Regional human rights context
Europe, North America and Central Asia comprise 56 countries with different human rights challenges and priorities. OHCHR focuses on the issue of impunity for violations of a broad range of human rights and works with countries to address instances of torture, violence against women and violations of a number of social and economic rights, including housing rights.
It has long been recognized that a sound system of national institutions is a prerequisite for the effective protection of human rights. Every country has its own challenges to face in ensuring its democratic development. In countries that only recently gained independence, the institutions established to support democracy struggle at times. OHCHR seeks to support countries in their efforts to strengthen fundamental democratic institutions that protect human rights, particularly independent and impartial judiciaries and legislatures. OHCHR also assists countries in countering the growing problem of discriminatory and intolerant treatment based on sex, race, ethnic or religious affiliation, disregard for human rights in the fight against terrorism, abuse against human rights defenders and restrictions on freedom of association.
The Office promotes ratification of important legal instruments, such as the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and provides training for the legal professions and assistance to national human rights institutions. In implementing these activities, the Office cooperates closely with the UN Country Teams,where these exist, and with the UN human rights mechanisms.
Given OHCHR’s limited resources, interaction with existing regional human rights machinery is essential. The Office works with the regional mechanisms of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to ensure the protection of human rights and to maximize effectiveness. The Office looks forward to seeing how best to cooperate with the European Union institutions in general, and the newly established Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union in particular, to strengthen the protection of human rights in Europe.
OHCHR is present in Central Asia, the South Caucasus, the Russian Federation and Kosovo. Its field deployment in the region underwent a number of changes in the last biennium. Some of these changes were the result of strategic decisions aimed at re-directing scarce resources to those areas most in need. For example, in 2006-2007 OHCHR completed its technical cooperation project in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and closed its country offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, except for Kosovo. Other changes were prompted by external factors, such as the closing of the UN Tajikistan Office for Peacebuilding (UNTOP).Work in relation to Serbia, Montenegro, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be continued largely from OHCHR’s Headquarters in Geneva,with support given to national human rights advisers deployed in some of the UN Country Teams in the region.Work in Tajikistan will be carried out by the Regional Office for Central Asia, in collaboration with UNDP and OSCE. In Kosovo, OHCHR will continue its efforts to ensure that human rights are properly addressed in all aspects of governance, current and future.
Following the High Commissioner’s visit to Central Asia in 2007 and the expected conclusion of an agreement with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for the establishment of a Regional Office for Central Asia, the Office will strengthen its engagement in the countries of the region. The deployment of a human rights adviser in Kyrgyzstan, jointly funded with members of the UN Country Team, is a step in this direction. Implementation of a joint OHCHR/UNDP treaty body reporting project in Turkmenistan is under way and is yielding positive results. The implementation of a comprehensive three-year human rights project will follow as of 2008.
With the deployment of a senior human rights adviser to Moscow at the end of 2007, the Office looks forward to working with the UN Country Team and the Russian authorities and institutions on a programme focusing on the rule of law, equality and tolerance, and education and information on human rights.
In the South Caucasus, the placement of a human rights adviser in Tbilisi, Georgia, in May 2007, has strengthened the Office’s capacity to provide advisory and capacitybuilding services to national partners and to UN Country Teams in the region.
OHCHR was, at the time of writing, exploring the possibility of deploying an “Action 2”-funded human rights adviser to the UN Country Team in Albania, in addition to the adviser to be deployed in Moldova. Albania is one of the pilot countries for the “One UN” programme.
In those countries where OHCHR does not have a presence, the Office will continue to follow human rights developments and be ready to advise governments from its Headquarters in Geneva. OHCHR will continue strengthening and formalizing cooperation with regional organizations, including with the European Union, with the aim of joining forces to address some of the main human rights challenges throughout Europe, especially those related to migration, the fight against terrorism and discrimination. Thus, the work of the Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of racism and on the promotion and protection of human rights with the European Union and its associated countries in efforts to counter terrorism will be closely followed.
In the South Caucasus, OHCHR will assist in the implementation of the recommendations that emerge from the visits of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, the Special Rapporteur on torture, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons. In Central Asia, the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers will continue to be used to promote reforms in the administration of justice. In Southeast Europe, the Office will closely cooperate with the Special Representative of the Secretary- General on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education in following up on their recommendations.