BOTSWANA: TOWARDS A NATIONAL ACTION PLAN
Botswana First National Workshop
(Gaborone, 23 and 24 April 2013)
In its national report and its presentation to the UPR Working Group on 23 January 2013, the Botswana Government confirmed its will to elaborate a national strategy to implement human rights. To review the UPR recommendations, the Government established in February 2013 a Joint Task Force (JTF), chaired by the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security (MDJS), and composed of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labour and Home Affairs, Lands and Housing, Youth, Sports and Culture, the Attorney General’s Chambers, and two NGOs, BOCONGO and DITSHWANELO. The JTF’s first aim was to examine the 43 deferred recommendations and to implement those accepted. The JTF was also assigned to identify the steps and the methods to produce the National Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy.
It is in this framework that DITSHWANELO and GHR proposed to hold a National Workshop to discuss future strategies. Before holding the Workshop, several stakeholders would have preferred to wait until the formal decision of the Government to launch a National Plan. But for MDJS, DITSHWANELO and GHR, the preparation of the official replies of Botswana to the HR-Council constituted a unique momentum. The political will of the Government was clear. At GHR initiative, the Government had even welcomed the offer of the Mexican delegation in Geneva to contribute to this process.
DITSHWANELO and GHR drafted for MDJS a concept note for the Workshop and an outline on a National Action Plan. GHR President was in Botswana from 21 to 27 April 2013 to serve as a facilitator for this first National Workshop. On 21 April, he had a working session with DITSHWANELO. The next day, he attended the first meeting of the JTF, which examined the unanswered UPR recommendations, exchanged views on the preparation of a National Action Plan, and finalised the agenda for the Workshop. All the JTF members were present.
Proceedings of the Workshop
The ‘Scoping Workshop 1 for the development of a comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan on Human Rights’ took place on 23 and 24 April 2013 in the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, near Gaborone. 34 persons attended, including officials from the Ministries of Defence; Justice and Security; Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Lands and Housing; Labour and Home Affairs (Gender Affairs Department); the Attorney General’s Chambers; the Office of the Ombudsman; the Land Tribunal; the Chobe District Council; the Gantsi Land Board; the Ngwaketse Land Board; UNICEF; BOCONGO; LeGaBiBo; Rainbow Identity; Youth Health Organisation; Kuru Family of Organisations; Botswana Coalition on Education for All; and DITSHWANELO.
Deliberations on Day-1
Opening the Workshop, Minister Dikgakgamatso Seretse stated that the deliberations would focus on the outcome of the UPR and on the perspectives. He called for a broad-based, inclusive home-grown, consultative and participatory process, including UPR, thematic procedures, treaty bodies and African Commission’s recommendations.
The Co-Chairs, Mr. Augustine Makginatsotlhe (JTF Coordinator, MDJS) and Ms. Alice Mogwe, explained the objectives of the meeting. Adrien-Claude Zoller introduced the UN main bodies and their mechanisms. After the break, he spoke on the strategies for human rights implementation. Participants agreed that, each country having its own history and socio-economic context, a National Action Plan had to be specific and pragmatic.
A survey of the international legal obligations of Botswana was distributed and commented. Participants continued the exchanges in Working groups, whose reports highlighted specific needs and priorities: ratification of regional and international treaties; domestication of already ratified treaties; access to land; rights of indigenous peoples, children and persons with disabilities; sexual orientation; right to education; gender equality; need for strong human rights institutions; environmental rights; and right to health.
These issues were discussed in plenary. It was felt that sensitive issues, such as death penalty, corporal punishment, impact of traditions on human rights, persons with HIV-AIDS, and discrimination against LGTB’s, could be integrated gradually in a National Plan, by placing them at the center of the human rights education campaign. Day-1 concluded with a contribution of the facilitator on the National Action Plan.
Deliberations on Day 2
The meeting started with the recapitulations of the previous day. Participants raised the problem of existing information gaps. All agreed that it had to be a bottom-up process. The facilitator commented on the different facets of a National Action Plan: long-term effort; legal obligations of the State; commitment to universal and regional human rights standards (respect and ensure human rights); focus on strengthening the human rights promotion and protection; mainstreaming of human rights into the public policies; central role of the Government; participation of the entire society. A National Plan should start with the analysis of the human rights needs. Effective monitoring and review of implementation was also essential. After the presentation, participants met in Working Groups.
The Groups corroborated that the National Action Plan would have five phases: preparation, elaboration, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. For each stage, they made concrete proposals, which were discussed in plenary. The last part of the Workshop was devoted to the discussion of the UPR recommendations. The Workshop took position on each of the deferred recommendations, thus providing advice to the Government in the preparation of its responses to the HR-Council.
Outcome of the Scoping Workshop 1
This was the first such forum in Botswana where human rights issues could be discussed by Government and civil society in an open, respectful environment of mutual learning, based on the Tswana concept of ‘Botho’. The most sensitive matters have been discussed in-depth. At the end of the Workshop, Mr. Makgonatsotlhe confirmed that a 2nd Workshop will be convened after the adoption of Botswana UPR by the HR-Council.
After the Workshop, Mr. Zoller and Ms. Mogwe met key actors for the National Action Plan process in Botswana: on 25 April, they had a de-briefing meeting with diplomats of the European Union, the United Kingdom and France and visited the UNDP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The JTF held its second meeting with the facilitator on 26 April to review the outcome of the Workshop. Since then, many consultations took place in Botswana. A baseline study is underway and the revised mandate of the JTF has been drafted. More entities and NGOs were invited to seat in the JTF.