|Overview : |
UNDP – Malawi is supporting the Malawi Human Rights Commission (the Commission) in strengthening human rights complaints management. It is in this context that UNDP-Malawi seeks services of a HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT to develop complaints handling system for the Commission. The Malawi Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for Malawi established by the Constitution of Malawi. The primary function of the Commission is the promotion and protection of human rights accorded by the Constitution or any other law. The Commission started its operations in 1999 following the enactment of the enabling legislation, the Human Rights Commission Act (HRCA) in 1998 and appointment of the first cohort of commissioners in 1999. At the foundation stage, the Commission was organised based on its functions, including investigations of violations of human rights. However, in 2009, the Commission decided to focus on thematic issues and as such, its operational structure was reorganised to include the directorates of Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Child Rights, Gender and Women Rights and Disability and Elderly Persons. These directorates perform protection and promotion functions as stated above. Investigations of the violations of rights are however undertaken as part of the broader functions of the thematic areas and as such have often not received adequate attention.
Following performance of multiple tasks requiring diverse skills by technical directorates, it has been evident that, over time, the Commission has lacked the competency to effectively handle complaints. This inadequacy has manifested in inordinate delays in the conclusion of investigations and; inadequate ratio of concluded and resolved cases and complaints of human rights violations. While other financial factors account for these manifestations, the accumulation of the backlog mainly stems from weak complaint handling systems and procedures which occasion the delays and also inefficiencies; inadequate technical skills relevant for complaint handling. Additionally, the manual complaint handling systems and procedures do not adequately provide for case reminder and tracking system. These deficiencies account for the bulk of cases that remain unattended. It must be noted that owing to the aforementioned challenges, the Commission has accumulated more than 1000 cases. Some of these cases were received more than 17 years ago. It is not known whether complainants for these cases still exist or not or the issues remain unresolved or not. But it is noteworthy that such inordinate delays erode people’s confidence in the work of the Commission on protection of human rights. In addition, as the Commission is not able to adequately follow the process of complaint handling, it has become difficult (or almost impossible) for the Commission to detect the major importers of complaints of human rights violations by locality and also generation of human rights. But disaggregated data on the type of complaints the Commission receives is necessary to inform strategy selection.
It must also be noted that existing systems and procedures for complaints handling at the Commission were developed in early 2000 and partially reviewed in 2007. Over time, most officers and members of the Commission that have received training in complaints handling have since left the institution.