Universal Periodic Review (UPR) NGO Working Group Press Statement on the National Human Rights Institution

Date: March 18, 2016
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The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) NGO Working Group, comprising Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO), DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Kuru Family of Organisations, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo) and MISA – Botswana Chapter and Rainbow Identity Association (RIA), are concerned that the government of Botswana and the United Nations in Botswana are engaged in processes concerning the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) without the strategic engagement of civil society organisations. To date, three (3) NHRI Benchmarking Missions have been undertaken to Ghana, Namibia and Tanzania. This was done without the inclusion of civil society, as stakeholders during the preparatory processes for the Missions or as members of the delegations on the Missions.

Between 2015 and 2016 the NHRI Benchmarking Missions for delegations of the government of Botswana and the United Nations in Botswana, were undertaken to benchmark human rights institutions in Ghana, Namibia and Tanzania.The purpose of their visits was to share lessons learned in the area of Human Rights which will facilitate the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution in Botswana.

NGOs are a part of the global human rights movement. They contribute to international, regional and national standard-setting. They also contribute to the promotion, implementation and enforcement of human rights norms. NGOs work closely with the communities and should, therefore, play a role in the preparatory processes for the creation of an NHRI – a body responsible for monitoring the state of human rights in the country. Exclusion of civil society, risks leading to the creation of a ‘government NHRI’, as only the government and the UN are engaged in the current critical NHRI processes. Civil society has raised these concerns with both the UN and with relevant government officials. To date, there has been little substantial response to this serious concern.

It is undisputed that, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) which comply with the Paris Principles, are important and can play a crucial role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level. However, the UPR NGO Working Group warned, during 2013, that the process used toestablish an NHRIs tends to affect its legitimacy, levels of trust and confidence by which it is held by both Government and the people, as well as its ability to effectively carry out its mandate.

The UPR NGO Working Group recognises that, it is critical that an NHRI is a product of national consultative processes from which it obtains its priorities, relevance and legitimacy. It is recognised that NHRI’s tend to be created in one of the following ways:

  1. they emerge as part of a large national transition e.g. South Africa and Malawi. This is the model preferred by civil society, based on the meaningful participation of Batswana,
  2. in response to pressure from the international community (with little consequential local legitimacy). This tends to happen in cases where reluctant governments have created NHRIs to temper disapproval and global condemnation, e.g. Indonesia
  3. Consolidation of several offices with similar roles into one. Botswana has opted for a hybrid institution through the anticipated amendment of the Ombudsman’ Act. This will broaden the mandate of the office, to include human rights.

The UPR NGO Working Group and other civil society organisations are committed to an NHRI which is an outcome of consultation processes through the Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and National Action Plan (CHRSNAP) linked to our national development priorities. Government reiterated its commitment to this process during the State of the Nation Address 2014.

The CHRSNAP will enable relevance, legitimacy and accountability of the NHRI to the government, to institutions, to civil society, to the public sector and to the people of Botswana who live in both rural and urban areas. Once convinced that an inclusive process has preceded the establishment of an institution aimed at addressing priority areas of concern in the country, civil society will be in a better position to engage meaningfully with the NHRI. Only then, can it become an institution truly capable of promoting and protecting human rights, in an accountable and effective manner.

18 March 2016


[1]  The Paris Principles – adopted by national human rights institution at an international workshop in Paris in 1991 – have become the standard and benchmark for such institutions. Later adopted by both the UN General Assembly and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, they represent the minimum threshold for acceptability of a national human rights institution.

For more information please contact: DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights Tel: +267 3906998 Cell: +267 71309468 Fax: +267 3907778 Email: admin.ditshwanelo@info.bw Website: http://www.ditshwanelo.org.bwFacebook:Ditshwanelo – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights Twitter: @DitshwaneloBCHR

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