Thursday, June 20, 2013

No Tolerance for Discrimination

The movement for human rights in the Americas passed a major milestone that Global Rights has been behind for more than 10 years.  

Hi there, it’s Carlos Quesada, Global Rights’ Racial and Ethnic Equality Program director. I just returned from the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Guatemala where I witnessed history in the making.

Two very important Inter-American conventions were approved at the General Assembly this month and signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador:
  • The Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance
  • The Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance

Global Rights and our Afro-descendant civil society partners have been working to pass these conventions for more than 10 years.  For the past decade, in every thematic hearing and in every General Assembly, our partners asked member states to speed up the process of approving these regional mechanisms to better protect individuals from harmful and unfair discrimination.

In 2004, Global Rights and our partners pushed Brazil to lead the working group to draft the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance. After a shift in working group leadership over the years, we were stuck in a declining process and draining uphill battle.    

 It has been a long journey but the Assembly finally listened.

The Convention against racism emphasizes the state’s need to adopt affirmative action policies to ensure equal access to rights and the creation of an Inter-American Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism.  Evidently, these new Inter-American instruments to combat racial discrimination and intolerance in the Americas are critical to hold governments accountable for treating all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, equal.

I am very happy that Antigua and Barbuda took the lead in pushing for both conventions. This is especially important because the Inter-American Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance includes a clause about protecting people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean countries still have sodomy laws that criminalize same-sex practices. I hope that Antigua and Barbuda can be a leader in the Caribbean in decriminalizing these practices and pushing for gender equality.

I am so thrilled that our partner's advocacy was heard and that our hard work has paid off. Now, we must encourage more countries to sign and ratify both conventions to protect all people in the region. I look forward to keeping you updated on the process!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Countering Conflict

Training Participants
Hi there. It’s Don Rukare, Global Rights’ Uganda country director. Last week I returned to the remote Bundibugyo District in southwestern Uganda to continue training our local partners on conflict prevention. This time, I brought with me officials from the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and the Centre for Dispute Resolution (CECORE).

Although Uganda has made strides toward democratic governance, it is subject to tensions, including those fueled by ethno-religious and political differences, disparities in access to resources, and unemployment, all of which can and have spilled over into violence. As demonstrated by our current work, some of our paralegal partners have already diffused local tensions through efforts to mediate between ethnic communities embroiled in conflict.

Understanding the different types and causes of conflict, and how to use early response systems, such as the UHRC and the CECORE, to prevent conflict is essential to create a climate in which rule of law is honored in Uganda.  

As part of our USAID-funded project to enhance civil society’s ability to respond to mass human rights atrocities that often provoke full scale conflict, we’re training our partners  on the types and causes of conflict, how to undertake a conflict analysis, early warning mechanisms and ways to partner with the UHRC and CECORE to prevent conflict.

Our partner paralegals will act as the frontline ears and eyes of the UHRC. Throughout this project, they will
  • Engage in conflict mediation; 
  • Identify and document human rights violations;
  • Recognize drivers of conflict and escalating patterns;
  • Convene “town hall” meetings of stakeholders to address grievances in collaboration with the UHRC, thereby raising awareness of conflict drivers and atrocity prevention methods;
  • Channel observations through a structured early warning/early prevention system to be coordinated with the UHRC.

Group Work
I’m also happy to share with you that this month, five law students from the Public Interest Litigation Clinic at Makerere University’s Law School will spend two months in Bundibugyo providing technical support to our conflict mediation paralegals.  This is the first time these students will be in be in the far-removed Bundibugyo District—we are very excited to have them work with us!

I look forward to keeping you updating on our conflict prevention work this summer.


Global Rights thanks USAID for their generous support of this groundbreaking project.