The UPR moves the lines in Togo
On 22 and 23 June 2017, UPR Info co-organised a National Dialogue in Togo between the State of Togo and their CSOs, the first ever in the country.
The National dialogue was the culmination of a cooperative project bringing together many actors for nine months. It began in October 2016, with the pre-session on Togo organised in Geneva by UPR Info, and then in December 2016 with a workshop for CSOs co-organised by several CSOs in Lomé. The Government of Togo shared its decision in March 2017 with regard to the UPR recommendations received, paving the way for a discussion with Togolese CSOs.
The June event took place over two days. On the first day, a preparatory meeting was organised for CSOs to take stock of the December 2016 CSO workshop and finalise the recommendations to be presented to the government. It also saw an informative meeting for government representatives, which included training sessions on the UPR for representatives of the ministries in charge of implementing the recommendations. Various sessions have allowed the participants comprised of State's representatives to be better acquainted with the UPR mechanism. Subsequently on 23 June, the national dialogue between the government and the CSOs took place under proper conditions, with all actors involved.
The organisation of the workshop proved more difficult than expected. Togolese CSOs had difficulties trusting the government, and dissonant and counterproductive voices were heard. Nevertheless, the presentations provided to the government were of high quality. The government was also reluctant to engage into a bilateral dialogue with CSOs; however their representatives fully debated with CSOs.
The ball is now in the court of the "Sécretariat pour les droits de l'homme", which coordinates the UPR activities in the country. However, the role of civil society, which has been working since December 2016 in a new wide CSO network, will play a key role in ensuring that the governement goes from words to deeds. CSOs have shown that they can do more than traditional watchdog work by bringing their experience and skills to implementation of UPR recommendations.
The UPR, in Togo as elsewhere, offers Togolese actors a large number of new opportunities for strengthening the national system of protection and promotion of human rights. If this would lead to the creation of a national reporting and monitoring mechanism, the drafting of a collaborative and inclusive implementation plan, and regular exchanges between CSOs and the government, the UPR would prove once again to be one of the best incentives at the national level for human rights promotion and protection. The solidity of human rights is built over the long term, using systems rather than individuals, and we are now hopeful that the UPR will have a beneficial impact in Togo.