Biking for human rights
The evolution of the bicycle has been extraordinary, from the first model, a wooden contraption without pedals developed less than 200 years ago, to the manufacture now of more than a hundred million a year. The bicycle has been put to many uses: It is used as an ambulance in some developing countries; it is credited with helping further the cause of women’s emancipation; it helped make it possible for many workers to leave the slums of inner cities to live in outlying areas; cycling is a sport and bicycles, tricycles and all variations thereof keep millions of children happy.
Now, bicycles are being used to further the cause of human rights in Nepal.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Kathmandu has purchased six bicycles to facilitate human rights monitoring locally. There are multiple benefits to be had from this strategy according to Richard Bennett, OHCHR’s representative in Nepal. “They will provide human rights monitors with a high degree of mobility in all conditions, including times when roads are obstructed due to protests, traffic congestion, or possibly in the extreme case of a natural disaster. They are also eco friendly and economical.”
The priorities of OHCHR in Nepal are focused on accountability with field monitoring, advocacy and prevention activities a priority. The Office works closely with the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction and victims’ groups to support transitional justice mechanisms including nationwide consultations aimed at establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Strengthening national institutions including the Nepal Human Rights Commission, and promoting economic, social and cultural rights are also a focus alongside strategies for boosting the capacity of organisations representing marginalized groups. Additionally, the Office advocates for legislative reform through its legal analysis and outreach activities.
The small fleet of bicycles now at the disposal of OHCHR’s staff also has the great advantage of offering the Office added visibility in its work. “I hope the bikes also enable our human rights monitors to get close to the people,” says Bennett.
9 September 2009