Collins Liko, our Program Officer – Water, Health & Sanitation, sat down with CESR to discuss his impression of OPERA, how the framework was used and various aspects of the organization’s work. OPERA is a simple, yet comprehensive framework that human rights advocates, activists and researchers can use to analyze whether governments are meeting their economic and social rights obligations. OPERA groups together relevant obligations into four dimensions: Outcomes, Policy Efforts, Resources, and Assessment.
Below is the full read of the interview.
Source: Center For Economic And Social Rights
An interview with Collins Liko of Hakijamii
Collins Liko is a Program Officer for Health, Water and Sanitation at Hakijamii. Hakijamii, a long-time partner of CESR, was founded in 2004 and is a human rights NGO in Kenya that works with marginalized groups to support them as they claim their economic and socio-cultural rights around the country. Hakijamii is unique in the way it works because it seeks to bring the voices of affected communities and grassroots organizations into the policymaking arena and budgeting processes.
In November 2017, the trailblazing Kenyan human rights organization, Hakijamii, convened a two-day strategy session with civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the country to catalyze action on economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). The workshop focused on how to move the Kenyan government to implement recommendations issued by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee), which had largely been ignored for nearly a year and a half. Hakijamii sought to use the recommendations as a means to bring civil society together around key ESCR issues and to generate a strategy to compel government action on these fronts. This meant coming together to unpack the recommendations, prioritizing them and then using OPERA, our analytic framework, to build and strengthen skills for using tools, such as indicators and benchmarks, that would support CSOs in developing concrete targets, a plan of action and a strategy for monitoring implementation of the recommendations.
Collins Liko from Hakijamii sat down with CESR to discuss his impression of OPERA, how the framework was used in the session and various aspects of the organization’s work. This interview has been lightly edited for readability and context.
In what context and for what purpose have you used OPERA?
Hakijamii led a group of CSOs from Kenya to develop a Parallel Report when Kenya was reviewed by the Committee in 2016. In its Concluding Observations, the Committee made a series of important recommendations to the Government of Kenya. These covered a broad range of economic, social and cultural rights issues such as reducing tax evasion and tackling corruption; taking steps to enhance access to health services; and improving access to primary education, all of which were important to us.
In the time afterwards, however, we felt that implementation was taking longer than expected and that the government had not shown any commitment or progress towards implementation on some key recommendations. Discussions about the recommendations were forgotten and government re-focused its resources on other politically-driven agendas. For example, the Committee specifically recommended that the government provide affordable housing units for low-income families and to improve living conditions in informal settlements, and to spend the money to do so but there was little to suggest that anything had been done to see this through.
At the same time, we felt that most Kenyan civil society organizations lacked the experience, capacity, and strategic skills to make a strong push to compel the government to take action on the Committee’s recommendations. We used OPERA during the training and strategy session to focus in on the key areas of the recommendations. We identified outcomes the recommendations were directed towards and the policy efforts and resources needed to implement the recommendations. We also used OPERA to develop indicators and benchmarks for government to determine the progress of its interventions.
What attracted you to OPERA for this piece of work?
OPERA helped us take a holistic approach to understanding the problem: looking at the outcomes for rights holders, what policy measures the government as a duty bearer is undertaking and the resources dedicated to fully solve the problem. The framework goes a step further in assessing whether the actions have had any impact in terms of turning around the problem. It also provides a road map in terms of what essential areas need to be looked at systematically to bring forth the desired change.
How was OPERA useful? What concretely did it help you to do?
Using OPERA helped reveal a number of insights, particularly in terms of understanding the following:
- An analysis of the policy environment—what policies exist and the gaps that need redress from a human rights standpoint.
- A way to measure obligations. It helped in setting out clear indicators and realistic targets that we can then begin to zero in on. This helps to set priorities and focus. It also helped in setting SMART indicators and achievable outcomes.
- An accounting of resources. It provided an opportunity to look at resources from the perspective of human rights, what we need in this regard and who would do what in terms of action plans, particularly concerning resources.
- Setting clear objectives and strategies. It helped translate advocacy work into tangible realities that turn around and address the issues at hand. OPERA blends well with other tools including SWOT analysis and power mapping, which can support applying research to strategy development.
OPERA further provides an opportunity to reevaluate engagements at intervals to determine whether the approach is working or there is a need to change and adopt different strategies.
How could OPERA have been more helpful? Were there things you were hoping to get from OPERA but didn’t?
OPERA was helpful to us in revamping the conversations with CSOs on implementation of the Committee’s recommendations, identifying decision makers through power mapping, looking for resources and partnerships, and coming up with realistic issues and targets to work on. However, it did not address the complexity of improving the level of community engagement in addressing the ESCR issues community members are facing. The framework is at times too complicated for social movements and organized community groups to make use of quickly and easily. The advantage of this framework, however, is that it can be used with many other aspects including research, planning, project design, and the like to monitor ESCR.