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Supporting NHRIs to build fairer communities

Graphic: Jenni Whelan

Strong national human rights institutions play a pivotal role in building fairer and more just communities, says the APF’s new Legal Policy Manager.

Asia Pacific Forum LogoAsia Pacific Forum

Strong national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play a pivotal role in building fairer and more just communities, says the APF's new Legal Policy Manager, Jenni Whelan.

Having worked within an NHRI and observed their work as an academic, Jenni believes one of the most significant contributions that NHRIs can make is to 'translate' international human rights law into their work with, and for, communities at the national level.

"For many people, and especially those living on the margins, international human rights law can seem like little more than an aspiration or a legal nicety," Jenni said.

"However, the daily work and activities of NHRIs operationalise these human rights norms in ways that potentially drive lasting change for vulnerable groups, including indigenous people, asylum seekers, women and girls, and people with disabilities," she said.

Whether it's holding national inquiries that interrogate systemic violations or advising government on reforms to law and policy, NHRIs have a unique mandate to work with local stakeholders and national governments to tackle inequality and help foster communities where all people can live with dignity.

Asia Pacific Forum Logo Jenni Whelan

Jenni joins the APF with more than 25 years experience as a human rights and anti-discrimination lawyer.

She previously worked for over a decade with the Australian Human Rights Commission, including as Director of the Legal Unit. She has also worked internationally, including teaching human rights on the Thai-Myanmar border and liaising with the Commission on Gender Equality, Johannesburg, on running public interest litigation

More recently, Jenni was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). As Co-Director of UNSW's Human Rights Clinic, Jenni's work included partnering with institutions in the region in projects targeting the protection of the rights of child asylum seekers and migrant workers.

"These experiences really highlighted the complex nature and urgency of so many human rights issues in the Asia Pacific region," she said.

"Supporting NHRIs in their efforts to tackle these human rights challenges, and ensuring they have the optimal legal tools to do this work effectively, is what motivates me in this role with the APF."

As Legal and Policy Manager, Jenni will provide legal and policy advice to APF members including during the accreditation process with the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. Jenni will also provide legal advice to governments in the region considering legislation to establish an NHRI or to strengthen an existing institution.

Date: 21 July 2016

Image credits

  1. Jenni Whelan - APF/James Iliffe