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Protecting human rights in times of conflict

Graphic: Participant addresses the 2017 APF Conference

The role of NHRIs to protect vulnerable groups and contribute to peace process in times of conflict was the focus of the 2017 APF Conference.

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Conflict and insecurity in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have led millions of people to flee across borders in recent years, forced from their homes to seek safety but often left in precarious and exploitative situations.

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) have a vital role to play in protecting the human rights of vulnerable groups during times of conflict, as well as helping to foster constructive dialogue that can build peace and security.

These issues were the focus of the 2017 APF Conference, held in Bangkok on 30 November, which brought together more than 120 participants from NHRIs, UN agencies and leading NGOs in the Asia Pacific region.

The conference was hosted by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which has been striving to promote and protect human rights, especially among vulnerable groups, in the midst of armed conflict since it was established in 2002.

The conference included presentations from the AIHRC, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons, the United Nations Development Program and the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI).

Graphic: Keynote speakers at the APF conference

Participants were also invited to share their experiences and provide practical suggestions to group discussions on:

  • The impact of conflict on women and children and the role of NHRIs
  • The impact of conflict on internally displaced persons –including refugees – and the role of NHRIs
  • The role of NHRIs in peace processes

"These insights will provide a valuable source of ideas and inspiration for NHRIs operating in conflict situations in the Asia Pacific and other parts of the world," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.

The 2017 APF Conference program and presentations are available at: http://www.asiapacificforum.net/events/apf-22/.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

"It is essential that your institutions continue to carry out your mandates with independence, integrity, and impartiality as tensions arise – including during conflict. Collection of data, receiving complaints and investigation of allegations are essential to restore justice, to ensure effective remedies and to combat impunity."

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
GANHRI Annual Meeting, March 2017

The meeting discussed the challenges facing NHRIs under threat, with the NHRIs of Qatar, the Philippines and Pakistan providing information on recent events that have impacted on their operations.

A discussion was also held with representatives from key NGOs in the region on strategies to better protect human rights at a time of growing vulnerability and when NHRIs can be targeted for undertaking their work according to their mandate.

Date: 6 December 2017

Image credits

  1. Participant addresses the 2017 APF Conference - APF/Thuy Doan-Smith
  2. Keynote speakers at the APF conference - APF/Thuy Doan-Smith
  3. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - APF/Thuy Doan-Smith