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Let's step up efforts to safeguard dignity, justice for the vulnerable

Today, the world marks 74 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The theme for the celebrations, “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All”, espouses the values that are at the heart of human rights. As the world marks this important day, I am pleased that the UK-Kenya partnership on human rights is strong as ever.  

As co-leaders of the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence, our governments are committed to ending all forms of violence against women. Over the last year, through the Africa-led movement to End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), engagement with communities in Kenya has provided a safe space and platform for communities to speak about FGM and human rights violations. This is an important step towards changing behaviours on FGM at community level.

Recognising the challenge and prevalence of sexual and gender violence in previous elections, we partnered to train more than 1,000 police commanders on community-based best practice on election security, including on GBV prevention.

I am pleased to learn that, as a result, the recent elections saw a marked reduction in reports of human rights violations including zero deaths from police-civilian encounters according to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA).

The British Peace Support Team (BPST-A) training of more than 200 KDF Female Engagement Teams has enhanced the effectiveness of responses to sexual violence in the military. And following the recently concluded High Level Ministerial Conference on Preventing Sexual Violence in conflict situations held in London, the UK will partner with Kenya and survivors of sexual violence to implement mutually agreed outcomes of the conference.

Terror threats

The UK is working with parts of the Kenyan Police to build capacity in tackling the terrorist threats which our countries face, in line with international human rights standards. Our assistance is specifically designed to work with institutions from across the criminal justice sector to improve human rights standards and strengthen the rule of law in partner countries. 

Our other work has been through our REINVENT programme where we collaborate with civil society partners in Kwale and Kisumu to strengthen alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms within the communities they serve.

To resolve the disputes, our partners work with Court Users Committees to strengthen relations between the police and communities: I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of this close police/community collaboration and building of trust.

This approach has eased caseloads, freeing up time for Police Officers to focus on other matters whilst ensuring those aggrieved obtain appropriate remedies. A number of cases of women’s property rights have been successfully redressed, contributing to the reduction in cases of violence against women and girls.

Best practices and lessons on human rights compliance are best implemented if they can be shared widely. I am pleased that we supported the publication of Good Practices for Enhancing Access to Justice in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism launched by the Director of Public Prosecutions last month. This publication, which advocates for a human rights based approach to preventing and countering violent extremism, will serve as a point of reference for criminal justice agencies in the region.

In line with this year’s theme, the UK and Kenya have covered a lot of ground in protecting and promoting the dignity, justice and freedom for all. However, even as we celebrate our collective gains in marking the 74th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are aware of the fact that human rights is about expanding the scope of protection, promotion and fulfilment for all.

We live in a world where many people still continue to suffer indignities, injustices and denials of fundamental freedoms.