by Kevin

Equal Opportunities Commission members and staff were trained on investigating and addressing complaints relating to the violation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) by the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) on 25th-26th September 2017 at Protea Hotel, Entebbe.

The training was merged with validation of the draft Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Resource book which has been developed by UNOHCHR in collaboration with Judicial Training Institute.

Mrs. Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi, the Chairperson EOC welcomed staff to the training and thanked OHCHR for empowering EOC staff in filling the gaps relating to investigating complaints on ESCRs for marginalized and minority groups. She pledged to give these complaints proper redress.

She hoped that going forward, more constructive engagements and partnerships would arise and was positive that staff will have more information on how best to handle these complaints by the end of the training.

The workshop was opened by the Deputy Country Representative UNOHCHR, Ms. Biriyai Theophillus who welcomed the participants and expressed gratitude for their presence. She explained the close working relationship between OHCHR and EOC over the years and pledged to continue working closely.

She noted that UN’s main pillars are peace, development and human rights where,  “When we talk about progressive realisation, government has political will to advance economic rights. Any act or conduct that undermines equal opportunities should be checked and redressed.”

She explained that, “ The EOC mandate is our mandate and we feel at home when with you.”

Dr. Christopher Mbazira advocated that significant progress has been made in regard to human rights. “It is easy for a tribunal to issue orders that require freedom of certain things. However, when it comes to making demands and affirmative action it becomes hard.

He summarised the different forms of ESCRs which include; right to food, right to water, right to health, right to education, right to social security, and right to work and favorable conditions of work. He observed that ESCR’s have for long been neglected and are not protected as justiciable rights in many constitutions.

He further presented issues relating to content of the resource book which are comprised of eight chapters; (i) Introduction (ii) Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in International Law and the obligations of the State (iii) Substantive Rights at the International and Regional levels (iv) Legislative approaches in Uganda and comparative African national jurisdictions (v) Judicial enforcement of ESCRs at the national level (vi) Remedies and implementation

Participants noted that the book provides a quick source of reference for people advocating for ESCRs.

Member Joel Cox Ojuko expressed gratitude for the resource book and confirmed that it is relevant for EOC tribunal work. He hoped that it will enable EOC come up with watertight recommendations.

Mrs. Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi observed that the training was well thought out and encouraged EOC staff to read especially the general comments section. She pledged to take up jurisprudence as EOC. She also requested Dr. Mbazira to interest himself in the EOC tribunal and be Amicus Curiae.

Further discussion was led by Ms. Salima Namusobya of Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) who shared with the participants’ trends in litigation of ESCRs.

She explained the achievements and challenges in litigating complaints relating to violation of ESCRs. She commended EOC for disaggregating data in their annual reports and stressed the need for other government agencies to do the same.

Special interest was given to the EOC tribunal and use of equality and non-discrimination which she said should be cross-cutting. “It is very important to litigate issues relating to vulnerable groups and the EOC mandate is visibly covered here as stated in Article 21 of the Constitution.

Ms. Salima Namusobya (ISER) making her presentation

She advocated for the significance of the state increasing EOC’s budget in the next financial year as well pushing for it to introduce sign language in the medical curriculum basing on the Persons With Disabilities Act.

She observed that ESCRs are important because; they reflect concern for the life and dignity of every individual particularly the most vulnerable as expressed in many religions and other traditions, groups that have historically suffered marginalization continued to do so and realization of ESCRs present an opportunity for addressing the imbalance, and violations of ESCRs disproportionately affects marginalized groups that EOC is mandated to protect.

The workshop was closed by Member Zaminah Malole who expressed her appreciation to OCHCR for the knowledge share and broadening and deepening our understanding on investigating and addressing complaints relating to violation of ESCRs.

“We are all working closely towards fulfilling and addressing human rights.” If I had this resource book earlier, I would have given heavier remedies for some of the tribunal cases.”

She pledged that EOC will continue working closely with all development partners because it helps enrich our knowledge and increase our success stories.

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