In October, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) commemorated a decade of human rights work in Uganda to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 10th year of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
UHRC Chairperson, Mrs. Margaret Ssekaggya, lauded the UNV project 'Support to the Promotion of Human Rights' for its success in getting leaders, institutions and the public take an interest in human rights, amnesty law and local council governance.
"Students and teachers all benefited," she remarked. "The trainings empowered communities, as evidenced by the fact that Human Rights Desks and Volunteer Action Groups continue to play key roles as vanguards of human rights promotion in their societies". This had enhanced Uganda and the UHRC's mandate for the rule of law and human rights in the county, she noted.
UNV works on human rights in Uganda in partnership with UNDP (Good Governance), UHRC, the Ministry of Local Government and the Uganda Amnesty Commission. Implemented as a pilot project under the UNV Special Voluntary Fund (SVF), the 'UNV Support to Promotion of Human Rights in Uganda' project has helped build human rights capacity within civil society since March 2003, its operational inception.
The idea is to link human rights awareness with action, by building and improving legislation and local council governance to entrench a rights-based approach to development.
To achieve this, UNV encouraged the formation of Voluntary Action Groups and School Human Rights and Peace Clubs; and trained civil society organizations, local leaders and community members in human rights awareness.
A Volunteer Action Group involves volunteers who promote and protect human rights in their communities. UNV helped establish 26 such groups in rural communities and trained more than 700 members in human rights topics. The training also guided the groups in drawing up their constitutions, electing management committees and drafting human rights action plans.
The Volunteer Action groups also address community issues such as domestic violence, through awareness-raising amongst members and non-members alike. Some identify, document and refer human rights cases to UHRC regional offices and other authorities.
The Human Rights Desks were first established in six pilot districts and later became mandatory in all districts. Each is run by two Desk Officers (one male and one female) who ensure the promotion and protection of human rights by local governments and guide the integration of human rights into programming. UNV trains these Desk Officers, and ensures the proper documentation of good practices.
The programme has helped to increase participation of the population in decision-making processes, particularly women and vulnerable groups such as children. It has also improved good governance and resource management at all levels, and helped to ensure the Government protects and promotes human rights effectively in accordance with national, regional and international human rights instruments.
Representing the Resident Representative at the ceremony, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative and head of the Democratic Governance Programme, Mr. Sam Ibanda, also commended the Government of Uganda for its continued commitment to human rights. He applauded the entire human rights fraternity for spreading human rights education, noting UNV's work to entrench rights-based development.