GABORONE, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Botswana's development partner, has pledged support for the country's human rights promotion and protection, a senior government official said Wednesday.
Nonofo Molefhi, Botswana's minister of presidential affairs, governance and public administration, made the remarks in his opening speech during the two-day Symposium on National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for Botswana in Gaborone, Botswana's capital city.
"This symposium comes at an opportune time when we have made strides as a country, in moving towards the transformation of the Office of the Ombudsman of Botswana into a hybrid institution dealing with human rights promotion and protection," he said.
In 2014, Botswana made a commitment to expand the mandate of the Ombudsman to incorporate a human rights mandate following Botswana government's acceptance of recommendations made during the second cycle review under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva of Switzerland in 2013.
One of the recommendations was for Botswana to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. The same recommendation was repeated at the third cycle UPR in January 2018.
The Paris Principles refer to certain broad principles to which an institution is subjected, for purposes of accreditation through the UNHRC mechanisms which include a broad mandate based on universal human rights standards, autonomy from government, independence guaranteed by legislation or constitution.
The human rights institution should guarantee pluralism including through membership and effective cooperation, adequate resources and adequate powers of investigation.
"To this end, Government of Botswana and the UNDP have signed a 4 year program to support the fulfillment of human rights, access to justice and empowerment of youth and women projects, which will provide support for the expansion of the Ombudsman's mandate," he said.
This initiative will result in, among others, the amendment of the Ombudsman Act, according to Molefhi.
Jacinta Barrins, the UNDP resident coordinator in Botswana, said the global body is assisting the southern African country with the much-needed funding to research on human rights issues and the general setting up of the institution.
Barrins said some Batswana (citizens of Botswana) are currently undergoing intense training sessions in Geneva.