ARUSHA, Tanzania, January 23, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Delegates at the just-ended fourth meeting of the EAC Forum of National Human Rights Commissions in Nairobi, Kenya, have called upon EAC Partner States to better address people’s rights to foster the social, economic and political development of the region.
The meeting, which among others assessed progress in the implementation of the first EAC Plan of Action on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, observed that most of the activities and programmes in the Action Plan had not been implemented as planned. The Plan was adopted in 2008 for a period of three years.
This is due to inadequate funds, lack of responsibility centres, coordination shortcomings and lack of proper sequencing of events. Despite previous decisions of the Council urging Partner States and National Human Rights Commissions to make budgetary provisions for the Action Plan, this did not happen in the period under review.
“Partner States should also make budgetary provisions within their annual budgets to facilitate the activities of the EAC Forum of National Human Rights Institutions,” the delegates noted in their final report.
The Forum upon revision of the first EAC Plan of Action on promotion and protection of human rights, came up with a second three-year Plan of Action which will be submitted to the next Council of Ministers meeting for consideration.
In deliberating progress in implementing previous decisions of the Council, it was observed that national mechanisms for tabling in parliament and debating annual reports of National Human Rights Commissions still remain a challenge. The meeting called on Partner States to institute mechanisms that ensure tabling and prompt debating of human rights reports by the national parliaments.
In acknowledging the centrality of human rights in the integration process, especially with the coming into force of the Common Market Protocol, the meeting urged the Partner States to “effectively adopt and implement EAC protocols” to address problems of bad governance and human rights abuses in the region.
The Partner States were also asked to expeditiously address the contentious issues and conclude relevant draft policy instruments including the EAC Draft Bill of Rights, Draft Protocol on the extended jurisdiction of the EACJ and Draft Protocol on Good Governance.
The Forum lamented that the EAC Bill of Rights has been under negotiation for well over five years and it is a high time that the Council made deliberate efforts to have it adopted and implemented. The Bill is timely as it complements the rights, freedoms and privileges provided for under the Common Market Protocol.
In an effort to address inadequate coordination and consolidation of human rights efforts, the Forum recommended that Partner States should submit annual reports of National Human Rights Commissions to the EAC Secretariat for proper coordination and information sharing. The Forum noted that human rights issues are core in most sectors under the EAC integration.
Accordingly, the meeting recommended that the Secretariat should develop programmes that regularly bring together human rights institutions, security agencies and other institutions of good governance.
Additionally, the Forum appreciated the fact that many organizations and mechanisms are presently engaged in advocating for human rights in the integration process. However, the efforts should be coordinated in a way that creates synergies and optimizes outcomes for the benefits of East Africans. In this regard, the forum recommended that the EAC Secretariat establishes partnerships and networks with other like-minded organizations in the region.
There is need, they said, for the EAC Secretariat to develop a tool to monitor the status of Partner States’ ratification and domestication of regional and international instruments on human rights. This will provide the basis for a regional approach toward human rights protection in a manner that puts the context of the region into account.
Speaking at the opening of the plenary, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation, Hon. Beatrice Kiraso, reminded delegates of the important role of the Forum in the integration process.
“Successful integration will be achieved when East Africans feel that their rights are not infringed upon,” she said.
The two-day meeting was attended by participants from Ministries of EAC Affairs, NHRIs, National Parliaments, Ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs/Attorney General’s Chambers, Ministries responsible for Human Rights and Civil Society Organizations, among others.