ASF in Uganda
With over 60% of the population under 25 years of age, Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations (40 million inhabitants) in the world. The colonial boundaries created by Britain to delimit Uganda grouped together a wide range of ethnic groups with different political systems and cultures. These differences complicated the establishment of a working political community after independence was achieved in 1962.
The dictatorial regime of Idi Amin (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents; guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton Obote (1980-85) claimed at least another 100,000 lives. In 1986, the “Liberation War” brought to power the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Museveni. Turned as a political party under the acronym National Resistance Movement, the NRM regime has remained in power since 1986 and brought relative stability to the country. However, the NRM rule has also been characterized by conflicts in West Nile, Acholiland, Karamoja and the Rwenzori regions. In particular, the insurgency of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda, led to large-scale and grave human rights violations.
The condition of justice
In spite of great efforts by the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), the courts of Laws are still physically, financially and technically inaccessible to the poor, who represent the majority of the population. Courts of Law and Law enforcement agencies are widely perceived as corrupt by the population. As a result, the vast majority of legal disputes and legal needs are addressed outside the courts. At community level, there exist multiple routes for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which, despite being more accessible, are often flawed in ways that impede their efficiency and fairness, in particular with regards to gender equality.
In the absence of a country-wide public legal aid scheme, access to justice remains a challenge for the majority of the population. The limited public services and the ineffectiveness of the local council system make the population rely on services from Legal Aid Service Providers (LASPs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which are increasingly constrained in a context of reducing civic space and limited consideration for human rights. Besides, such services are scarcely available, especially in rural areas.
The prevalence of the Rule of Law in the administration of Justice remains a challenge. There exists a systematic discrepancy between the legal frameworks and the practices of criminal justice actors, which is detrimental to the protection of the populations’ rights. In particular, unabated deviations in the standards of arrest and remand, coupled with a growing incarceration rate over the last ten years, have led to prisons congestion.
Uganda’s history of conflicts has been partially addressed by the Transitional Justice process so far. Most crimes committed during past conflicts haven’t led to criminal prosecution or other forms of justice, and a culture of impunity remain. In Northern Uganda, and other parts of the country, victims still suffer the consequences of past conflicts. The recent adoption of a Transitional Justice Policy has renewed hope for a meaningful transitional justice process, in particular one that can give victims of international crimes the agency to participate in judicial proceedings.
In the last two decades, Uganda has witnessed an unprecedented increase in foreign direct investment and actual economic activity by both multinational corporations and local business enterprises in its economy. Alongside the infrastructure sector, foreign investment primarily targets the country’s primary (land and forestry) and strategic (oil deposits and minerals) resources. In particular, extractive industries have risen in the Albertine Graben and Karamoja regions. While these trends present opportunities for development, they raise the question of the latter’s sustainability, as they also carry potential harmful impacts on individuals, communities and the environment.
ASF projects in Uganda
In all its interventions, ASF works to empower Ugandan justice seekers to access justice, build the capacity of civil society and legal aid service providers and contribute to a conducive environment for the realization of human rights.
Contributing to sustainable development goals by improving access to justice
- Objective: the project aims to improve the functioning of justice mechanisms for populations affected by conflicts and natural resources management through the promotion of their rights particularly public participation;
- Logic of intervention:
- Firstly, the project aims to strengthen access-to-justice mechanisms in order to make them inclusive and make possible public participation in procedures relating to the establishment of the truth, accountability, and guarantees of non-repetition.
- Secondly, the project promotes the concepts of free, prior, and informed consent and improved community access to information on extractive activities. The project will include a combination of interventions intended to have a short- and medium-term impact by tangibly improving access to justice for target groups and a long-term impact by building the capacity of key actors and attempting to incorporate the lessons learned into the relevant political and legal frameworks.
- Expected results:
- Fostered participation of victims of conflict in Justice mechanisms abiding by international standards
- Stronger justice mechanisms for communities affected by the exploitation of natural resources
- Fostered public participation for populations affected by natural resources management
- Project partners:
- Advocates for Natural Resources Governance and Development (ANARDE)
- Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED);
- Geographical areas of implementation: Albertine Graben, Acholiland, Karamoja;
- Funding: Belgian Development Cooperation
- Duration: 55 months (May 2017 – December 2021)
Legal Empowerment of Women Using Technology (LEWUTI)
- Objective: to increase women’s access to justice through digital solutions for legal empowerment
- Logic of intervention: the project seek to provide innovative solutions to the challenges met by the population in accessing justice. In particular, the project addresses the negative cultural norms and community practices that prevent women from accessing justice in conventional ways. It operates at three levels:
- First, women access tailored first line legal support and information through SMS, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platforms and outreaches for community sensitization. The use of digital solutions not only overcomes the barriers in physical reach to remote areas, it also solves language issues and allows women to access information in “safe spaces” that is outside the influence of men. In terms of content, a focus is given on land rights as they account for more than 80% of the legal needs;
- Second, the project develops the gender-sensitivity of the environment for dispute resolution through the promotion of a rights-based approach and the standardization of dispute resolution practices. Under result 3, the structural enablers of gender discrimination in land rights are addressed. Most local leaders (cultural and political) in Acholi and Lango have a wrong belief that women cannot own land although the Law says otherwise.
- Third the project addressed the structural enablers of gender discrimination in land rights by engaging with local leaders (cultural and political) and deconstructing the wrong belief that women cannot own land.
- Project partner: Barefoot Law. Started in 2012 and registered as a non-Governmental Organization in 2013, with a mission to demystify the law through simple, easily understood language. Barefoot Law seeks to deliver legal information and support persons through technology and traditional means of legal aid.
- Priority areas of implementation: Acholi sub regions;
- Funding: Enabel
- Duration: 24 months (1 February 2019 – 1 February 2021)
Empowering communities and civil society to demand for good governance in natural resources management
- Objective: Affected local populations demand and have their rights respected and protected at all phases of extractive resources exploitation projects
- Logic of intervention: the project revolves around a bottom-up process that hinges on community-based human rights monitoring and activates/strengthens the structures through which voices. It operates at two levels:
- First, the project fosters local participation by introducing harmonised monitoring standards at community-level, using Community-Based Human Rights Impact Assessments (CBHRIA). Existing networks among CBOs and local interest groups will be strengthened – or created where non-existent
- Second, under the project, the information and voices from the grassroots will be channeled up into relevant national instances, in order to ensure that the human rights of populations affected by EI projects are respected at all stages of those projects’ development
- Project partner: ANARDE
- Priority areas of implementation: Albertine Graben and Karamoja regions;
- Funding: European Union, through its delegation to Uganda
- Duration: 24 months (January 1st 2020 – December 31st 2021)