By Taddeo Bwambale
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has asked Uganda to combat high unemployment, especially among youth.
A delegation from Uganda met the committee in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday as part of a periodical review of the country’s social, economic and cultural rights.
The delegation was led by Sulaiman Madada, the minister of state for elderly and disability affairs and attended by Christopher Onyanga (permanent representative to UN), Bernard Mujuni, Lydia Nabiryo, Bashir Hangi, Aliyi Walimbwa, Semakula Henry and Mustapha Twaha.
The UN committee of 18 international independent experts was meant to review Uganda’s progress in implementing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Uganda is one of the 164 States that have ratified the convention.
The UN committee tasked the delegation to explain the measures adopted by Uganda to combat high unemployment.
Madada identified the Youth livelihood programme where youth groups are given start-up loans and the Youth Venture Capital Fund with modest interest rates as some of the measures.
He also cited the Skilling Uganda programme, foreign direct investment and liberalization of the economy as potent opportunities for creating jobs.
He, however, said youth are complacent and the creative industry which attracts many has no systems for identifying and promoting talent.
“The youth are interested in quick gains and are, therefore, reluctant to join ventures which take long to materialize,” he stated, according to records of the meeting posted on the UN website.
Several Ugandan organisations submitted petitions to the UN committee on earlier on Monday, highlighting concerns about policies and interventions that affect social and cultural rights.
One of the organisations, the National Coalition on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said that there was a soaring increase in unemployment and under-employment.
Responding to queries on plans to set a minimum wage, Madada said an Advisory Board was due to be cleared by Parliament to conduct a study on wage policies in other countries.
The last minimum wage in Uganda was set in 1984 at sh6,000 by Statutory Instrument No 38 of 1984. The currency reform of 1987 adjusted the figure to sh60,000 but it is not enforceable.
The organisation wants Uganda to adopt and implement a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem of street children, with focus on safeguarding the family as a pillar for development.
The committee also pressed Uganda to reveal measures taken to combat child labour, child sacrifice and early and forced marriages.
The Minister said Uganda has a child labour policy and action plan to combat child labour and community sensitizations against evils of child labour was being done.
“Since the establishment of the Anti- Human Sacrifice Police Task Force set up in 2009, successful prosecutions have been undertaken on cases reported and investigated,” he said.
He maintained that early and forced marriages were prohibited through the constitution and other laws such as the Penal Code Act and Domestic Violence Act.
On the rising number of street children, Madada said government was withdrawing them from streets for reintegration into their families with a resettlement package.
Human Rights Network (HURINET) petitioned against the 2015 Non-Governmental Organization Bill saying it will limit civil society space.
Madada told the UN committee that organisations with strong views on the proposed amendments have an opportunity to present their views Parliament for consideration.
Evicted Community Members in Mubende, a local organisation said it has been struggling for 14 years to get justice after 401 families were evicted from four villages in Mubende district.
The group said the eviction meant to give way for setting up Kaweri Coffee Plantation was violent, abrupt and no compensation was given to them by Ugandan army which evicted them.
The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, speaking in a joint statement, told the committee that land grabbing had become a serious issue in Uganda.
The activists said land grabbing had led to increased conflicts over land, especially in the oil rich Albertine region of the country.
Initiative for Social and Economic Rights said the quality of education had declined and that vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities continued to be left behind.
The group drew concern on the rapid privatization of education, with approximately 27% of primary students and 66% of secondary school students in private schools.
Representatives of pastoralist communities said indigenous pastoralists were at risk of losing their land to conservation and development projects.
Franciscans International asked the UN Committee to prevail over Uganda to revise its laws and administrative procedures to ensure universal and free birth registration.
The organisation said the existing law does not adequately reflect economic and social realities of Ugandans and the process of obtaining birth certificates is long and costly for many.