The Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye has appealed for cooperation from local civil society players in the implementation of the Universal Peer Review (UPR) recommendations calling its participation ‘not one of the many but the only one’. He said this on Wednesday, May 19 during an interactive session organised by the Legal Aid Forum (LAF) to reflect on the recommendations received by Rwanda and to share ideas on best ways and strategies to monitor the implementation of the recommendations going forward. UPR is a mechanism under which the human rights situation of all 193 UN Member States is reviewed every four or five years. The reviews are conducted by the UPR Working Group which consists of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council. However, any UN Member State can take part in the discussion with the reviewed States. Each State review is assisted by groups of three States who serve as rapporteurs. This is the third time Rwanda has participated in the review process, having first made the trip to Geneva in 2011 and later in 2015. In January this year, Rwanda was reviewed for the third time and it received 284 recommendations from the council. Of these, the government accepted to implement 160 and took note of 75. Addressing the participants, Busingye said that working towards achievement of human rights ideals anywhere has never and been individual, instead, it is a host of collaborative efforts among different actors at all times and many stages. He reflected on the improvement of the relationship between the state and the civil society in the UPR process, saying that there has been an improvement from the past where most stakeholders used to adopt an individualistic and confrontational approach, choosing to work from underground and keeping the government in the dark about what they were doing. “We thought this was contrary to the intent of the UPR and we sought to redirect it. For the last five years or so, we have witnessed a different trend; more cooperation and less individualistic and confrontational tendencies among actors. Inclusivity, complementarily and a focus on Rwandans’ lives are other opportunities we now enjoy,” he said. Better together The UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda; Fodé Ndiaye commended the government for working with civil society to reflect on the overall UPR roadmap, design and how they can implement it together. He reminded that Rwanda was among the four countries globally and the two in Africa that pioneered the Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16) indicating that this approach of a coalition of both sides works. “I do believe that this is the most effective way because human rights are about people. It should be purpose-driven on how you build a cohesive and peaceful society as it was done for SDG 16. SDG16 emphasises the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provision of access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The Executive Director of LAF, Andrews Kananga said that the fact that government more recommendations this year is an indication of the government’s commitment to improving human rights and rule of law. He said that the coalition of 31 NGOs that he heads will continue to produce fact-based information and analysis and evaluate and monitor the implementation of the recommendations to ensure results. He reminded that since 2014, this coalition had been working with the government on the process of assessing the implementation of the UPR recommendations and has on the sidelines also prepared parallel reports for the UPR to be presented to the Human Rights Council. “Our work involves monitoring, assessing and reporting on how the recommendations are being implemented and we are glad that some of our recommendations are taken into account and we hope that this continues while working on the next set,” he said.