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Remarks by Hassan Shire at reception of Australian Ambassador to mark launch of Human Rights Grant

Honourable guest His Excellency Geoff Tooth, partners, friends, colleagues, and members of the media,

I want to extend my warm welcome to this small but important gathering as we mark the beginning of a friendship and fruitful cooperation between the Australian Government, the Australian Agency for International Development, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, and Protection Desk Uganda. Through this partnership we will be able to achieve outcomes in line with the human rights ideals and goodwill of the Australian people and their government.

From our offices in Kampala, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and Protection Desk Uganda work in a dynamic and fast-changing region, full of both promise and peril. Civil society is surely one of the most dynamic forces in the countries of this sub-region and a significant expression of people’s demand for democracy and human rights. Oftentimes, it is the unwavering persistence of civil society in demanding their rights which also exposes them to the danger of reprisals by those who would abuse their positions of authority.

The support of the Human Rights Grants Scheme of the Australian Government allows us to build on the comparative expertise of EHAHRDP, PDU, as well as our partners at Protection International, to improve the ability of human rights defenders to work both effectively as well as safely.

In Uganda through the work of PD-U, human rights defenders will benefit from a comprehensive capacity building approach towards security management that strengthens their ability to make security-conscious decisions as individuals and organisations and manage the risks related to their human rights work. PD-U will also work with defenders who are at immediate risk to help undertake a risk assessment that will inform short and mid-term measures to reduce imminent dangers.

We are particularly proud that with this support we will be able to expand our engagement in the newly independent country of South Sudan. Members of the growing human rights sector of their civil society will be trained in how to access and best utilize international and regional human rights mechanisms such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Universal Periodic Review. Our experience strongly shows the value of such engagement in the way it promotes both the advocacy goals, capacity, and connectedness of the participating organizations, as well as boosting the effectiveness and value of the mechanisms themselves.

As we gather here today, Your Excellency, I invite you to meet our partners and guests, human rights defenders who represent the essence of our work – effective activists continuing work in safety while using the tools at their disposal to reach their objectives.

Your Excellency, I thank you for visiting us today, we thank you for standing in for the Australian people by delivering this support today, and we sincerely look forward to the cooperation this partnership engenders for the future.