Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Development aid and human rights

The Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Denmark Caucus convened a conference in Washington Wednesday entitled, Development aid and human rights: Promoting human rights in bilateral and multilateral development programs. The speakers included, His Excellency Stig Barlyng, Ambassador of Denmark in Uganda; Margaret Sekaggya, Chairman of Uganda’s Human Rights Commission; and Morten Kjaerum, Directior of the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The moderator for the conference was His Excellency Friis Arne Petersen, Ambassador of Denmark to the United States.

The focus of the briefing was on the situation in Uganda: what has been done, and why the work has been successful.

Sekaggya said in her presentation that when bilateral cooperation between Denmark and Uganda first began Kjaerum asked: “What do you want us to do.” Sekaggya said that she responded: “We do not need you to point out all the violations, we need to train human rights.”

The Danish Institute for Human Rights funded the Uganda’s Human Rights Commission and together they developed human rights trainings for the police – which had never been done before, Sekaggya said. These proved to very successful, according to Sekaggya, and today the trainings have been incorporated into the law enforcement curriculum. Many prisons, meanwhile, have also asked for the trainings.

Sekaggya said that the most important component of the Uganda-Denmark relationship is the Poverty Eradication Plan, which priorities assistance areas, ensures public participation in eradication efforts, promotes transparency and accountability, and fosters economic growth. What the Danish government has done, she said, is support all sectors: from law and justice to human rights to conflict resolution.

Sekaggya said that the success of the Uganda-Denmark relationship is due to mutual respect for each other’s goals.

Sekaggya also stressed the importance of taking regional differences into consideration when working on the programs. For example, the northern parts of Uganda still have a large military footprint because of prior regimes, while the southern areas are more agricultural. Therefore, there have to be different programs tailored to each area, Sekaggya said.

Kjaerum began his presentation by emphasizing the importance of teaching people about their rights, saying that someone who understands there rights would say: “I do have rights, and if I do, there has to be someone out there to protect them.” In discussing the trainings, Kjaerum said that there has to be a dialogue between civil society and the government, saying: “A human rights approach must secure legitimacy, i.e. it must begin by debating the values in order to arrive at a common departure.”

Both Sekaggya and Kjaerum talked about the need of everyone to get involved, from state actors to non-state actors, to individuals on a local level.

“Fifteen years ago we had a hammer and today the toolbox is so much bigger, Kjaerum said. “We need different approaches from many different actors.”

Barlyng said that the Denmark-Uganda relationship provides an example of the best way to support human rights in that it consists of a combination of dialogue and financial support. The dialogue should be with the government, statutory bodies and civil society, he said. The financial support, meanwhile, should be on a macro level for general support and social development, and also at a governmental level that supports human rights organizations.


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