Cultural rights, governance and managing diversity

Cultural diversity is seen at CCFU as a driving force of development, not only for economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. If cultural diversity is an indispensable asset for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development, this however requires acceptance, recognition and protection.
While declining cultural heritage resources are rarely presented as a humanitarian issue, we are convinced that immediate action is necessary to protect our vanishing cultural heritage as a means to strengthen the observance of Ugandans’ cultural rights. Thus, one of CCFU’s main programme areas focuses on enhancing an appreciation and promotion of cultural rights.
The programme has three inter-connected and mutually re-enforcing objectives:

1. Generating knowledge and supporting initiatives for peaceful co-existence
From 2009 to 2014, CCFU played a coordinating role for the “Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme” (PPKP), an international project bringing together several organisations, initiated by the Kosmopolis Institute and the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries in the Netherlands. This initiative was triggered by concerned civil society organisations in the South that signaled increasing forms of intolerance manifested in religion, ethnic affiliation, nationalism, social class, gender and other identities. Working with five universities and eight National and regional NGO networks, the PKP in Uganda provided a missing but much needed platform for the public to engage in conversations that address our differences and builds an equitable society. For more information, see these resources.
In addition, CCFU works to promote inter-cultural dialogue “on the ground” – as exemplified by its activities in the Rwenzori region

2. Development of cultural heritage through support to community-based plans and micro-projects in three selected districts
This intervention focuses on assisting local government or traditional institutions in selected districts to mobilise their respective communities to conserve tangible or intangible cultural heritage in their vicinity (for instance a sacred forest, literature, oral history, monuments). Stakeholders in these districts are facilitated to identify cultural heritage resources in selected areas and design and to implement heritage development plans which involve Community Development and Tourism Officers, Environmental Officers and traditional institutions, including capacity building, where appropriate.

3. Protection of cultural rights
Few Ugandans are conversant with cultural rights, yet these are as important as any others and they are provided for under national and international law. We must indeed express to policy makers the need for policy change to place cultural rights much higher on the national agenda than is currently the case. Accordingly, CCFU is promoting a better understanding of cultural rights in Uganda through publications and exposure events and, in collaboration with a range of other organisations and cultural heritage activists has spearheaded a coalition to lobby relevant key policy makers and government to make the necessary changes.
The cultural rights of ethnic minorities are especially at risk and require urgent attention (in terms of status, access to one’s language and cultural heritage, political representation and access to cultural sites). Further, ethnic minorities are often at risk of seeing their culture assimilated by more numerous neighbouring groups. CCFU therefore works with minorities to develop status reports and engage district authorities on their cultural rights. The Foundation is also active in promoting languages, advocacy platforms and cultural resource centres and Community Museums as sustainable enterprises.

In 2017, CCFU started a programme aimed at enhancing women empowerment using culturally defined rights.

4. Working with Cultural Institutions
Uganda’s law currently defines cultural institutions as “cultural” entities, barred from engaging in political activities. Yet, our cultural leaders, because of their influence and legitimacy, engage in work that shapes the communities that identify with them. When addressing issues of Culture and Governance, CCFU therefore sees cultural leaders as essential partners.
The Foundation is working with cultural leaders at both strategic and practical levels. With regard to the former, CCFU has worked with the leaders of cultural institutions and with the secretariat of the Kings’ and Cultural Leaders’ Forum to develop a statement as part of the Citizens’ Manifesto process in the 2016 elections. Previously, clan leaders have been helped to develop their charters. At a more practical level, relevant cultural institutions have been assisted to develop guidelines with regard to oil and gas companies’ activities and to develop specific projects to address environmental and cultural issues in the oil producing and prospecting region.