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NHRIs are vital partners for States to safeguard human rights globally

Graphic: APF Chairperson Jamsran Byambadorj talks with the media

The APF’s Chairperson explains the shared benefits that would come from the UN General Assembly extending participation rights for NHRIs.

At its 70th Session, the UN General Assembly has the opportunity to open the UN to more direct participation in critical human rights debates from national human rights institutions (NHRIs).

NHRI participation in relevant UN bodies and processes would be a means to enrich the international human rights debate with the perspective of unique national-level institutions and to strengthen the implementation of UN recommendations. It could contribute to bridging the gap between human rights efforts nationally and internationally.

NHRIs are official, independent legal institutions established by States by law for the promotion and protection of human rights. NHRIs don't replace the State or courts, nor are they NGOs. They are unique institutions with first-hand knowledge of human rights violations and human rights situations nationally, who monitor and report on abuses and engage in processes of accountability.

Graphic: NHRI staff talk with military officers

"A status" NHRIs are those that comply with the international minimum standards for NHRIs set out in the Paris Principles. These are Principles that NHRIs should comply with to be legitimate, credible and effective in fulfilling their human rights mandate. They are independent in key ways – legally, in defining their own priorities, policy and programmes, and in providing independent thinking on human rights challenges we face across our region and the world.

The Paris Principles require NHRIs to cooperate with the UN. NHRIs in our region do so actively, providing analysis and constructive recommendations through mechanisms, such as the special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review. This engagement has then translated into support to States, in some cases, in drawing up National Human Rights Action plans that include the implementation of UN recommendations.

However, NHRIs seek more. They seek to engage directly in the debates of relevant UN bodies and processes. Several members of the Asia Pacific Forum have already participated in UN sessions where modalities allow. For example, they have spoken by video message during the adoption of UPR reports at the Human Rights Council. State support for such energetic NHRIs has then been shown in the passage of enabling legislation ensuring greater compliance of the NHRI with the Paris Principles.

Furthermore, in recent years Asia Pacific Forum delegates have travelled to New York to explore participation opportunities at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). We were encouraged by the welcome many States gave to the attendance of APF members at CSW. Agreed conclusions of the CSW session have referred to the role of NHRIs since then. We are encouraged by General Assembly recognition of this engagement and that of NHRIs at the Human Rights Council in recent resolutions. However participation for NHRIs continues to be ad hoc at CSW and in many other relevant bodies.

Graphic: NHRIs participating in ICC event in Geneva

The APF believes independent and effective NHRIs can be powerful agents for change. We consider that greater participation of NHRIs in relevant UN bodies and processes would enable NHRIs to contribute more to advancing the purposes of the UN, as expressed in the Charter.

A conversation between multiple stakeholders with expertise on the issue is the best way of debating issues and establishing relationships and understanding that produces the human rights change on the ground that we all seek.

NHRI participation deepens cooperation. By supporting NHRI participation in the UN, NHRIs themselves will be empowered to do their vital work better. In addition, through direct participation in UN processes we believe NHRIs could contribute to closing the implementation gap between UN resolutions and recommendations and the human rights situation on the ground in any given State, with NHRIs playing a crucial bridging role in this regard.

The value of NHRI participation at international levels has been recognized by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. The participation of "A status" NHRIs at the Human Rights Council has been acknowledged as valuable and efficient.

We believe NHRIs are vital, constructively critical partners with States in the promotion and protection of human rights. We hope that during the 70th year of the UN, the General Assembly will decide to extend NHRI participation to relevant UN bodies and processes. Ultimately, NHRI participation is about deepening efforts to safeguard fundamental freedoms and the rights for all.

Jamsran Byambadorj
APF Chairperson and Chief Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia

Image credits

  1. APF Chairperson Jamsran Byambadorj talks with the media - APF/James Iliffe
  2. NHRI staff talk with military officers - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
  3. NHRIs participating in ICC event in Geneva - APF/Michael Power