The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. It is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. The process allows local Civil Society Organisations to participate through, among others, participating in the national consultations held by the State under review and sending information on the human rights situation in their country.
The main objective of our training was therefore to build the capacity local Civil Society Organisations to engage in the UPR process for Madagascar. We are glad to report that over 10 local Civil Society Organisations involved in Human Rights work were in attendance. Besides, there were delegates from Kenya, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo. The training focused on five key thematic areas considered important for the consideration by the government of Madagascar for the UPR review in 2014. These included rights of Children, rights of Women, rights to Education, elections and electoral reforms, and State Agents and their role in Democracy.
The participants formed a coalition to implement and take forward all the planned activities. After a series of joint post-training reflections and discussions, the coalition has managed to produce an independent report which provides reliable and independent information about each of the above thematic areas. This report, called the ‘Shadow Report’, raises key issues and concerns that need the urgent attention of the Government of Madagascar, regarding each of the thematic areas. It was presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as part of the advocacy tool for the local CSOs. The participating CSOs are also using the report locally to engage the government and other Stakeholders on how each of the issues raised can be addressed, including sharing the report with local embassies and international organisations. Enclosed, please find the final copy of the report.
The training also offered a moment of reflection and renewal for a group of dynamic and young energetic Catholic professionals, known as Madagascar Catholic Movement for Intellectuals and Cultural Affairs (MaCMICA). MaCMICA, the national federation of Pax Romana ICMICA in Madagascar, is mainly composed of young Catholic professionals, some already in their professional life while others have just completed their education and are transiting to the labour market. The main objectives of this group are to: a) Promote the participation of the Lay people in the Church by encouraging theological reflections among Catholic professionals as well as working closely with the local Church hierarchy so as to understand the Church’s concerns and priorities. b) Reflect and engage with respective stakeholders (those in and out of political positions) about social, economic and political challenges facing Madagascar. c) Facilitate and encourage the growth of other Christian Movements such as M.I.E.C. (Mouvement International des Etudiants Catholiques) and J.E.C. (Jeunesse Etudiante Catholique).
During our mission in Madagascar, we learnt a number of lessons about the country. First, Madagascar, by its strategic location, is a country with enormous potential. World Bank estimates show that when it was not in crisis, Madagascar grew at an average 5 percent annually. But overall economic growth has been flat over the period 2009-13. Second, the Malagasy people are a diverse yet friendly, cohesive and social community, knit together by what seems to be an invisible Malagasy tradition. Third, the recent successful general elections and subsequent leadership transition is a strong indication that the country is on the right path to establishing strong democratic institutions. However, we also noticed that Madagascar still faces numerous challenges, to mention a few: A large proportion of Malagasy people can still considered as poor, living in deplorable conditions with no capabilities to improve their own lives. A good proportion of children are out of school and for those who are in school, there is potential to improve the quality of education offered to them. Similarly, not all those who fall sick can find health service. The country still faces longstanding governance problems, despite success elections and there is room to strengthen institutions responsible for elections, security, public resource oversight, public service delivery, among others.
As movement of Catholic Professionals, MaCMICA can be a critical contributor to ideas on how to deal with some of these pressing challenges facing the country. This group of young talented Catholic professionals can be the source of the urgently needed leaders in the economic and social spheres of Madagascar. As a movement, MaCMICA can be a ‘fertile piece of land in which good leadership can grow and be nurtured’. In order to do this, the group needs to be supported and accompanied. They also need a champion within the Church and more especially a person who can be the link between them and the local Bishops. So far, they have planned a series of activities including monthly interactive public forums, in and out of Antananarivo, to reflect on the key issues of national interest, some coming out of the Shadow report; participating in the activities of the UPR coalition.
Letter is in attached file