How can CSOs apply HRBA in practice? Experience of “Tamarysk” Centre for Civic Initiatives

A story by Tetyana Karel'ska, civic activists from Dnipro CSO regional hub, on why the human rights based approach can be practically applied in the organisations' work.

13492314 1199689430089889 7678394517639206815 nComprehensive development of local territorial communities is one of the main activity areas of "Tamarysk" Centre for supporting civic and cultural initiatives. This development is possible only if active citizens get engaged in making decisions affecting their lives. Their right to take part in the administration of state affairs is defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, the human rights-based approach is treated seriously in the everyday activities of the Centre.

Tetyana and her colleagues are very active in Dnipropetrovsk region. During 2 years of core support from UNDP, the "Tamarysk" centre has really become a knowledge hub for smaller civil society organisations. After two trainings on HRBA conducted by the project for the hubs network in 2016, "Tamarysk" decided to look at their work from the HRBA perspective.

They chose the city of Pidhorodne to be their pilot community because of many reasons: the graduates of their training programmes live and work there; several new community associations were set up with their experts' support; the citizens are quite active, but their relationships with the authorities are quite harsh.

13103502 1001470886554939 2038369297212196215 nThus, their work in the pilot community of Pidhorodne started with the situation analysis – they identified problems to be solved, their root causes and implications, and the parties concerned.

The first problem to solve was the violation of the right of the community members to participate in the public administration. People thought that the activities of local authorities were not transparent, public opinion wasn't taken into consideration, and the civic engagement rate was quite low, thus, creating grounds for the corruption.

So, the civic activists identified the local self-government authorities and executive bodies as duty bearers, and the members of local community and civil society organizations as the rights-holders. Jointly with the local citizens, they explored what is necessary for the right holders and duty bearers to improve their cooperation. It was found out that the respective local legal framework for citizens' engagement in the decision-making had to be put in place.

28067627142 6b31291b8e orttty76878Turning the plans into reality was another challenge. Tamarysk Centre experts drafted the following normative documents for the Executive Committee of Pidhorodne City Council:

• Procedure of facilitating civic expert assessment of the activities of Pidhorodne City Council and Executive Committee;
• Regulation on the Civic Council of the Executive Committee of Pidhorodne City Council;
• Procedure of carrying out consultations with Pidhorodne community;
• Municipal target programme and Regulation on participatory budgeting in Pidhorodne City Council for 2016-2020.

All these drafts were uploaded to the information portal for their further consideration and public dialogue.

"We worked hard to apply the main principles of human rights-based approach, which are participation, transparency, accountability, democratic governance, equality and non-discrimination. We are confident that if we request the authorities to adhere to them, we have to apply them, too. It helps us to get stronger as an organization, gain public trust and engage more people. Our partner NGOs, civil society activists, members of the City Council, officials of the executive office and active citizens have engaged into the project," Tetyana Karelska says.

Kherson-Forum-1Additionally, an awareness raising campaign was held vis-à-vis local community highlighting the importance of civic control over the activities of local authorities, as well as a public discussion of the draft instruments, negotiations with all parties concerned, a round table, and a number of meetings of the civil society representatives with City Council members.

The joint work brought its first results in March 2016 when the City Council of Pidhorodne approved the Procedure of facilitating civic expert assessment of its activities. Later, in October, the City Council adopted the Regulation on participatory budgeting in the city and a respective Municipal target programme for 2016-2020 launching the innovative mechanism of engaging the community members to the city budgeting. Starting from 2017, UAH 500,000 will be allocated annually for the projects initiated by local community through participatory budgeting.

A lot is yet to be done; however, the first results proved that applying the HRBA was really beneficial for building trust between the civil society and the authorities. The officials who were reluctant to citizens' participation before are changing now; they are getting used to working together with the local activists. Also, the citizens became better aware with the agenda items considered at the City Council sessions.

Measures to promote active civic participation of Pidhorodne residents are still underway. The right to take part in public administration gradually becomes a reality for the community members.