The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Botswana’s development partner, has pledged support for the country’s human rights promotion and protection, a senior government official said Wednesday.
Nonofo Molefhi (pictured right), Botswana’s minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration made the remarks in his opening speech during the two-day Symposium on National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for Botswana in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital city.
“This symposium comes at an opportune time when we have made strides as a country in moving towards the transformation of the Office of the Ombudsman of Botswana into a hybrid institution dealing with human rights promotion and protection,” he said.
In 2014, Botswana made a commitment to expand the mandate of the Ombudsman to incorporate a human rights mandate. This followed the Botswana government’s acceptance of the recommendations made during the second cycle review under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva of Switzerland in 2013. One of the recommendations was for Botswana to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. The same recommendation was repeated at the third cycle UPR in January 2018.
The Paris Principles refer to certain broad principles to which an institution is subjected, for purposes of accreditation through the UNHRC mechanisms. The mechanisms include a broad mandate based on universal human rights standards, autonomy from government, independence guaranteed by legislation or constitution.
The human rights institution should guarantee pluralism including through membership and effective cooperation, adequate resources and adequate powers of investigation.
“To this end, Government of Botswana and the UNDP have signed a 4 year program to support the fulfilment of human rights, access to justice and empowerment of youth and women projects, which will provide support for the expansion of the Ombudsman’s mandate,” he said.
This initiative will result in, among others, the amendment of the Ombudsman Act, according to Molefhi. Jacinta Barrins (pictured at top of page), the UNDP resident coordinator in Botswana, said the global body is assisting the southern African country with the much-needed funding to research on human rights issues and the general setting up of the institution.
Barrins said some Batswana (citizens of Botswana) are currently undergoing intense training sessions in Geneva.
Wheels in motion to establish human rights unit
The government is in the process of establishing a national human rights unit under the Office of the President (OP). The unit is aimed at ensuring the implementation of recommendations from treaty bodies and compliance with human rights treaty bodies in terms of submission of reports.
The unit comes at a time when despite its supposedly clean image, the country still has a barrage of human rights issues that need to be looked at. Twice in 2008 and 2013, the country was thrown under the spotlight as Botswana was served with recommendations to account to universal expectations.
However according to General Counsel from OP, Dittah Molodi the unit has been designed to ensure that at national level there is coordination in the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at enhancing the enjoyment of human rights.
Recently speaking during a Ditshwanelo workshop on the Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and National Plan, Molodi said in 2014, a decision was taken by Cabinet to transfer the human rights mandate from the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security to OP.
He explained that the conferment was to ensure commitment and implementation at the highest political level.
“The mandate of the promotion and protection of human rights now sits with the Ministry for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration to ensure compliance,” he said.
Molodi said in that regard, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is committed to providing technical support for the establishment of the unit by assisting in the development of its work-plan. Also, he said that UNDP was assisting the government to come up with a national human rights action plan, which would be complimented by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group. Molodi said Botswana continues to engage and cooperate with human rights treaty bodies and special procedures by extending visitation to the country in line with their mandate.
“By accepting a recommendation to extend a standing invitation to mandate holders, government is demonstrating its openness to engage with these mechanisms and also its readiness to introspect and get feedback from other parties to address Botswana’s human rights agenda.”
Source: globaltimes.cn, Mmegionline