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Working effectively in a COVID-19 reality

Graphic: Migrant workers walk along a highway in Mumbai, India

NHRI senior managers have shared the innovative ways their teams have adapted to working in a COVID-19 context.

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Senior Executive Officers (SEOs) representing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from across the Asia Pacific have shared the innovative ways their teams have adapted to working in a COVID-19 context. 

Gathering for the SEO Network Virtual Roundtable on 22 June, senior leaders from 15 APF member institutions identified some of the practical tools and measures their NHRIs have used to work more effectively during the pandemic.

Since the onset of COVID-19, NHRIs have remained active in carrying out monitoring, advocacy and investigations into human rights violations, as well as providing advice to governments to ensure that COVID health and safety measures have not infringed upon the rights of the community. 

While the pandemic has impacted their day-to-day operations, NHRIs have shown resilience and found new ways of reaching out to communities and policymakers. 

During the virtual roundtable, SEO Network members highlighted the vital role of digital technologies, especially social media, in delivering key messages on human rights issues. Many NHRIs also moved towards online complaints handling and case submission processes, to ensure that their services remained open to the public. 

The senior leaders also discussed the operational changes they have implemented to address the challenges of COVID-19, as well as new and innovative approaches they have taken to continue delivering on their mandate to protect and promote human rights. 

These include carrying out human rights monitoring through the media and other online sources and conducting ‘virtual monitoring visits’, enabling them to assess the human rights situation in locations that would not otherwise be accessible.

Some NHRIs also put in place special measures to closely monitor the situation of the most vulnerable groups and individuals in their country, while others engaged policymakers on key human rights issues relating to COVID.

The SEO Network was established in 2001 as a forum for the most senior administrators and human rights officers in APF member institutions to exchange expertise and support each other to address the challenges of administering NHRIs. 

As the most senior management in NHRIs, SEOs are in a unique position to act as a bridge between Commissioners and NHRI staff, while at the same time balancing challenging operational contexts. 

Date: 30 July 2021

Image credits

  1. Migrant workers walk along a highway in Mumbai, India - Manoej Paateel on Shutterstock