OHCHR - Cooperation between the United Nations and regional mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights
The United Nations (UN) recognizes the significant role played by regional and subregional human rights arrangements in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, endorsed efforts to establish, strengthen and increase the effectiveness of these arrangements while at the same time stressed the importance of their cooperation with the UN human rights system. This has been reconfirmed by the UN General Assembly in several of its resolutions requesting the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen the exchanges between the UN and regional intergovernmental organizations dealing with human rights (A/RES/32/127 and A/RES/63/170).
In 1993, the then Commission on Human Rights adopted the first of a number of resolutions on the subject, which inter alia requested the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen exchanges between the UN and regional intergovernmental organizations dealing with human rights and invited the treaty bodies to explore ways to increase the exchange of information and cooperation with regional human rights mechanisms (CHR Resolution 1993/51). The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has reiterated this through a number of resolutions which have requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) to bring together regional and UN human rights mechanisms to exchange views on good practices and lessons learned with a view to enhancing cooperation between them. (HRC resolutions A/HRC/RES/6/20 of 2007; A/HRC/RES/12/15 of 2009, A/HRC/RES/18/14 of 29 September 2011 and A/HRC/RES/24/19 of 8 October 2013.)
Consequently, the OHCHR held three biennial workshops in November 2008, May 2010 and December 2012 with the participation of UN experts from the human rights treaty bodies and the HRC special procedures; representatives of regional human rights mechanisms in Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and ASEAN; as well as National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The workshops have focused on various themes including: 1) Good practices, added value and challenges’ for regional human rights mechanisms (2008); 2) Strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and regional arrangements to overcome obstacles to human rights promotion and protection at the regional (2010); 3) strengthening cooperation on information-sharing, joint activities and follow-up to recommendations from United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms with special focus on prevention of torture, women’s rights and children’s rights (2012).
During the workshop held in 2012, participants recognized the need to continue holding the biennial workshops and made 11 recommendations to State, the UN and Regional Human Rights Mechanism and 2 recommendations to other stakeholders in particular NHRIs and NGOs. The workshop recognized the need to strengthen cooperation between UN and regional human rights mechanisms through various cooperation mechanisms including establishment of focal points, systemized information sharing, cross-referencing of jurisprudence and recommendations of human rights mechanisms, replication of best practices and enhanced cooperation between UN and regional human rights mechanisms and other relevant stakeholders including national actors such as NHRIs and NGOs.
OHCHR presented a report on the conclusions and recommendations of this workshop to the 23rd session of the HRC (A/HRC/23/18) and subsequently, the HRC requested OHCHR to hold another workshop in 2014 to take stock of developments since the workshop in 2012. The HRC also requested OHCHR to include 3 thematic discussions on (a) the mainstreaming of economic, social and cultural rights; (b) the economic, social and cultural rights of persons with disabilities; and (c) the economic, social and cultural rights of women, based on concrete and practical experience of regional mechanisms in order to share information on best practices, lessons learned and new possible forms of cooperation (A/HRC/RES/24/19).
International workshop on enhancing cooperation between United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms, 4 and 5 October 2016, Geneva, Palais des Nations
Following Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 30/3, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, which took place on 4 and 5 October 2016. Participants discussed the implementation of recommendations made at the 2014 workshop and the lessons learned and challenges encountered during that process. Concrete proposals for interaction between United Nations, regional human rights mechanisms, civil society and human rights defenders were discussed based on practical experiences in the following thematic panel discussions: Procedural Aspects of cooperation, Cooperation in relation to promoting women rights; the rights of minorities, refugees, migrants, IDPs, children, persons with albinisms, persons disabilities, and LGBTIs; specific challenges experienced by CSOs and HRDs at the national level; freedom of assembly and association; and follow up to UN and RHRMs’ recommendations and decisions.
The High Commissioner will present the Report of this workshop to the Human Rights Council in March 2016.
The workshop gathered members of the African Commission and Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the East African Court of Justice; the ECOWAS Court of Justice; the Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights; the Council of Europe , the; the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights; the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR); the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the Arab Human Rights Committee; United Nations independent experts, including Special Procedures mandate-holders and Treaty Body members, representatives of governments, NHRIs, civil society organisations and academia.
Regional Consultation – Europe, September 2016
On 21 September 2016, OHCHR held regional consultation in Warsaw, in the context of a side event at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting side event on “Addressing the deteriorating situation of civil society actors and human rights defenders in Europe”. The key participants were human rights structures of regional partners in Europe, namely, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe (CoE); the latter was represented by the Commissioner for Human Rights and experts of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE.
The event was also attended by a number of delegations of the OSCE participating States, human rights experts and civil society organizations. CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks’ opening remarks were followed by statements by Vladlen Stefanov, Chief of OHCHR National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section; Katarzyna Jarosiewicz-Wargan, Deputy Director of the OSCE ODIHR; Yves Cruchten, CoE Deputy and Rapporteur on How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe; Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe; and Hanna Machiñska, Director of the CoE Office in Warsaw.
The participants in the event discussed the overall situation of civil society and human rights defenders in Europe and Central Asia, noting with concern the shrinking space for human rights practitioners, who face increasing number of challenges and obstacles, such as regressive legislation, legal and administrative hurdles for funding and activities, smear campaign by media, reprisals, violent attacks, trials and imprisonment on bogus charges. The participants stressed that States should bear the primary responsibility for ensuring enabling space for human rights defenders and NGOs. They also highlighted the important role that human rights defenders and civil society organizations play in regional and international arena. The side-event / regional consultation proposed the following topics to be discussed at the upcoming workshop on “Enhancing cooperation between regional and international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights”: The need to build trust between grass root NGOs, Governments and international organisations; abuse of issues of funding as a tool for smear campaign against NGOs ; and the need for advocacy for vulnerable groups and the general public.
Regional Consultation - Asia, August 2016
On the 29 August 2016 OHCHR jointly with Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR),a regional non-profit organization based in Indonesia and Bridges Across Borders South East Asia Community Legal Education Initiative (BABSEACLE) organized a workshop focused on current and pressing human rights issues in the Asia region and steps to improve the existing human rights situation. Four human rights thematic areas were covered in the workshop including : addressing mass human rights violations in contexts of transitions to democracy , gender based violence; transitional justice and stolen children.
The OHCHR panel discussion in the 3rd session reflected on the key human rights challenges in the region, and how civil society and in particular,pro-bono lawyers could cooperate with the UN and Regional Human Rights Mechanisms(RHRMs). Liza Sekaggya delivered OHCHR’s opening statement followed by presentations from special procedure mandate holders, and treaty body members. Dr. Heisoo Shin a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Mr.Tae-Ung Baik, a member of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, Ms. Nahla Haidar, a Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Detailed presentations were made on the international human rights system, and how civil society could engage with it.
Participants were actively engaged and underscored the importance of civil society using the UN and RHRM mechanisms to support victims of human rights violations. Lawyers were particularly encouraged to sensitize their clients on the processes. Human rights defenders and NHRIs were encouraged to use the UN and regional mechanisms for the protection and promotion of their rights, including by pursuing strategic litigation, and providing reports and information to the mechanisms.
Regional Consultation - Africa, July 2016
OHCHR - National Institutions, Regional Mechanisms and Civil Society Section(NRC) ,and Regional Office for East Africa; together with the African Union Commission on Women, Gender and Development Directorate and the AU Department of Citizens and Diaspora Organizations organized a Regional Consultation on Cooperation between UN, African regional and Sub-Regional Mechanisms, civil society and NHRIs on the 8 July 2016,in Kigali , Rwanda.
This was a specific panel discussion held in the context of the African Union (AU) High Level panel on Gender , equality and women’s empowerment (9-10 July 2016), that was opened by Ms. Zuma, the Chairperson of the AU Commission. The HR Adviser in Rwanda, Mr. Chris Mburu, delivered OHCHR opening statement followed by presentations from UN Experts, including the SR on Slavery; regional and sub-regional African human rights mechanisms including: the AU Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders; the ECOWAS Court, The East African Court of Justice ; NHRIs. African Ministers, Members of Parliament; and civil society organizations, also participated in the discussions that focused on key human rights challenges in the region, the situation of human rights defenders in general and in particular women human rights defenders, and enhancing regional and international cooperation in the protection and promotion of human rights.
Women’s rights organizations and NHRIs were encouraged to use the UN and regional mechanisms for the protection of their rights, including by bringing cases and providing amicus briefs to regional courts and mechanisms. Cooperation between all mechanisms in follow up of recommendations addressed to state parties was also a key area of discussion.
Regional Consultations - Americas, April 2016
On 9 April 2016 , OHCHR, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter American Court for Human Rights jointly organized a regional consultation to enhance cooperation between United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms of the Americas. The thematic focus was on interactions with human rights defenders and civil society. Various UN Special Rapporteurs and treaty body experts and members of the Inter-American Commission and Court presented their work, shared experiences, best practices, challenges. A large number of civil society actors and human rights defenders contributed to this discussion, reflecting on key human rights challenges in the region and the context for human rights defenders activities. The consultations identified priority thematic areas for discussion at the 5th global workshop of regional human rights arrangements to be held October 2016.
On 11 April 2016, The President of the Inter American Commission for Human Rights and the commissioners received and held discussions with the OHCHR delegation, led by the ASG Simonovic suggested key areas of mutual cooperation with UN mechanisms, including participation in each other’s meetings, organizing joint visits and statements.
More information on : http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2016/049.asp
2015 Workshop of Regional and Sub-Regional Courts, European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, 20 and 21 October 2015
2014 Workshop: Geneva, 8 and 9 October 2014: