Tags: Eastern and Southern Africa

The government approached the Universal Periodic Review process with an open spirit and sincerity as it recognizes its potential to bring about productive outcomes in the areas of development and poverty alleviation under the umbrella of human rights. The linkages between human rights, law and development have been captured by the Universal Periodic Review. – Interview with Ms. Nkasori Sarakikya, Office of the Attorney General’s Chamber, Division of Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights, Tanzania

Abstract

In 2011, Tanzania underwent its first Universal Periodic Review conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. This provided a valuable opportunity to address long-standing human rights issues in the country. However, challenges in engaging with the Universal Periodic Review process and leveraging these opportunities for the benefit of the population were multifold, in particular the lack of knowledge and experience and limited ability to ensure a transparent, inclusive and participatory process among national stakeholders.

The United Nations system, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator and supported by an inter-agency framework, was able to step in at the request of government to provide the required technical support to both State and civil society actors.

It also mobilized a wide range of actors, including state officials from different rural areas, civil society, the media and the donor community, to engage in the Universal Periodic

Review preparatory and review process, as well as to support implementation of its recommendations. As a result, the Universal Periodic Review process became viewed as a credible process, representing the genuine views of Tanzanians. The recommendations provide a powerful framework to take forward human rights reform in Tanzania and for policy makers and development partners to draw upon in advocacy, policy and programming initiatives.

Background

The United Republic of Tanzania has an estimated population of 44.8 million. It is a stable, multiparty democracy, comprising some 120 ethnic groups, with the main languages spoken being Kiswahili and English. The country is classified as a lower income country, with 13 million (34 percent) of the population living below the basic needs poverty line.

Tanzania has long-standing relations with development partners, including the United Nations. It is one of eight pilot countries for the Delivering as One initiative for  United Nations System-Wide Coherence.1

Human rights situation

Tanzania has ratified many of the core international human rights conventions.3 The Union and Zanzibar Constitutions include Bills of Rights and oblige State organs to respect and uphold human rights in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government is in the process of elaborating a National Human Rights Action Plan that aims to address all categories of human rights, e.g., civil, cultural, economic, social and political rights, as well as the conditions of the most vulnerable groups in society. As part of the action plan’s implementation framework, a periodic monitoring of the human rights situation by Tanzania’s national human rights institution and civil society, validated by the parliament, is planned. The National Human Rights Action Plan also aims to strengthen links between human rights and development. In doing so, it supports the objectives of the 2011 Five Year Development Plan and the two poverty reduction strategies – Mukukuta II and Mukukuza II (2011-2015)4 – which identify human rights as underlying challenges to development that need to be addressed.

While these legal and policy provisions are in place, implementation of Tanzania’s international human rights obligations is fragile. This is due to a number of factors, such as capacity weaknesses in the justice system, delays in incorporating human rights into national laws, and widespread gaps in the rule of law5 . Protection of some rights is also threatened by contravening customary rules. For instance, harmful traditional and cultural practices, such as polygamy, bride price and female genital mutilation, violate women and girls’ right to equality and dignity, as well as their right to health and to be free from violence.6 In addition, as a lower-income country, the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is a challenge for many Tanzanians affected by poverty, food insecurity and limited access to health and education services. Other challenges in Tanzania are the persistent discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS, persons with disabilities, and persons with albinism.

Moreover, the State does not accord the status of indigenous peoples to members of groups identifying themselves as such, arguing that all citizens are indigenous to Tanzania.

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The Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 United Nations Member States by their peers once every four years. The Universal Periodic Review is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the Universal Periodic Review is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.2

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The Opportunity of the Universal Periodic Review

Tanzania was due for its Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time in October 2011. This was viewed as a valuable opportunity to address some of the long-standing human rights issues in Tanzania. It opened up the possibility to discuss these issues at a national level in an inclusive and de-politicized way. As a comprehensive overview mechanism for examining the state of all human rights in the country, it had the potential to capture what the people of Tanzania collectively considered the most pertinent human rights issues in the country.7 The credibility with which the Universal Periodic Review is viewed – as a mechanism where all

Member States are reviewed by their peers – powerfully reinforced these opportunities.8 In addition, the review was particularly well timed as it coincided with the development of both the National Human Rights Action Plan and United Nations Development Assistance Plan. It provided a major opportunity to increase momentum toward finalizing the National Human Rights Action Plan and to align both plans with recommendations emerging from the Universal Periodic Review.

There were, however, a number of challenges to engage with the Universal Periodic Review and to optimize the opportunities it presented.

As Tanzania’s first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, national stakeholders lacked knowledge and experience of the process. A shortage of financial resources also represented a challenge in ensuring an inclusive and participatory preparatory process, which in turn jeopardized the legitimacy of how the process would be viewed. Moreover, the national human rights institution in Tanzania, the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights, was finding it increasingly difficult to implement its mandate in recent years due to budget cuts. Channels of communication between this institution, the government, civil society and the media needed new impetus.

The process of drafting the national Universal Periodic Review report was a unique opportunity for the country to assess positive developments made and challenges faced, as well as share its best practices in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. – Ms. Nkasori Sarakikya,Office of the Attorney General’s Chamber, Division of Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights, Tanzania

Strategy

This situation prompted the government to request the United Nations Resident Coordinator for technical and financial assistance in engaging with the Universal Periodic Review. The United Nations country team saw this request as an opportunity to support a transparent and inclusive Universal Periodic Review preparation process with full engagement of all stakeholders. The Delivering as One context, in which the United Nations operates in Tanzania, provided a solid platform from which the United Nations could deliver on this request.

Through the United Nations country team’s Human Rights Working Group, a key pillar of the United Nations country team’s structure, the United Nations was in a position to provide the expertise and coordination support needed to ensure a meaningful engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.

Under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, with support from the Human Rights Working Group and assistance from the OHCHR Regional Office for East Africa, the United Nations country team adopted the following strategies during the preparatory and follow-up stage of the Universal Periodic Review.

Preparation stage of the Universal Periodic Review

Capacity building and participation: In response to the government’s request for assistance, the Resident Coordinator facilitated a cost-sharing arrangement between OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women. This support facilitated the government’s Universal Periodic Review report drafting team to organize a hearing with a broad range of ministries, departments and agency officials on the content of the national report. The funding provided by the United Nations also enabled government representatives from Zanzibar (including the fairly isolated island of Pemba) and local government officials from rural areas to participate in the process, hence ensuring that the issues and challenges affecting different parts of the country were included in the report.

The United Nations likewise advised the government on the rules of procedure of the Universal Periodic Review. It also supported the government to organize consultative workshops with civil society to provide them with the chance to dialogue with and provide feedback to the government on the national report. These consultations focused on a wide range of longstanding issues of concern, such as freedom of the media and abolition of the death penalty. The United Nations provided technical advice during the workshops and helped bring to the fore issues not traditionally perceived as human rights, such as indirect discrimination, the right to an adequate standard of living, labour laws and indigenous peoples’ rights. Once the national report was drafted, the United Nations country team organized a validation workshop on the national report which brought together over 50 government officials and representatives from civil society.

The importance of having an inclusive and participatory approach throughout the Universal Periodic Review process was strongly promoted by the Resident Coordinator and Heads of Agencies. Public events and speeches, such as Human Rights Day (commemorated on 10 December) were used to continuously reinforce this message.

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What is the role of the United Nations country team inter-agency Human Rights Working Group?

Headed by the UN Resident Coordinator, the Human Rights Working Group provides strategic analysis and advisory services to the United Nations country team on a range of system-wide policy issues on human rights. It brings together a combination of specific United Nations agency mandates and expertise in the area of human rights. The group seeks to coordinate a cross-cutting and coherent United Nations approach to dealing with human rights. The group plays an important quality assurance role with regard to the mainstreaming of human rights in national programmes and policies, such as in the National Human Rights Action Plan. The technical expertise of the Human Rights Working Group is strongly valued by national counterparts.

In the case of the Universal Periodic Review process in Tanzania, twelve United Nations agencies provided active inputs to the United Nations country team compilation report for the Universal Periodic Review across an expansive range of issues. This input enabled the United Nations country team to establish a baseline in the report of human rights challenges connected to policy priorities of each agency.

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Supporting the national human rights institution to engage civil society: The United Nations country team assisted Tanzania’s Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights to mobilize civil society to engage in the Universal Periodic Review process. The United Nations country team advised the Commission and civil society on the principles and purposes of the Universal Periodic

Review, as well as the role and opportunities for non-governmental stakeholders to engage in the process and to provide submissions. By supporting the national human rights institution in this convening role, the United Nations contributed to the formation of four civil society coalitions around the Universal Periodic Review, encompassing more than 60 nongovernmental organizations, including trade unions.

Engaging the Media: To support government efforts to engage the media in the Universal Periodic Review process, the United Nations country team helped organize and facilitate a workshop for around sixty chief editors of Tanzanian news and media outlets – known as the Editors Forum in Tanzania.

The workshop provided the editors with basic knowledge about the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review process, including information on how to monitor the inter-state dialogue in Geneva. The Attorney General’s Chamber also presented the draft State report to the editors, giving them an opportunity to provide feedback from their perspective on the independence of the media and on the state of human rights in Tanzania.

As a result of the workshop, there was a steep increase in news stories and editorials on the Universal Periodic Review, including coverage of the interactive dialogue in Geneva and interviews with the State representatives upon their return from Geneva.

Moreover, human rights became a standard agenda point in the United Nations country team’s dialogue on the One UN reform with the Editors Forum in Tanzania. Human rights were understood to be at the core of the United Nations country team’s normative agenda.

Engaging the Development Community: The United Nations country team kept development partners informed of the various stages of the Universal Periodic Review process and of expectations from the inter-state dialogue in Geneva. The United Nations also organized briefings between government counterparts, the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights and development partners on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and opportunities for supporting government follow-up.

Consequently, a number of development partners are actively supporting follow-up. For example, the Canadian High Commission is supporting the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights with advocacy on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and with efforts to disseminate the recommendations widely across civil society.

Follow up to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations

Tanzania participated in the interactive dialogue in Geneva on 10 October 2011. Stemming from this dialogue, the Human Rights Council made 164 recommendations to Tanzania, of which Tanzania accepted 96, with 53 deferred for further consideration.

The United Nations country team took a number of steps to encourage and support the government in addressing the pending recommendations. It organized a Universal Periodic Review Dissemination Workshop with the government, which aimed to review and develop a final government position on the pending recommendations.

Within this process, the United Nations country team provided technical advice to the government on several of the standards and norms highlighted in the recommendations.

For example, it sensitized the government on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Tanzania had been recommended to ratify. The United Nations country team also invited two non-governmental organization coalitions – one concerned with media freedoms and the other with the rights of indigenous peoples – to present their views on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations concerning adopting a media bill and recognizing and acknowledging the notion of indigenous peoples.9

Following this process, a further eight recommendations were accepted by the government, including the ratification of the Convention against Torture and the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopting a new media law enshrining freedom of the press, aligning policies to ensure access to land and water for pastoralists, and strengthening efforts to protect women and girls from sexual violence.10

The United Nations has also set aside funding to respond to requests for capacity building of state attorneys and other government officials on the scope of the treaties and standards that the country has committed to ratify or incorporate into national law, including the Convention Against Torture. Moreover, these commitments are informing the design and implementation of the activities of the United Nations Development Assistance Plan. Each “programme working group” of the United Nations Development Assistance Plan has been provided with an overview of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations that are relevant to the goals of their group; enabling them to draw upon these recommendations in advocacy and policy initiatives to take forward the objectives of the United Nations Development Assistance Plan.

Finally, the National Human Rights Action Plan has strong potential to support the government in taking forward the recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review. In response to the many recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review to finalize the plan, the government hastened to do so. This was an opportunity to reflect the recommendations within the plan, ensuring that follow up to the Universal Periodic Review became an integral part of the plan.

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Examples of recommendations of the Human Rights Council to Tanzania

Of the 96 recommendations made by the Human Rights Council that Tanzania accepted immediately, some of the recommendations include:

  1. Strengthen the capacity of the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights.
  2. Complete as early as possible preparations for the National Human Rights Action Plan and ensure effective implementation.
  3. Put in place a comprehensive strategy and effective legislation to eliminate cultural practices that discriminate against women, such as Female Genital Mutilation.
  4. Harmonize legislation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
  5. Strengthen legislative and policy measures to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, including people with Albinism and persons with disabilities.
  6. Take adequate measures to protect the population from violence committed by security forces and establish an independent body for investigating complaints.
  7. Address child labour in accordance with international commitments, notably ILO Conventions 138 and 182.
  8. Work with the media and other stakeholders to ensure that all organs of the state understand and appreciate the constitutional guarantees of freedom of press and assembly.

Results

Delivering as One as an enabling framework for human rights: The wide range of human rights issues addressed by the Universal Periodic Review touched in some way on the mandates of all United Nations agencies in Tanzania. This helped bring together the United Nations around a common platform and framework, resulting in greater coherence in advocacy, policy dialogue and programming. By being able to speak with ‘One Voice’ on human rights, the United Nations country team had a more powerful presence and impact.

Through the Human Rights Working Group, the United Nations country team also became recognized as a valuable source of expertise on human rights, providing advice to the government, civil society, the national human rights institution and development partners. This ultimately positioned it as a leader among development partners in Tanzania.

In addition, through the United Nations country team’s deep engagement with the government and its efforts to keep international development partners continuously informed on the process, the United Nations country team managed to elevate human rights on the development cooperation agenda in Tanzania.

Discussion and advocacy on complex issues: One of the most significant outcomes from the Universal Periodic Review is that it provided a legitimate and inclusive forum to discuss complex issues, such as the death penalty, discrimination against marginalized groups and Female Genital Mutilation. This provided an exceptional advocacy opportunity. Civil society formed itself into working groups to advocate on specific issues. For example, one coalition focused on the rights of specific groups, addressing the issue of discrimination and inequality for Indigenous Peoples, People living with HIV/AIDS and Women.

Others focused on the administration of justice, economic, social and cultural rights and media and freedom of expression. Individual agencies, including UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women have capitalized on the new human rights commitments of the government.

For instance, UNFPA has leveraged the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review for its advocacy and awareness-raising efforts to prevent harmful traditional practices that discriminate against women, such as Female Genital Mutilation.

Credible and strategic policy and programming tools: The participatory and inclusive Universal Periodic Review process resulted in a national report that genuinely reflected country-wide perspectives on human rights priorities.

Both the national report and the recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review provide policy makers, advocates and development partners with credible and validated data on national priorities and State commitments.

These commitments can be drawn upon during the preparation of national development strategies, such as the poverty reduction strategy, the United Nations Development Assistance Plan and the National Human Rights Action Plan.

Enhancing civil society partnerships and the role of the national human rights institution: The multi-stakeholder engagement strategy opened up new channels for communication and cooperation between the national human rights institution, civil society and government. As noted by a representative of the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights, the Universal Periodic Review “has helped forge new roles for the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights like never before”.

The Universal Periodic Review defined the valuable role that the national human rights institution could play in assuming a position between the government and non-governmental organizations and in creating greater awareness of certain human rights. Post Universal Periodic Review, the development community is supporting the Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights to take forward its advocacy strategy for government implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations11.

Acceptance of pending Universal Periodic Review recommendations: Following the United Nations country team’s guidance, a firm commitment by the government was made to the Convention against Torture in its final statement at the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes in March 2012. The government has also accepted that legal reform needs to be accelerated in the area of media and freedom of expression. The government recently informed the parliament of its plans to table a media bill for adoption in 2013. This was followed by a public commitment from the Minister representing the State during the Universal Periodic Review inter-active dialogue that civil society will be given a privileged seat in the drafting process for the new bill. While the government did not accept the recommendation on indigenous rights, it did recognize the ‘special needs’ of indigenous peoples and committed to further explore the issue with a study on the relevance of international standards to the situation of these groups in Tanzania as part of the National Human Rights Action Plan finalization process.

Equally, while the government did not commit to implementing recommendations on the abolition of the death penalty, it agreed to facilitate public awareness-raising on the issue and invited civil society actors to sensitize the public on global trends and submit proposals for consideration during the forthcoming constitutional review.

National Human Rights Action Plan: Five recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review specifically urged the government to prioritize completion of the National Human Rights Action Plan. In doing so, national support and momentum was leveraged to take forward the National Human Rights Action Plan.

The National Human Rights Action Plan has since been approved by concerned ministries, and is now only pending final endorsement from the government in Zanzibar.

The National Human Rights Action Plan provides a road map for translating recommendations from international human rights mechanisms into national policy and practice.

It also bridges an important gap – the mainstreaming of human rights into national development processes.

One of the explicit goals of the National Human Rights Action Plan is to promote a human rightsbased approach to development and poverty reduction.

Lessons Learned

  1. The United Nations has an important convening and capacity-development role to play at the preparatory phase of the Universal Periodic Review, in particular ensuring that the process is participatory and transparent. At the follow up stage of the Universal Periodic Review, the United Nations, through its development programmes, has a role in supporting the government in implementing these recommendations. It can also draw on the recommendations for its own advocacy and policy initiatives.
  2. Human rights provide a common platform and framework for joint United Nations programmes and advocacy within the Delivering as One context. Conversely, speaking with one voice on human rights can enable the United Nations to have a more powerful presence and impact in addressing human rights issues.
  3. The Universal Periodic Review provides an opportunity to bring national actors together to discuss complex and sensitive issues and work together to address them.

Endnotes

  1. When the Secretary-General launched Delivering as One in 2007, the governments of eight countries—Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay, and Viet Nam—volunteered to become “Delivering as One” pilots. The pilot countries agreed to work with the United Nations system to capitalize on the strengths and comparative advantages of the different members of the United Nations family. Since then, Delivering as One has been adopted by a total of 32 countries.8 Together they are seeking innovative ways to increase the United Nations system’s impact through more coherent programmes, reduced transaction costs for governments, and lower overhead costs for the United Nations system.
  2. Source: www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx
  3. Tanzania is party to the following instruments: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
  4. Mukukuta II is the poverty reduction strategy for Tanzania, while Mukukuza II is the specific poverty reduction strategy for Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.
  5. United Nations Development Assistance Plan, 2011-2015, Tanzania, p.18.
  6. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations, United Nations Tanzania, 2008/A/63/38. para.117
  7. Interview with Ms. Nkasori Sarakikya, Office of the Attorney General’s Chamber, Division of Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights, Tanzania.
  8. Interview with Mr. Alberic Kacou, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Tanzania
  9. The Universal Periodic Review recommendations called for Tanzania to: “Adopt new legislation that guarantees the freedom of the media as well as the right to information”, and “Recognize the notion of indigenous peoples with a view to effectively protecting their rights”.
  10. www.upr-info.org/IMG/pdf/ recommendations_to_tanzania_2012.pdf.
  11. Interview with Epiphania Mfundo, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance, Tanzania.

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