Protecting human rights, tackling corruption and strengthening civil society in Uganda

Project description

Title: Protecting human rights, tackling corruption and strengthening civil society in Uganda
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU)
Country: Uganda
Lead executing agency: National Planning Authority; Office of the Auditor General Uganda
Overall term: 2017 to 2021

Context

In the constitution adopted in 1995, Uganda committed itself to adhering to the principles of good governance. The Public Finance Management Act and regulations governing implementation came into force in 2016 and have contributed significantly to improving conditions for the public. The constitution guarantees core civil and political rights and the government has signed most international human rights agreements. 

Under the constitution, civil society actors may take action freely and unimpeded. Numerous non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, registered associations, umbrella organisations and cooperatives are active in different fields. Independent state monitoring institutions have also been set up, including the Office of the Auditor General, the Inspectorate of Government, the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission.

However, it is still difficult for the state and civil society to ensure that their actions are consistent with human rights and the principles of good governance – transparency, accountability, efficient and effective administration and political participation. Many measures aimed at improving the core processes of public budgeting are making slow progress. State action is seldom geared to the human rights treaties and conventions that the country has ratified. Pro-opposition groups and civil society organisations that promote political human rights lack the capacity required to represent their interests and participate in political activity. Civil society organisations working in other areas are often seen merely as service providers, which prevents them from effectively representing their interests or participating in political processes.

Objective

The state and civil society in Uganda are in a better position to tackle corruption, realise human rights and implement the principles of good governance (transparency, accountability, efficient and effective citizen-friendly administration and political participation).

Approach

The programme works in six fields of action:

  • ‘Strengthening accountability’ focuses on making more effective use of public funds. To achieve this, the programme supports the Office of the Auditor General and other institutions. 
  • ‘Human rights’ creates an environment that is conducive to ensuring respect for fundamental rights in Uganda. This is achieved in cooperation with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities commissions.
  • With regard to ‘promoting conditions for civil society engagement’, the programme works closely with the National Bureau for NGOs under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 
  • ‘Enhancing civil society participation in political processes’ supports the state and civil society in making it easier for the Ugandan population to participate in political activity. 
  • ‘Promoting civil society service provision and advocacy’ supports civil society organisations in representing members’ interests in political processes. 
  • The last field of action trains sections of civil society in using certain aspects of digital development – such as data protection and security, user-oriented design or open source codes – in human-rights related work.

The programme is implemented locally and has centres in Kabale, Mbale and Gule, with smaller offices in Moroto, Kabale, Mbarara, Fort Portal and Arua. The portfolio-wide approach to the cross-cutting issue of ‘civil society’ allows the programme to exploit commonalities with other projects or programmes on the issues of water, energy, rural development and governance. 

Results

Numerous results have already been achieved in the previous projects on the Promotion of Transparency and Accountability and on Strengthening Human Rights. Institutionalising cooperation between the Office of the Auditor General Uganda, the Inspectorate of Government and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) has resulted in corruption cases being handled more efficiently. The human-rights based approach has been incorporated into the National Development Plan. In the regions receiving support, the ratio of complaints filed to complaints that were processed and resolved improved by over 30 per cent. After the Constitutional Court of Uganda annulled the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) groups carried out anti-discrimination training with the police with the programme’s support. 

Building on this, the Uganda governance programme is currently being implemented. Together with its many state and civil society partners, the programme is currently planning and implementing over 100 change projects throughout Uganda. These include projects aimed at improving the status of women, children and marginalised groups such as ethnic minorities, people living with disabilities and people in sexual minorities in the country. The intended goal of strengthening institutions within civil society organisations and promoting participation in local and national processes is already producing the first results.