On Tuesday 21 May 2019, the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with ONE UN Rwanda convened at Marriott Hotel, Kigali, for a high- level consultative meeting with development partners on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The main objective of the meeting was to share updates on the status of implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations provided by the United Nations Human Rights Council in November 2015.
The Universal Periodic Review is a process whereby all UN member states have their human rights records reviewed. This unique process allows member states to announce what actions they have taken to not only improve the lives of their citizens, but also to demonstrate the efforts taken to implement and uphold human rights obligations. The main goal of the UPR is to improve the human rights situation in every country. Once a State has undergone the UPR, the Human Rights Council provides feedback and suggestions to the State so that they can implement the recommendations before the next UPR review.
In January of 2011, Rwanda underwent the Universal Periodic Review for the first time and the Government accepted to implement 67 recommendations. By November 2015, at the time of Rwanda’s second UPR review process, the country had successfully implemented 94% of those accepted recommendations. At the 2015 review, the UN Human Rights Council, proposed new recommendations to the Government to continue to improve and fulfil human rights obligations. After accepting 50 of these new recommendations, Rwanda’s Ministry of Justice disseminated the feedback and, through inclusive and multi-institutional taskforces, developed a strategic plan to implement all the recommendations made by the Human Rights Council.
The Ministry of Justice, in conjunction with One UN Rwanda, held this high-level meeting to discuss the implementation of the UPR, the lessons learnt from the process to date, and the strategies needed to implement the remaining recommendations. The meeting also gathered inputs from the development partners on how the country should prepare for the next UPR review.
While opening the meeting, Hon. Busingye Johnston, Minister of Justice/Attorney General, reminded participants that, since the beginning of UPR process, the Ministry decided together with partners that while the process will be Government led, it will be inclusive and open to all stakeholders including Civil Society, Private sector and Development Partners. The Minster further noted that this was a deliberate choice made to ensure that stakeholders are meaningfully involved in the process and that the reporting on the UPR recommendations will include the views of all.
Also speaking at the meeting, One UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Fode Ndiaye, expressed his gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for the prompt actions taken to implement the UPR recommendations. “I applaud the government for putting in place an implementation framework and mechanism for the UPR, including the UPR road map and work plan, which has no doubt contributed to the high rate of achievement of the recommendations,” he stated.
Mr. Ndiaye also took the opportunity to urge development partners to engage in the UPR process, stating that, “we do not need to wait on the next UPR recommendations. This is an open discussion and a good opportunity for us as development partners to not only receive updates on the status of implementation of the existing UPR recommendations, but also to engage in constructive discussion with the government on those areas that may need improvement.”
Throughout the meeting, development partners and international organisation officials had the opportunity to raise questions, provide feedback to the government and offer support for the implementation of the UPR recommendations. Speaking on behalf of UNDP, and as one of the lead UN agencies that provides direct support to the Ministry of Justice in the UPR process, UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Stephen Rodriques, emphasized that UNDP will expand and enhance its effort to ensure that the rights of people, including the most vulnerable and marginalized, will be protected, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals principle of leaving no one behind.
“We are very pleased that the Ministry of Justice and the Rwanda Law Reform Commission are currently working on assessing the gaps in laws and policies and updating national laws to be consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. All these efforts are responding to some of the 2015 UPR recommendations that the country accepted and that we discussed today. We want to invite everyone to join this movement,” commented Rodriques.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the UNDP Resident Representative urged participants to see the UPR as a tool that can help governments fulfill their obligations to their citizens and help build a peaceful, fair and harmonious society.
UNDP Rwanda and the One UN will continue to strengthen and enhance its collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and other partners to promote and implement the country’s human rights obligations to ensure that everyone, including the most vulnerable, have access to equal rights and opportunities.