Under the theme “Harnessing Grassroots and National Strength: Empowering Human Rights Defenders for Better Human Rights Protection and Advocacy in Uganda” the Human Rights Centre Uganda organized its fifth Human Rights Defenders Annual Forum from 22nd -24th March 2017 at Silver Springs Hotel.
The overall objective of this forum is to enhance cooperation amongst Human Rights Defenders and establish effective strategies in addressing the current issues embedded in the working environment of human rights defenders in Uganda. At least 150 participants were in attendance, drawn from civil society organisations all over Uganda, Government, Development Partners and the Media.
The forum provides annually the human rights defenders opportunities to assess their working environment and identify critical barriers, share best practices, establish effective strategies to address the current critical barriers and an opportunity to engage with various stakeholders and make recommendations for improving their working environment.
The thematic areas such as the Future of Human Rights Defenders and the Laws affecting them, the engagement and relevance of the national, regional and international human rights mechanisms and how HRDs can position themselves to implement the National Development Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals will empower HRDs to exploit opportunities for better human rights protection and to identify opportunities and strategies for better advocacy.
The Annual Forum was officially opened by His Lordship Kenneth Kakuru, the Justice of the Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court. In his opening remarks he noted that human rights are violated by individuals, the state and institutions that are entrusted with the duty of respecting and protecting them. He further added that the state has established institutions to safe guard these rights, therefore HRDs should work hard to ensure that they work together with these institutions to ensure a better working environment.
Mr.Gunter Engelits, Head of Office, Austrian Development Cooperation officiated on behalf of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) the opening ceremony, in his remarks he acknowledged the support that DGF accords to the HRCU to advocate for a better working environment for Human Rights Defenders. He commended HRCU for empowering defenders by building their capacity in advocacy. He noted with concern and condemned the increasing lawlessness and assassination of the AIGP Felix Andrew Kaweesi that shocked and invoked fear among the population. Even in the face of this increasing lawlessness and acts of violence, he called upon HRDs to call for conclusive investigation of all cases. He encouraged and implored HRDs to remain vigilant with their own security, the security of their offices and data protection.