Universal Periodic Review Steering Committee Meeting

Tuesday 31st August, 2021 

In January,2022, Uganda shall undertake its third cycle Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council. Council working group is April / June 2022, again all tentatively.

Following the release of the aforementioned timelines for Uganda’s journey to the 3rd Cycle review, both the government of Uganda and the CSOs under the National Stakeholders’ Forum for the UPR have been engaged in activity to ensure that there is effective participation of their respective constituencies.

Particularly, the National Stakeholders’ Forum for the UPR that is hosted by the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders is implementing a road map to CSO participation in the 3rd cycle. Central to this road map was the submission of 22 thematic reports and the CSO Stakeholder report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Having submitted the CSO reports, the NCHRD-U in partnership with Small Media UK hosted a half-day virtual steering committee meeting to evaluate the progress of Phase 1 of the CSO UPR roadmap as we embark on Phase II [Largely on Advocacy]. The meeting brought together 32 representatives from the different clusters. The Steering Committee meeting had 3 objectives:

  1. To share progress on the CSO UPR process, evaluate and review progress and generate consensus on the next steps
  2. To provide practical tips on engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council
  3. To deliberate on PHASE II of the CSO UPR process. These deliberations shall eventually inform the review of PHASE II activities within the CSO Roadmap priority areas of focus.

The Executive Director of NCHRD-U, Robert Kirenga informed the members that Phase I of the UPR had been completed and the stakeholders had advanced to Phase II of the UPR process. He appreciated the steering committee for their great efforts and collective hard work in their respective thematic areas. He noted that there was shrinking space for the civil society noting 54 NGOs had been recently suspended by the NGO Bureau.  He stressed the need to work together as CSOs and work in solidarity to push for the same agenda.

“NCHRD-U had issued a press statement on the suspension of NGOs. As an umbrella body whose core mandate is the protection of Human Rights Defenders, we are working to ensure HRDs who require help get it-and we will ensure to support our members to rise up again.” added Robert R Kirenga.

He also noted that CSO leaders had a cordial engagement with the Minister of Internal Affairs Hon. Kahinda Otafiire on the 24th August 2021 and hoped that the commitments therein will be operationalised. He informed the members that NCHRD-U will continue to support the NGOs that have been affected.

“We have set up a temporary legal compliance response mechanism and we’re analysing all the NGOs suspended to see where help is needed the most. Yesterday we had a joint meeting with eminent women that host the Women’s situation room who appealed to us to address the challenge of Trauma that has been subjected to HRDs in these trying times. It is a matter we are taking seriously to ensure members have a wellness policy in their workplaces.” Robert Kirenga

Small Media UK’s Catherine Anite highlighted the work that Small Media Foundation does in supporting NGOs to enhance advocacy for media freedoms and human rights through a mechanism like the UPR. She noted that they work in 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. She pledged full continued support towards the UPR process.

Progress update on Phase I- the 3rd Cycle CSO UPR Process: National Coordinator CSO National Stakeholders’ Forum on the UPR, Edward Serucaca informed the steering committee members that the process initiated with the consolidation, re-constitution and formulation of new thematic clusters. There are 22 clusters and each cluster attracted 20 people who benefited from the training and capacity building by the Defend the Defenders.

The Secretariat coordinated 5 regional meetings, engaged 243 HRDs. Submitted 22 cluster reports and 1 National stakeholder report. It was agreed to generate a matrix to combine the recommendations from all the reports. There is enough verifiable data on the assessment of the recommendations to Uganda. The activities undertaken in phase 1 are summarized below:

  • On 6th and 8th October 2020, the Secretariat convened emergency Strategic Steering Committee Meetings. These were very necessary to rejuvenate the Stakeholders’ forum after a long time in sleeper mode. Appointed NCHRD-U and tasked it to come up with a CSO Roadmap.
  • On 30th October 2020, in partnership with LWF, convened the 2nd Steering Committee Meeting to re-constitute the forum clusters and discuss a draft roadmap from NCHRD-U. Also, set the date for the FORUM.
  • Between 26th–28th February 2021, held CSO National Stakeholders’ Forum. This was to strengthen the Coalition, ratify the decisions of the cluster heads in the creation of new and merger of existing clusters; review and adoption of the UPR 3 CSO roadmap and any other matters arising.
  • On 31st March 2021 held a Strategic Round Table discussion on the UPR with Development Partners Share the CSO Roadmap and seek collaboration and issues of mutual interest around Uganda’s UPR
  • In April-June 2021, held meetings with the UN Office, EU Delegation, British High Commission, Netherlands Embassy, Swedish Embassy, Norwegian Embassy and Austrian Cooperation, USAID. Also, held meetings with the Traditional donors: Dan Church Aid, EWMI, American Bar Association and Small Media UK
  • April-May 2021, held UPR Stakeholders’ Forum outreach. These were a couple of activities aimed at reaching out to various government entities key in the process of UPR to strengthen collaboration between them and the Coalition now hosting the FORUM. The focus was on MOFA & MOJICA
  • March 2021, constituted and consolidated clusters and notified new cluster conveners. Interested Organizations with particular interest to join clusters. Confirmed and expanded clusters from 16 to 22.
  • May-June 2021, training of Clusters/ and select members of the Forum. Defend Defenders supported three-day training on Advocacy and the UPR Mechanisms to enhance the Skills of CSOs platform and increase knowledge on the UPR for 12 clusters. To some, it was a refresher course.
  • June-July 2021, held Regional CSO Consultations on the UPR. Held 5 Regional Consultative Meetings on the UPR with particular focus on regional specific emerging issues to be undertaken with CSOs in these regions and also share the road Map to UPR 2021/2022. Over 243 HRDs engaged virtually.
  • From 1st -15th July 2021, there was the submission of 22 Thematic Cluster Reports and one National Stakeholder report; Validation meetings to validate specific cluster reports, Validation meeting to validate CSO report. Had maximum quality assurance for each report before submission
  • March – June 2021, Convened CSOs to participate in the governmental consultations on the UPR report due 1st July 2021; This was a great space for advocacy and also appreciate the kind of report the government shall make to be able to make an appropriate response.
  • On the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NCHRD-U and HRC-U represented the CSO National stakeholders’ forum in a virtual Inter-Ministerial Committee from August 9th-12th 2021 in discussions on the State’s initial UPR report process.
  • Subsequently, NCHRD-U, ISER-Uganda and the HRC-U represented the forum in an Inter-Ministerial Committee meeting from August 24th – 26th 2021 which discussed the State’s report on ESCR.

Steering Committee members were impressed by the subnational engagements structured to reach the people at the grassroots. They appreciated the great work done by NCHRD-U in coordinating the UPR process in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.

A session on Evaluation of Phase I was led by Sharon Nakanwagi, Program Manager, NCHRD-U: Members indicated that NCHRD-U was always available to provide the information needed in the UPR process. Members indicated the need to maintain the capacity building of organizations especially the grassroots organizations.

It was observed that the coordination team gave autonomy to the cluster leaders to lead the work of the clusters which was very good and allowed them to execute the tasks effectively.

Members appreciated the publicity done by NCHRD-U on TV and media.

‘Most of the things went well. The coordination team gave autonomy to the cluster leaders to lead the work of the clusters. The coordinator of the process was good and open to the views from the different clusters.’ Athur Oyaka- Finance and Accountability Cluster

‘The coordination was well done. The CSOs were willing to participate in the process. The training and capacity building for the defenders was done well.’ Damon Wamara

‘I want to appreciate the NCHRD for coordinating. Thank you for the efforts for fundraising resources to ensure that the activities run smoothly. We appreciate the efforts by NCHRD to link the CSOs to the partners to support their work.’ Faridah Kyomuhangi, Human Rights Defenders Cluster

Nevertheless, there was it was noted that there wasn’t sufficient time for interaction at the grassroot level to reach out to all the targeted beneficiaries. The COVID-19 situation made it difficult to convene physical meetings, however, the meetings were convened virtually and went well.

The NCHRD is putting together all the reports from clusters and designing them for publication.

Members were advised to mainstream the UPR in their programming in order to have the resources available for future activity activities.

Nicholas Agostini, Defend Defenders- Geneva presented to the members the practical tips on engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council: 

  1. Know your target: It is important to know who you are talking to and influence.
  2. Formulate specific action-oriented recommendations.
  3. Find Arguments supporting the recommendations. Find legal or political arguments
  4. Address the weakest points in your advocacy
  5. Come prepared for any kind of meeting (summarize the argumentation and talking points.)
  6. Reach out to people (send emails, make contacts)
  7. Anticipate developments. Think about possibilities and options in the 2 months from now or 1 year after.
  8. Always be ready for plan B. Have alternative plans.
  9. Build support and coalitions in the country.

A closing session on the Phase II of the UPR process was led by the UPR Coordinator Edward Serucaca:

There will be engagements with the state MDAs so that there is a clear understanding of the recommendations to be presented. There will also be in-country sessions to engage several actors- with Embassies representing the foreign governments. Also, there will be a media Interface on UPR to have continued engagement with the public and all stakeholders. This will take 7 steps:

Step1: Development of A Stakeholder Human Rights 2016 UPR Recommendations Implementation Assessment Report [Input from the cluster reports]. This report is vital to inform the discourse with the government of Uganda, Development partners (who eventually become recommending States in the UPR process); July-September 2021

Step 2: Advocacy at the UN Human Rights Council; Advanced skills in the advocacy at the council; 6th September.

Step 3: Development of Partners’ Advocacy Papers/Fact Sheets. These shall be extracted from the Narrative reports of the cluster. They shall be between 1-3 papers. This advocacy paper/factsheet (precise) shall form the basis of the various lobby/advocacy meetings that the CSOs shall hold with the Development partners in a quest for progressive recommendations to Uganda during the review process; September-October 2021.

Step 4: Recommending Country Based Matrix. (Extractable from the main report and the cluster reports); July 2021

Step 5: Government UPR Accountability Week. UPR cluster Stakeholders’ leaders interface with government representatives on the UPR recommendations to assess the progress of implementation and challenges from the Government; October 2021.

Step 6: In-country Sessions on the UPR; Three days in mid-November, 2021

Step 7: Media Interface on UPR. Live TV talk Shows for each cluster; August 2021-January 2021.

While closing the half day virtual meeting, the Executive Director NCHRD-U Robert R Kirenga made a commitment that the CSO National Stakeholders’Forum on the UPR will prioritise projects that will purpose to decentralise UPR to the grassroots and demystify the UPR and have the people and authorities at local level engaged.

For more information please contact: Edward Serucaca advocacy@hrdcoalition.ug or info@hrdcoalition.ug