Over all Objective
To influence trade and trade related policy processes for the attainment of peoples’ Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
Trade can be both a challenge and an opportunity to address equity in the economic arena as it can positively influence the distribution of income between men and women and improve the quality of life of the people. Unregulated trade can on the other hand also lead to violation of peoples basic and fundamental rights. In the last three decades, African countries have developed a number of policies and strategies aimed at developing their economies through trade. At a national level, Uganda has embraced an open market system as a way of enhancing trading opportunities and promoting economic development. Emphasis has largely been on two areas; promoting agriculture which employs over 75% (80% women) of the population and on promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). However over the years governments in the region have neglected the agricultural sector ; and agricultural trade has mainly focused on raw materials with very limited value addition. The sector has been largely defined by government’s adoption of a privatization and deregulation policy opening the sector to private actors to control key sub sectors like the inputs sector and leaving market forces to determine prices of produce at local, national and regional levels.
The liberalization policy and assumed markets abroad have also ensured that small scale farmers are kept in a situation of low incomes as a result of exporting produce in its raw form and buying imported finished products. As part of its investment policy, the country has in the last 20 years concentrated more on attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at the expense of local investment. This is further compounded by the investment agreements that Uganda negotiates and signs with partners, which promote rights of the investor over people’s rights.
Most of the foreign investments are not in the productive sector, therefore FDI has not come with the assumed benefits such as increased employment and technology transfer but have rather infringed on people’s rights through loss of Jobs as local industries and products are pushed out of the market, increase in food insecurity as more land meant for food production is given up through investment deals. At the sub-regional and regional level, there are attempts to backstop the development challenges in African countries through policies and agreements to push for the development of key sectors like agriculture. The challenge however is with the lack of coherence between government’s positions in the various negotiations they are engaged in i.e. the EPAs, PATIA and the actual challenges on the ground. This situation has been exacerbated by climate change; impacting on food and fuel availability and pushing developed countries especially to aggressively look for cheap markets for food and fuel production.
As climate change increases, the strategies that are being adopted (especially in the poor countries)in procuring new sources of fuel and food are also becoming more aggressive. There are increasing cases of people being pushed off their land and cultural sites for bio fuel production, and production of food by foreign government, a growing drive to patent seed and control the food chain. It is against this background that SEATINI will continue monitoring the various negotiations and processes at national, regional and global levels and also interrogate the link between trade and specific issues i.e. climate change and food security; and between trade and Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
SEATINI will consequently influence negotiations and policies toward the realization of people’s rights at the national and EAC level through the following Specific objectives:
• Strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to effectively participate in agriculture, investment and climate change related policy processes.
• Proactively influencing trade policy negotiations and processes
• Raising public awareness about the linkage between trade policies and attainment of human rights.
Highlights of 2012
In 2012, the focus was on the key global events that were defining Uganda and EAC’s economic direction and consequently impacting rural livelihoods. Issues defining the programme focused on the climate change debate, Intellectual Property Rights, Land grabbing and investments. At the regional and national levels there were several on-going policy processes such as development of several IPR related laws and the National Climate Change policy. The use of both national and regional based media and the Right Based Approach was paramount in pursuing the issues at the different levels. The programme also supported farmers to participate in key activities at institutional and national levels, hence providing them a wider platform to share their views.
In October 2012, SEATINI-U participated in a farmers’ advocacy meeting on the PVP Bill organized by farmers in Nakaseke district. This was a dialogue between smallholder farmers and their area Member of Parliament that was intended to bring to the attention of the policy maker the concerns of the farmers in regard to the draft bill. In the meeting SEATINI-U provided technical input on specific sections of the bill and as a result farmers were able to raise their concerns especially on loss of indigenous and local seed and biodiversity in general.
SEATINI-U as well participated in a regional meeting on IPR and Famers Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa. The meeting, which brought together Civil Society representatives from over five countries in the region, drew a number of strategies for joint engagement on IP related issues. This meeting provided an opportunity to share updates on the on-going IP processes in different countries. From this meeting, a statement seeking an amendment of the extension period granted to LDCs was developed and submitted to ARIPO highlighting some of the key concerns with regard to the Draft regional policy and legal framework on PVP.
During the World Foods Day, SEATINI-U co-organized an exhibition under the auspices of Food Rights Alliance as part of the World Food Day celebrations organized in Mbarara district under the theme “Agriculture Cooperatives; Key to food security”. The exhibition, which had participants from all over the country, was intended for sharing information materials with key stakeholders and showcasing farmers’ products. SEATINI-U sponsored two farmers (1 male, 2 female) to exhibit their produce during the celebrations and they later shared the information materials received in their farmers groups.
SEATINI-U participated in the Annual CSO fair organized by the National NGO Forum. The fair was open to the general public and provided space for CSOs and their stakeholders to network and show case what they do. During the 2012 fair, SEATINI-U organized a session on liberalization and its implications on Uganda’s economy and livelihoods of the people. The session was attended by 50 participants (30 male and 20 female) whose capacities were greatly built on these negotiations.
In addition, SEATINI-U carried out two studies. One was on “climate change and food security: implications to livelihoods of small scale farmers” and this was commissioned with the broad purpose of analyzing the increasingly recognized impact of the changing climate on livelihoods. The outcomes were shared with stakeholders. The second study was on “seed security, the move towards food security”. The study analyzed the need for Uganda to have in place a self-sustaining seed security system if the country is to achieve food security.
SEATINI-U spearheaded a CSO research on land grabbing in four districts of Uganda. The research was conducted in the districts of Amuru, Kamwenge, Masindi and Kabarole. From the research, it was found that many citizens in the areas visited were facing the land grabbing problem due to the nature of the land tenure systems in their areas and the lack of adequate government protection from the land grabbers. Findings from the research conducted were used as a point of reference in various debates and media articles (www.independent.co.ug/coverstory/5726-museveni angry over ngo report on land grabbing). The findings were also used in developing a petition submitted to the Rt. Honorable Speaker of Parliament to inform advocacy campaign messages and media reports.
• Through various engagements with farmers and CSOs on the Plant Variety Protection Bill, farmers have been able to independently organize meetings and engage with their policy makers in regard to their concerns on the bill. For example, farmers in Nakaseke were able to engage with their area Member of Parliament in regard to the same. (http://mobile.monitor.co.ug/News/-/691252/1392540/-/format/xhtml/-/sf92hpz/-/index.html)
• Through the mass media activities (particularly the radio programmes) a number of stakeholders and the general public have been provided with a platform to further appreciate and contribute to key policy processes at the national level, particularly in regard to the National Climate Change Policy and the Draft PVP Bill. The radio programmes especially in the northern region have also continued to provide market information to the farmers and enhance their capacity in advocating for their rights. The programmes have also provided farmers with information in regard to seed selection and sustainable agricultural practices.
• SEATINI-U enhanced the capacity of Civil Society and policy makers particularly the Members of Parliament on issues of Intellectual Property especially in regard to the Plant Variety Protection Bill 2010. Several policy makers have applauded and recognized the institution for this.
• The land grabbing campaign achieved a lot of support from various stakeholders that had especially been affected by the land grabbing practice. The campaign stimulated national debates among various stakeholders including policy makers, religious leaders, academia, top government leaders and media among others. As a result of the various engagements with policy makers on the issues of land grabbing, a number of policy makers proposed to work with NGOs to develop a private members bill against land grabbing.
• Findings from the research conducted in the various districts have been used as a point of reference in various debates and media articles (www.independent.co.ug/coverstory/5726-museveni angry over ngo report on land grabbing). The findings were also used in developing a petition submitted to the Rt. Honorable Speaker of parliament.
• The land grabbing project faced one major challenge of negative interference by government during implementation of activities. Some of the CSOs in this campaign faced persecution from government bodies and this hindered the momentum of the campaign. Persecution was through threats of closure of key organizations in the campaign and hardships in accessing some of the intended beneficiaries of the campaign, especially at the time of the research.