Implications of the NGO Act, 2016 on the Right to Freedom of Association in Uganda : a case study of Action Aid Uganda
MetadataShow full item record
NGOs are the most prevalent form of association in Uganda but their regulation has majorly been restrictive. NGOs ought to enjoy the right to freedom of association by operating in a regulatory environment that is subject only to limitations which conform to international standards. The NGO Act of 2016 and its regulations of 2017 have introduced limitations that further restrict enjoyment of this right. This study investigates the impact of the provisions of the NGO Act 2016 and its regulations of 2017 on the right to freedom of association in Uganda with focus on ActionAid Uganda, as a case study and explores the reforms required to establish a regulatory framework that upholds internationally accepted human rights principles. Previous research on NGO regulation in Uganda has primarily relied on the regime of the 1989 NGO Registration Act and thus has been unable to assess the specific implications of the NGO Act of 2016 which ushers in even more stringent regulations. The study investigates these issues within the universality of rights theories which stress that international human rights, in particular, the right to freedom of association, is and must be the same everywhere. On the whole, the study concludes that the limitations in the NGO Act 2016 and its regulations negate the very essence of the freedom to associate which should be enjoyed without requiring mandatory incorporation, a three-phase approval process, a tripartite annual reporting framework, and hefty blanket punishments for ambiguous offenses, inter alia. The study finds that the limitations placed on the enjoyment of this fundamental right are unjustified in a free and democratic country like ours and fall short of the international standards on the right to freedom of association. To this end, the study proposes a revision of the NGO Act and its regulations of 2017 to abolish mandatory incorporation before registration of NGOs, create guidelines to provide clarity for ambiguous provisions and adopt a single approval process in form of permits for NGOs which would all ensure that Government upholds its international and regional human rights commitments. It is hoped this study will inform the Government of Uganda, NGOs operating in Uganda and scholars with interest in the regulatory framework of NGOs in the country, thereby giving them the basis to step up the quality of regulation of NGOs.