Uganda National NGO Forum was launched in 1997 following two years of concerted work to develop the operational structure, a Constitution and membership recruitment program. Many NGOs had realised the need to engage Government and the donor community on policy issues and poverty concerns. Also, Government found it increasingly important to involve Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the design and implementation of policies and programmes. The idea to form UNNGOF was to establish an organization that would wholly represent CSOs while bringing together National NGOs, International NGOs, CBOs, Voluntary Development Organizations (VDOs), and Farmers’ Groups, Cooperative Associations and other Citizens’ Organizations and interest groups from all thematic areas. UNNGOF is a membership organisation with 628 member NGOs these include International NGOs; National NGOs; District Networks; District NGOs; Faith Based Organisations; and National Networks.
Our main objective is: To provide a sharing and reflection platform for Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) to influence governance and development processes in Uganda and enhance their operating environment.
a) A strong and well coordinated civil society sector with information and capacity to effectively engage in and contribute to development processes.
b) Citizens with a greater awareness of their own situation, mobilised, informed and actively participating in policy, governance and development processes.
c) Civic space and CSO operating environment influenced positively at the local and global level and influencing citizen engagement in governance processes.
d) Citizen responsive government policy and practice alternatives generated through evidence building and advocacy at all levels.
e) A dynamic UNNGOF identity and presence built in Uganda and across East Africa and globally through our results, learning and communication as well imaginative knowledge brokering.
f) Cost-efficient support to the secretariat that fosters an institutional culture of optimal resource use that better enables UNNGOF to accomplish its objectives.
Coordinating Civil Society Policy Advocacy
We focus on effectively coordinating NGOs engagement on multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral policy processes. Some of these involve; monitoring of the National Development Plan, National Level Budget Analysis. We also enhance CSO engagement in Aid and Development Effectiveness Agenda at global, regional and local levels. We ensure citizen awareness and participation in the East Africa Community Integration process and have their voices heard.
Furthermore, we work with our members and constituency through platforms, to develop and promote positions and policy alternatives that reflect the diversity and perspectives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), such as CSO Accountability Platform. The accountability platform has the objective to strengthen and coordinate accountability work undertaking among CSOs. We also have the CSO-Parliament Platform that coordinates relations between Civil Society and Parliament. The Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) is another platform that advocates for local and national pro-poor budgets. The CSO Aid and Development Effectiveness Platform provides space for CSOs to meaningfully and collectively contribute to the Aid Effectiveness agenda at local, regional and global levels.This work has anchored UNNGOF in the policy arena in Uganda. This is evident from UNNGOF’s representational role on major policy committees in the Office of the Prime Minister, National Planning Authority and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development.
Supporting the work of Sub-National Civil Society
UNNGOF has offered leadership to civil Society at the sub-national level through the collective organizing around civil society issues of a cross cutting nature. We have been instrumental in bringing together civil society under campaigns like Black Monday and the development of the National Development Plan as well as linking civil society to national policy agenda. The sub-national level today boasts of several organisations that are seen as strong Civil society leaders in their regions with most of them linked to the investment and partnership that UNNGOF has developed through the support to Advocacy Networks infrastructure as well as the work we have continued to spearhead under the Citizen Manifesto.
Civic engagement on Civic Space
UNNGOF has been a proactive convener and interlocutor in many processes that bring together Civil Society and decision makers at various levels. At the local level , the citizen manifesto has provided such a space for citizen-leader interactions. At the national level we have been instrumental in convening meetings between the Minister of Internal affairs and civil society leaders on several topical issues. These processes have created avenues for building confidence among civil society and government and political leaders on matters of mutual interest.
Since 2002, Uganda’s economy has grown by at least 6% annually, while GDP per capita has trebled in real terms since 19901. Poverty reduced from 56.4 % in 1992 to 19.7 % in 2014. However, inequality of opportunity and vulnerability are still challenges to Uganda’s development. The number of people living at less than twice the poverty line has risen. Of the households that escaped poverty between 2005 and 2009 around 40% were again living in poverty by 2011. Income inequality has also increased significantly since the 1990. Uganda has seen growth with exclusion, where relatively few people have benefited from economic gains.
Leave No One means that every individual in Uganda regardless of income levels, gender, age, geographically location, social or economic identify should be able to access all the opportunities that are stipulated in the SDGs. This means that all categories of people in Uganda will be free from poverty in all its form, equal access to food, shelter, health services, education, employment opportunities for all, clean water, dignity and empowerment for women and the girl child, equal pay for work done, clean environment for all, equal land rights among women and men, greater equity in taxation, full participation and engagement in decision making processes among others.
Women and the girls
The predominance of the system of patriarchy in Uganda has meant that women are still perceived of and treated as subordinate to men. Consequently, women are more marginalized than men in terms of economic opportunities, participation in political and public life; lack of access to education and poor retention of girls in schools; limited access to health services and gender-based violence as described below.
Limited access to health and education service
The state of maternal health is in dismal with 16 women dying daily due to pregnancy related complications. The country’s health facilities are often too far away and the women lack adequate transport. These facilities are also ill-equipped and in some incidences the expectant mothers cannot get specialized care. As a result mothers continue to make use of Traditional Birth Attendants and this has contributed to the high levels of maternal deaths.
Poverty plays a significant role in the education gender gap. Girls from the poorest households experience greater disparities in terms of access to education, compared to those from richer households. An analysis of enrollment and completion statistics from the Ministry of Education indicate that overall drop-out rates could be at 71% with a large number of girls dropping out compared to boys. In 2006, the primary school completion rate for boys at 53% was 10% higher than that of girls This has been attributed to forced early marriages for economic gains, early pregnancy, lack of gender sensitive facilities such as separate washrooms for girls and lack of sanitary towels and Female Genital Mutilation among others.
Limited Economic Opportunities
Findings from the 2015 School to Work Transition Survey (SWTS) conducted by Uganda Bureau of Statistics and ILO reveal that young women (15-29 years) are faced with a number of disadvantageous gaps in the labour market: higher unemployment rates. Women continue to be segregated into particular types of occupations, often with inferior pay and poor working conditions.
Most women in Uganda are employed in the agricultural sector, however they only own 7% of the land and returns from their labour remain low. Further women lack of financial inclusion hence they cannot engage in income generating activities. The high burden of unpaid care work is also a determinant for women and girls.
Low participation of women in leadership and decision making
The participation of women in leadership and decision making in Uganda is still low due to the social, economic and cultural construction of the Ugandan society. Comprising of 51% of the population, women continue to be under-represented in politics and development arenas. Currently 35% of the seats in parliament are held by women, despite the gains some glaring gaps still exist. For example out of the 31 senior ministers, only 10 (33%) are women, only 3 women District chairpersons out of 117 and also only 19 LCIII women chairpersons.
The 2016 Ugandan Demographic Health Survey shows that 56 per cent of women age 15 to 29 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and 28 per cent of women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. That means that more than half of Ugandan women – mother, wives, sisters, and daughters – do not feel safe because they have been abused at home, at school, or at work. In some societies violence against women is accepted as the cultural norm and is often condoned by community and sometimes state leaders. Further often if women do report violence against them, they are either turned away because the authorities see violence against women as a matter to be dealt with privately or within the family. In some instances women struggle to access justice in a criminal justice system that is not informed by or sensitive to the needs of women.
Since 2011, Uganda has implemented a universal old age pension – known as the Senior Citizens’ Grant (SCG) for everyone over 65 years of age – and 60 years in the Karamoja region across 15 of the country’s 112 district. In 2016, there were around 125,000 people receiving the Senior Citizens’ Grant (SCG), 65% of whom are women. The transfer is currently set at UGX 25,000 (US$7.50) per month and is paid every two months. Nevertheless, the older persons in Uganda continue to live in deplorable situations with high levels of vulnerabilities-poverty, housing challenges, food insecurity and lack of specialized medical care among others.
People with Disabilities
Over the years, the government of Uganda has put in place a number of policies and legislations to combat discriminations against people with disabilities. However, their implementation has remained a challenge and this falls short of the Leave No One principle espoused in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Currently, physical accessibility for persons with disabilities is lacking, failure to protect children with disabilities, limited access to information, inaccessible transport system, violation of right to life, and access to justice. This is coupled with inaccessible social amenities such as water, food, electricity, medicines and shelter. This is coordinated by National Union of Persons with Disability (NUDIPU).
Uganda has had impressive economic performance over the last 2 decades with a Steady GDP growth at 7% on average. Poverty reduced from 56.4 % in 1992 to 19.7 % in 2014. However, inequality of opportunity and vulnerability are still challenges to Uganda’s development. The number of people living at less than twice the poverty line has risen. Of the households that escaped poverty between 2005 and 2009 around 40% were again living in poverty by 20111.This situation has increased the need for social protection in Uganda.
Social Protection in Uganda is a government priority and is grounded within the national legal and policy framework. It is now widely acknowledged as imperative in addressing structurally generated poverty, post conflict uncertainties and deeply entrenched social exclusion. The government formalized a framework for integrated social protection in the Uganda National Social Protection Policy (UNSPP) that will help expand the coverage of direct income support to vulnerable individuals. In the need to establish a coherent policy and fiscal framework for wider social protection in Uganda, the government launched the Expanding Social Protection Programme in 2010. The Uganda Vision 2040 and the NDP II underscore the importance of Social protection to address risks and vulnerabilities and as key strategy for transforming Uganda to a prosperous society.
Various Social protection interventions are implemented by government across the country today including the Public Service Pension scheme, National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Senior citizens Grant, Public Works Programme (PWPs) and Social Care and Support Services. Yet, access to formal social security is extremely limited e.g. only 5% of working population are covered by formal pension scheme and only 4.5% receive some form of direct income support. NSSF: 400,000 members; Senior Citizens Grant: 125,000 beneficiaries and Public works: 500,000 beneficiaries per year.Lastly, the implementation of the social protection interventions is by different agencies which has resulted into fragmentation, duplication limited budget allocations.
Tax Justice in Uganda
In Uganda the current taxation system that government applies is enshrined in the Constitution [Article 152 (i)] which states that “no tax shall be imposed, except under the Authority of an Act of parliament”. The constitution makes taxation an exception, except under an Act of Parliament meaning that in the absence of a tax law, citizens are free from taxation. This explains the options or opportunities for tax exemptions in certain circumstances. However Government undertook a number of tax policy reforms in the areas of Double Taxation Agreements, Tax avoidance and tax evasion and incentives to increase revenue and limit illicit financial flows. In order to strengthen the capacity of the revenue authority, Uganda joined the Africa Tax Administrators Forum (ATAF).
Uganda’s tax system is generally classified by tax experts, scholars and civil society actors as regressive where indirect taxes like Value Added Tax (VAT) negatively impact on poor people and is among the prime tax instruments. This is also aggravated by the fact that the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) the central body for collecting taxes in Uganda lacks sufficient resources and human capacity to implement effective tax policy that would ensure that the country meets its revenue targets and needs.
However setting up an efficient and fair tax system in Uganda is still difficult because the wealthy, socially and politically influential individuals have a tendency of evading and avoiding taxes while the less advantaged of society bear a greater burden of tax. The government of Uganda provides a wide range of tax incentives to businesses to attract greater levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. These tax incentives lead to very large revenue losses. Among Civil Society, Tax Justice is coordinated by SEATINI and Action Aid that are part of the Tax Justice Alliance.
Democracy and participation of women and marginalized people in Uganda
The participation of women in leadership and decision making in Uganda is still low due to the social, economic and cultural construction of the Ugandan society. Women face challenges such as; religious and cultural obstacles to their participation, less access to resources, gender roles which prevent them from participation in politics, domestic violence among others.
Comprising of 51% of the population, women continue to be under-represented in politics and development arenas. Currently, 35% of the seats in parliament are held by women, despite the gains some glaring gaps still exist. For example out of the 31 senior ministers, only 10 (33%) are women, only 3 women District chairpersons out of 117 and also only 19 LCIII women chairpersons. The high burden of unpaid care work on women and girls violates their basic human rights to education, political participation and decent work.
Uganda is undergoing a critical transition with regard to inclusion of socially disadvantaged groups in national and local development processes. At national level, we have the Uganda National Gender Policy, National Gender Action Plan, Decentralization Act which is guided by the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy outlined in the 1995 Ugandan Constitution and affirmative action. All these national conventions and legislations, policies and plans are key in the promotion and protection in the rights of women particularly increasing effective leadership and participation in the democratic governance.
The local government legal framework is also very clear on this inclusion. Membership of local government councils is deliberately engineered to ensure representation of previously marginalized groups. For example, women now constitute at least 30% of every local government council; each council must also have two representatives of youth, one of whom must be female, and two representatives of the disabled, one of whom must also be female. In addition, each district has a woman representative in the national parliament. Only when women have full access to decision making positions will laws, policies, and budgets reflect the needs of all citizens and support women’s rights.
GCAP Uganda is part of the 2030 Agenda CSO Reference Group is an inclusive platform that aims to connect civil society across the country on SDGs. It brings together over 80 CSO members at national and local level-women, youth, PWDs, faith organizations and cultural institutions. Organizations which represent excluded people in the group are; Uganda Gender Consortium hosted by Forum for Women in Democracy, National Union of People with Disabilities, Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, Uganda Women’s Network, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Forum, Uganda Youth Network, Youth Equality Centre, National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDs in Uganda, Food Rights Alliance, Uganda Land Alliance, Minority Rights Group, HelpAge International, Reproductive Health Uganda, Open Space Centre, TEENS Uganda, Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, Uganda National Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Alliance, Consumer Education Trust, Uganda Water and Sanitation Network among others.
Activities on SDGs
‘Tondeka Mabega’ is a local slogan that means do not leave me behind. The slogan is one that citizens easily associate with given the existing social, economic, regional and political divides. The campaign aimed to amplify voices (stories, testimonies, proposals and demands) of the marginalized groups and demand a fundamental shift to end inequality and poverty which perpetuate human suffering. The categories that we targeted include; girl child, women, People with disabilities, youth and older persons.
In a bid to provide a critical and grass roots perspective on SDG implementation over the last two years, Uganda National NGO Forum under the auspices of the 2030 Agenda CSO Reference Group coordinated the production of the 1st CSO-SDG shadow report as a contribution to the national review process. The report titled “Uganda Civil Society Report on the Implementation of SDGs 2017” highlights the escalating levels of inequality, high prevalence of HIV, high debt burden, increasing gender inequality that might deter the achievement of goals 1, 3, 5, and 7. It makes policy recommendations to government, private sector that if not adequately implemented the expected development outcomes will not be realized. The report benefitted from submissions from OXFAM, Reproductive Health Uganda and the Uganda Gender Consortium on SDGs. The CSO-SDG report has been used as an advocacy tool to engage with specific goals monitored and also inform the national SDG report that is being developed by the Office of the Prime Minister. The report was launched on 22nd November 2017 with 100 participants including representatives from Office of the Prime Minister and National Planning Authority.
Uganda National NGO Forum under the 2030 Agenda CSO Core Reference Group developed a CSO position paper was presented at the High Level Political Forum. The paper shows progress on Uganda’s implementation of SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15, challenges and recommendations.
On behalf of Civil Society Organizations under the 2030 Agenda Reference Group currently hosted by Uganda National NGO Forum, this statement is a rejoinder to the Review Report on Uganda’s Readiness for Implementation of 2030 Agenda. Civil Society Organizations in Uganda welcome the efforts of the global development community and the Uganda Government in providing leadership to the implementation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Other activities include:
- Awareness building on SDGs through information sharing, campaigns such as the Tondeka Mabega and learning events.
- Participatory monitoring of SDGs
- Producing annual CSO shadow reports
- Participation in the National SDG Task force, Policy Coordination committee, Communication and Advocacy Technical working group where we share CSO perspectives on the implementation of SDGs.
- Popularization and domestication of the SDGs through translating them into local languages.
- Women and girls
- Access to health and education services
- Access to Economic Opportunities
- Gender-based Violence
- The Elderly
- People with Disabilities
- Social Protection
- Tax Justice
- Democracy and participation of women and marginalized people in Uganda