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NHRIs lobby for greater participation at the United Nations

Graphic: Speakers at an NHRI side event in New York; Montserrat Caroni (Chair, Costa Rica NHRI) in foreground

National human rights institutions from the Asia Pacific have gathered in New York to advocate for a greater voice at the UN General Assembly.

Senior representatives from national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the Asia Pacific and across the globe recently gathered in New York to advocate for a greater voice at the United Nations.

During its 70th Session, currently underway, the UN General Assembly will negotiate a resolution on national human rights institutions.

The major issue for discussion will be the current participation rights of "A status" NHRIs (those that comply with the Paris Principles) at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and its mechanisms and whether to extend these participation rights to New York-based General Assembly bodies.

At the Human Rights Council, "A status" NHRIs can submit written statements, make oral statements (including by video) and organise side events. During the Universal Periodic Review, "A status" NHRIs can speak directly after the State under review.

At the General Assembly, however, NHRIs do not have the same participation rights and are either denied participation completely or find their participation severely restricted.

NHRIs cannot, for example, participate in the Commission for the Status of Women or the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing, which are two strategic priority issues for NHRIs.

Graphic: UN General Assembly

In the lead-up to these discussions, the UN Secretary-General released a report that recommended extending participation opportunities for "A status" NHRIs and their coordinating committees within the broader UN system.

"NHRIs can be very effective partners for States in translating international human rights standards into lived realities on the ground," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat, who was in New York to meet with officials from a range of government delegations.

"The experience of the Human Rights Council shows that the UN's work is enhanced through the independent information and insights that NHRIs contribute," he said.

"As the UN celebrates its 70th anniversary, the General Assembly has a historic opportunity to maximise the UN's ability to draw on the unique expertise that NHRIs can offer to all areas of its work, thereby strengthening its responses to human rights situations everywhere."

The International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of National Human Rights Institutions has developed a position paper, which sets out the views of NHRIs globally in relation to their participation at the UN.

The ICC position paper has helped shaped the resolution on NHRIs that will be discussed by the General Assembly. Germany is the main sponsor of the resolution and it is supported by a number of other States and leading non-governmental organisations.

Date: 15 October 2015

Graphic: Woman walking past flags at UN in Geneva

Promoting Particiption

ISHR publication examines why and how NHRIs should be allowed to participate in the United Nations (June 2015)

Image credits

  1. Speakers at an NHRI side event in New York; Montserrat Caroni (Chair, Costa Rica NHRI) in foreground - Sarah Burgess, Intern with International Service for Human Rights
  2. UN General Assembly - UN Photo, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1PMOmD7