MFAIC Press Office Freetown: Wednesday 24th July, 2019
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in collaboration with Irish Embassy, has commenced a two-day validation workshop for the Government of Sierra Leone Human Rights Universal Periodic Review Mid-term Report at the Ministry’s main Conference Hall, at Tower Hill, Freetown from Wednesday 24th to 25th July, 2019.
In her statement at the opening session of the workshop, the Chairman of the Human Right Commission of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Patricia N. Ndanema stated that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights is one of the greatest achievement in the history of the global struggle for Human Rights, as it gives states the opportunity to assess one another and also serves as best practice mechanism for duty bearers who are determined to ensure the enjoyment or realization of human rights by right holders.
The Representative from the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Mr Solomon Sogbandi spoke on the role of CSOs in the UPR process; which he said CSOs submitted Non-state actors report to the UNHCR that entails observation and recommendations among other roles.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Mr. Sunil Saigal gave a brief synopsis about the establishment of the UPR on human rights which he said, came into being by the United Nations General Assembly 60/251 of 15th March, 2006; adding that it also created the Human Rights Council which was mandated to undertake a universal periodic review.
He said Sierra Leone’s third review will look at the period 2017-2021; noting that, the government has placed the strengthening of the country’s human capital at the centre of its Medium-Term National Development Plan, with a focus on free and quality education for all, accelerating health care delivery, enhancing environmental sanitation, social protection, housing and land management and at the same time giving priority to women, children, adolescents and persons with disability, to youth employment and to the reduction of vulnerabilities and building resilience.
Representing the Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Hon. Momoh Bockarie said that as a committee, they are obliged as per their mandate as in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and other Parliamentary regulatory statutory documents of the Standing Orders, that they have a duty to protect and promote human rights in the country and that, added to their mandate, they also provided an oversight over state and non-state actors and institutions working in the field of Human Rights in the country.
The Irish Representative Niv Kavanah in her statement said the UPR is an important accountability mechanism for those countries committed to promoting and protecting Human Rights. She said the UPR encourages valuable self-reflection on the part of government and frank and constructive evaluation and feedback from civil society partners and peer UN member states and that it enables them to hold themselves accountable to measure their progress towards their international commitments and how they are delivering for the most vulnerable in their societies.
Representing the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Napoleon Koroma in his statement spoke on the important benefits of the UPR mechanism which he said provided an inclusive platform for all stakeholders to meet and identify strengths and gaps in the Human Rights protection system and also proffered solutions on how to overcome remaining challenges.
Giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Jacob Jusu Saffa told the audience that, his address was to fill them with hope and confidence that, government participation in the two-day validation workshop was to review and endorse the Government’s Human Rights midterm report that will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council following the workshop.
He said the ‘New Direction’ Government has and will continue to give keen attention to the basic principles of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
The Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs said the tireless efforts that was put into the completion of this year’s draft report was a clear demonstration of government’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and respect for its basic principles of consultation and cooperation with all stakeholders.
Minister Saffa went on to state that, the implementation of the 208 recommendations in the last UPR Cycle review was underway through a government-wide multi-sectorial approach. This approach he said, mainstream and offer stand-alone interventions on cross-cutting human rights issues such as gender equality, equity and empowerment; child protection; environmental management; healthcare and infrastructure provision, improved education management, prioritization of universal basic education and the rights of all girls to education among others.
He said the work of the Inter-Ministerial Human Rights Steering Committee and the New Direction Government cross-cutting approach to the implementation of the UPR recommendations meant that their efforts are firmly rooted and consistent with a human rights-based approach to governance.
This the Acting Minister said has manifested in the speeches and actions of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio. Whereof His Excellency the President speak of the workforce in the country, he does so from a human rights perspective and when the government invested billions of Leones to expand access to education for all, especially for girls, disabled, HIV/AIDs and Ebola Survivors, the President has in mind the obligation to promote the human right to quality education for his fellow citizens.