Spearheading Human Rights for All

11 Dec 2013

The National Human Rights Action Plan was successfully launched on the 10th December 2013, International Human Rights Day, at an event in Mnazi Moja grounds in Dar es Salaam and officiated by H.E. the Vice President of Tanzania, Mr. Garib Bilal. The Vice President also launched the Child Justice Reform Strategy 2013 – 2017, which is a follow up step to implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan. The strategy sets out detailed actions to implement the commitments on child rights in the action plan, specifically focusing on children’s access to justice. Furthermore, this strategy demonstrates the Government’s dedication to ensuring that its ratification of treaties and application of the action plan is guided by the overarching objective to improve the lives of Tanzanians.

With support from the UN in Tanzania, the launch of both the Human Rights Action Plan and the Child Justice Reform Strategy was a great success with over five hundred attendees including representatives from the Government, the UN, Donor Partners, CSOs, Police and Academia. Three hundred copies of the National Action Plan were distributed as well as summary versions and leaflets for ease of access. The event also received a lot of media attention, with a double page interview in the Citizen newspaper with UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, a public lecture in the University of Dar es Salaam with UNDP representative, Godfrey Mulisa, a press conference on the 6th of December 2013, and a number of radio and television appearances by key stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of the Action Plan.

Despite the number of ratifications of International Human Rights Treaties by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, domestication and practical realization of human rights remains inconclusive.  A number of discriminatory national laws still exist including the Witchcraft Act, Law of Marriage Act, the Newspaper Act and the Inheritance Act. Such disparities cause additional challenges to the advancement of human rights in Tanzania and contribute to a general lack of awareness, contradictory understanding of rights and restricted freedom of expression and restricted capacity to report abuses.

As recognition of such implications, the Government took the initiative to develop a National Human Rights Action Plan 2013 – 2017 to ensure clear and practical guidance to implement international treaties. The action plan outlines detailed steps for responsible ministries to improve the human rights architecture in Tanzania and improve the lives of Tanzanians, with particular focus on vulnerable groups such as women, children, elderly, prisoners, people living with HIV, people living with disabilities, and refugees.

UNDP has supported the Government since the inception of the National Human Rights Action Plan, including a follow up project supporting the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG). The CHRAGG has led the process of the development of the National Human Rights Action Plan from the beginning, and is also charged with monitoring and evaluating implementation of the action plan. The UNDP supported project aims to inculcate a culture and concrete awareness of human rights and the Action Plan among citizens, promote a responsive and accessible justice system, and build the capacity of CHRAGG to enhance monitoring of the plans implementation by responsible ministries.

The first step towards the successful execution of this programme of support project was the public launch of the National Human Rights Action Plan, which has raised awareness not only among the attendees, but the wider public through the march from Karimjee Hall on International Human Rights Day, media coverage and involvement of high Government officials.  Planned activities, with technical and financial support from UNDP, have also been conducted in terms of training for staff in responsible ministries on building skills in monitoring and evaluation, as well as conducting a training of teacher trainers, inspectors and teachers in human rights education. Such activities are heightening awareness and offering guidance on how best to educate the population on their rights and the relevant frameworks for demanding those rights.

All in all, Tanzania is now one of the leading actors in developing and endorsing a National Human Rights Action Plan in East Africa and is a role model for neighbouring countries to follow and become champions in the struggle to make human rights a reality.