The fourth Annual Economic Social and Cultural Rights Annual Conference

Local governments through which government gets into direct contact with the people need to be empowered and equipped with human rights based approaches and skills in order to   the efforts geared towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.

The event organized on the theme, Local Government, Devolution and Service Delivery, Achievements, Challenges and The way forward provided a forum through which various stakeholders put their minds together to review the successes, challenges and forge a way forward  for service delivery.

Arising from the discussions, the participants pointed out a number of challenges andobserved that the creation of new districts had posed more challenges, amidst the limited resource allocation, coupled with inadequate staffing and skilling that affect the provision of services.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, the GIZ Country Director noted that in order to make tangible results, the decentralized service delivery mechanism and processes must be effective, efficient, transparent, responsive, and most importantly inclusive and equitable.

Decentralization, he said, is a key vehicle in ensuring the realization of economic social and cultural rights as well as an effort to reduce poverty.  Human rights are crucial for the realization of agenda 2030 and agenda 2063 and that the seventy goals of the Sustainable Development Goals although not drafted in Human Rights language all correspond to the content of key economic social and cultural rights.

He said Governments including Uganda have made commitments to the SDGs with the global call to leave no one behind, which commitments he said, are inherently grounded on Human rights obligations and the international human rights treaties and regional instruments and that Uganda is also on paper and is planning for the implementation of the SDGs. He however noted that despite these commitments, the realization of the social economic and cultural rights remains a huge challenge for Uganda and many countries in the world especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups that continue to face challenges in accessing services because of the inequities in service delivery.

He said that as an advisor to the National Planning Authority, he has been asking the planners as to whether it is possible to become a middle-income country without social inclusion in light of the immense population growth, which is eating up all the progress.

Uganda needs to take the connection of economic development with social inclusion, equity that must be central in the provision of social services. He said local governments, play a vital role here because it is here that most laws apply, where the state interacts with people.  
The Vice Chancellor Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, represented Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs (DVCAA) congratulated the organizers of the conference specifically the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) of the School of Law Makerere University and other partners that put resources together for the fourth time to organize the conference.

He said the School of Law and Makerere University at large has come a long way from the theory in the lecture room and that the university gospel has become one of innovation and relevance in the community, nationally and globally. He observed that over the years most innovations have been stemming from the science based Schools and colleges and commended the bold strides taken by the School of Law in innovations citing the three successive Inaugural Lectures of Professors of Law, with the fourth around the corner.

The Vice Chancellor said through PILAC, the School of Law has brought together various stakeholders to deliberate on issues of Human rights which is an important area offered in a number of University courses. He said the University was the best platform for such an initiative and that the faculty and students of Makerere University were to benefit from such a forum by appreciating the different dimensions of human rights.
In reference to the theme of the forum, the Vice Chancellor noted that although Local governments and decentralization are good systems, there were concerns as to whether they were offering the desired results.

Dr. Christopher Mbazira, the Ag. Principal School of Law and Coordinator Public Interest Law Clinic the School of Law Makerere University, while giving his welcome remarks said this year’s conference  was aimed at having as a forum to discuss the challenges, review the successes and chart a way forward for improved service delivery. ‘We intend to take up recommendations from this conference, engage government and other actors to see that improvements are made’ he said.
He recognized the organizers of the conference that included the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) based at the School of Law, Makerere University, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Global Rights Alert, Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA), the Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA), Centre for Health Human Rights and Development, CEHURD, Uganda Human Rights Commission.

The conference was supported by a number of actors and partners like GIZ, SHUREA (Strengthening Human Rights Research and Education in sub Saharan Africa a program of the School of Law, supported by the Finnish Ministry of foreign Affairs, the office of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, the UN, Open Society, IDRC, Fiedrick Ebert Stiftung among others.

Dr. Mbazira applauded Makerere University for supporting the Conferences for four years, adding that this positions the university from the Ivory Tower perception to a university that is alive to the challenges that the community was facing.