrated within the institutional work plans rather than being seen as an isolation task.
On the part of our Office, we would like to reiterate our continued commitment to support you in this endeavor and remain optimistic that the Database, once effectively utilized, will go a long way to improving State reporting and ensure positive engagement with international human rights mechanisms going forward.
Once again, I wish to commend the Uganda Human Rights Commission for leading this process and wish you a successful launch and roll-out of the Human Rights Recommendations Database.
I thank you all for listening to me!
Dr. Uchenna Emelonye,