Towards the Enjoyment on Human Rights During and Post COVID-19 Pandemic
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has received support from the European Union to address the current and post COVID-19 human rights issues.
The EU believes that human rights are universal and indivisible, as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Whether one has COVID-19 or not, whether one is a city dweller in Eastleigh, a woman supporting her household in Wajir, whether one is a civilian who wants to know more about their rights, or a state institution that needs to abide by its Human Rights obligations, Human Rights need to apply everywhere.
The KNCHR has been a long-standing partner of the EU Delegation to Kenya. In 2016, the EU supported the Commission to empower grassroots human rights defenders through training and mentorship programmes. EU Member States have provided support as well: the Netherlands between 2018 and 2022 is providing Ksh 134.5 million to the KNCHR to enhance access to justice, rule of law and accountability; Germany provided Ksh 10 million in 2018-19 to the KNCHR to support better migration management. ‘Team Europe’ continues to support Kenya on human rights, as well as Kenya’s overall COVID-19 response with over EUR 330 million and counting! (EUR 300 million from the EU; EUR 28 million from EU Member States, so far).
As a Class “A” status National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the Commission has set the pace especially in Africa as one of the first institutions to have dived into monitoring, documenting and intervening on human rights issues that have come in the wake of COVID-19.
The grant being unveiled is part of continuous efforts to empower grassroots human rights defenders through training and mentorship programmes. Owing to limited movement in this pandemic season, these human rights defenders will be one of the key pillars of this grant; reporting human rights concerns and violations as they occur within their localities.
The signing this grant today was informed by human rights concerns and complaints that continue to be reported to KNCHR that emanate from containment measures adopted by the government. The allegations are wide ranging and includes; poor access to information on the pandemic, discrimination on the access to health services, police excesses on enforcing the state measures, poor standards for health workers, lack of respect of the law and in the enforcement of state measures, increased gender based violence, gender inequality widening gap, indecent treatment of those in quarantine facilities, inadequate social protection of the vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, street children, girls, women, youth, migrants, refugees, detained persons among others.
This partnership will facilitate enhanced public education and awareness programmes in community radio stations and social media campaigns that will empower citizens on the rule of law and report on any violations.
It is important that during this period, National Human Rights Institutions continue to engage with lawmakers to allow for flexibility in review of laws and policies that can enhance good governance and strengthen human rights standards during and post COVID-19. The European Union has been keen in working with the Kenyan Government and its institutions to strengthen governance mechanisms for better development. This partnership will facilitate enhanced relations with the Senate and National Assembly for the safeguarding of human rights.
The Judiciary, amidst understandable restrictions on court proceedings during this pandemic, has been working seamlessly to ensure urgent cases are heard and effective redress is given to petitioners. Through this partnership, KNCHR will be empowered to take up urgent public interest litigation cases that especially target the vulnerable and marginalised members of society. It will facilitate investigations to which will facilitate efficient litigation.
It must be acknowledged that the efficiency of the world today has been spurred by Information, Communication and Technology and its ability to collect and analyse information in real time for effective remedies within institutions. COVID-19 has limited movement of persons to and from offices but has enhanced technology uptake and thus information sharing still continues unhampered. This partnership between the EU and KNCHR will enhance technology infrastructure that will enable the KNCHR receive information and analyse at the click of a button through special systems specifically for COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, we continue to acknowledge the efforts by the Kenyan Government thus far to ensure that its citizens are safe and healthy. It is a season that has tested governments like never before and caused citizens to be even keener on public service delivery systems. We thus continue calling upon harmonious co-operation at all levels to ensure Kenya is able to soar through this period and rebuild this great economy.
Dr. Bernard Mogesa, PhD, CPM
Secretary to The Commission/Chief Executive Officer