How a Powerful United Coalition of More Than 40 Groups Brought Community Issues to the Center of Kenya’s Periodic Review

Interview with Collins Liko, former staff member of Hakijamii, Kenya


1. Describe your experience and current work in parallel reporting.

In 2016, Hakijamii helped to convene and coordinate a large group of organizations to draft the first civil society parallel report to the Committee on ESCR. We started with a training to ensure that all CSOs understood how the UN mechanisms work, introducing the different covenants and committees. We included organizations working at both the national and the community level, and ultimately organized them into teams focused on different rights – housing, water and sanitation, labor, land, etc. We used templates provided by the Committee for reporting. We discussed which data we would use, deciding to use primarily government data, which allowed us to challenge some of the government’s own claims. We held frequent meetings to maintain coordination; meeting three to four times just to revise drafts as cluster leads. Once we had a report, we worked with a partner (and fellow ESCR-Net member) in India, the Program on Women’s ESCR, which had observer status and had done a training in Kenya, in order to register Kenyan groups. For Geneva, we printed hard copies of the report to disseminate, and we submitted soft copies in advance to the Committee on ESCR. Three to four hours before the formal review of Kenya, during which CSOs are not allowed to participate, we held a side event in Geneva, with a representative from each cluster speaking and sharing key points with Committee members. By the time the government met with them, the Committee was asking very tough and targeted questions.

2. Please, share with us one or two successful experiences in parallel reporting.

Our collective work was particularly effective; it was great to see organizations passionately presenting issues, with immense commitment to communities, and connecting their respective advocacy agendas. Communities were engaged, which strengthened our demands and focused our advocacy; we were able to utilize community-generated case studies to complement government data. The unity of purpose was excellent, partly because we involved all partners from conceptualization forward, which created collective ownership from the outset.

3. How was the parallel reporting process useful to your work and what did it allow you to do or achieve? What were some limitations or challenges?

Seventy percent of the Committee’s concluding observations were directly informed by our report, and our government in turn accepted all recommendations. In the process, over 40 civil society organizations gained expertise and experience in engaging with the UN and reporting, as well as learning how these international processes interact with our national institutions.

After celebrating these strong recommendations, we had to decide how to use them. We worked with the Center for Economic and Social Rights, another ESCR-Net Member, to establish training and tools to support the coalition. This helped us to develop advocacy strategies by mapping key actors, which, for instance, led to a focus on Attorney General. We also used CESR’s OPERA framework as a model for monitoring progress and articulating specific goals.

4. How have you worked/been working towards the implementation of the concluding observations?

In terms of the concluding observations, we had to come together to determine a strategy and to collaborate in the push for implementation. This led to new partnerships for implementation. Collectively, we also developed a matrix of who was going to monitor what, in conversation with the Kenyan Human Rights Institute and the Attorney General’s Office. We also linked to the upcoming UPR process to maintain some pressure, and we developed a mid-term review report from CESCR. As a result of our coalition of organizations and ongoing monitoring, we are now able to put together parallel or follow-up reports relatively quickly.

5. What suggestions would you give to other members who are considering engaging with treaty bodies? [Share key lessons learned in parallel reporting].

The Committee is more open and responsive to collective versus individual reports; a collective report reinforces the legitimacy of its findings. In working on a collective report, it is important to build consensus, making sure that partners have adequate knowledge of UN processes and that the process of building the report is inclusive. In our case, we found it effective to focus on building an alternative analysis, driven by communities but using government data to counter government claims. Community- versus desktop-generated issues are key, together with community involvement from the beginning, so that communities can own the process and the outcomes. It was also important for us to fully acknowledged all groups involved so that all could take credit and own the results.