Tuesday 10 April 2012
On March 22nd, the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions held a meeting on the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations. The panel was chaired by Mr Magazzini, the former director of the National Institutions Unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and included representatives of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) of Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Kenya, as well as Mr Peschoux, the Chief of the UPR team of the OHCHR.
The discussion focused on the important role of the NHRIs in the UPR process, and on how they can take full advantage of the mechanism. On an introductory note, Mr Magazzini referred to the emphasis that should be put on the link between development and human rights. Mr Magazzini also argued that, for the effective and efficient implementation of the UPR recommendations, there is need for the establishment of a coordination mechanism at the national level, including NHRIs and NGOs, the preparation of Mid-Term reports, and the production of Action Plans. Furthermore, Mr Peschoux stated that the UPR is creating extraordinary opportunities for NHRIs to assert their pivotal role nationally, as the national guardians of human rights, and internationally, through reporting and intervening before the Human Rights Council. Mr. Peschoux presented some ideas for the best involvement of NHRIs in the UPR process, such as adducing first-hand, reliable, and prioritised information to the Council, providing trainings and developing tools to educate civil society organisations (CSOs) and the State, having as a starting point the real situation in the country and prioritising accordingly, assuming the role of the convenor of the national human rights dialogue, and establishing a coordination mechanism for implementation.
Moreover, the NHRI representatives shared their experiences, proposing best practices and describing the challenges they faced during the three UPR phases: preparation, Working Group meeting in Geneva, and implementation.
The representative of the Danish NHRI explained that the NHRI engaged in a dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government, and embassies in Copenhagen, it acted like a secretariat of the civil society by receiving NGO submissions and coordinating them, and it also sent out hearing requests to other institutions that work on human rights such as the parliament, the ombudsmen, the data surveillance agency, and the judiciary. Furthermore, the representative of the Kenyan NHRI added that, as far as the preparatory phase is concerned, NHRIs should ensure the CSOs participation, including grass roots organisations, by providing leadership without over dominating civil society, assist in the preparation of the national report, engaging with the government, and conduct advocacy and lobbying campaigns. On this note, the Canadian NHRI expressed its disappointment regarding the fact that the government called the CSOs for consultation after the submission of the national report.
Working Group Review
The NHRI of Denmark, provided its own experience during the Working Group review in Geneva as an example, i.e. conducting advocacy, and organising a lunch side event before the review. Additionally, the Australian NHRI persuaded the government to partially accept recommendations which the State intended to reject.
As far as the implementation phase is concerned, the representative of the Australian NHRI described its efforts in achieving a governmental Action Plan with clear timelines for implementation and indicators of what would be good progress. It had also submitted a report on the country, and committed to do so annually. Furthermore, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) explained that with the view to assisting in the implementation of the UPR recommendations, it submitted annual reports to the parliament, as well as special reports, in particular on aboriginal people, a matter on which many recommendations were made at the UPR, it followed-up with governmental officials, and it managed to achieve the ratification of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. On the issue of aboriginal people, the CHRC explained that it was made its priority. Thus, the Commission increased engagement with them, published research reports, provided guidance to First Nations people, and worked with 60 NGOs in the preparation of the latters’ reports fro submission to the HRC. In Denmark, the NHRI compiled the recommendations made to the country, producing a document which includes the recommendation, the government’s reply and a comment made by them. Additionally, the institution organised a follow-up conference, and adopted an Outcome Charter that is actually an Action Plan since the government has not produced one yet. Finally, the Kenyan NHRI argued that it is important to continue engaging with the state after the Working Group session, to assist the state in responding and assure that the necessary commitments are made, and to ensure that the rejected recommendations remain on the agenda .
Finally, the NHRIs described some of the challenges they faced during the 1st cycle of the UPR. The Canadian NHRI mentioned the difficulties arising by federalism in the areas of coordination and implementation, while the Kenyan one mentioned the difficulty in securing adequate resources.