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Message by the President of the Human Rights Council on the occasion of the 11th International Conference of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions

Amman, Jordan 7 November 2012

His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein,
Madam Deputy High Commissioner, Kyung-wha Kang
Mr. Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee, Dr. Mousa Burayzat

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to participate, in my capacity as President of the Human Rights Council, even by video message, at this opening ceremony of the 11th International Conference of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) are a key stakeholder in our societies as they receive complaints and concerns, and help to articulate plans and policies seeking to promote and protect human rights. They cooperate with the State in this fundamental task of responding to multiple challenges, but as an independent actor.

It is of paramount importance that NHRIs take the floor in international fora, as is already the case at the Human Rights Council.

The outcome of the review of the Council, adopted last year, has provided NHRIs in compliance with the Paris Principles with a more prominent role. In the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), National Institutions now have a separate section in the summary of information from other relevant stakeholders, giving them more visibility. They can also intervene immediately after the State during the adoption of the outcome by the plenary of the Council, therefore offering its own assessment. Moreover, following the presentation of a country mission report by Special Procedures, NHRIs can now intervene directly after the country concerned. Furthermore, we have also received video messages of NHRIs for thematic panels, such as the one held last September on intimidation and reprisals against those who participate or cooperate with the UN and their families. All this gives an added value to our work as NHRIs bring the voices from the field. Last but not least, NHRIs can and should contribute to the follow-up of UPR recommendations.

Let me now turn to the theme of this Conference: the role of NHRIs regarding the human rights of women and girls and the promotion of gender equality, with special attention to violence against women and girls, and the empowerment of women, both from the point of view of economic and social rights and the right to participation.

These issues are of great relevance nowadays. The financial, economic, food and climate crisis affecting every corner of the world has highlighted the special vulnerability of women and girls to multiple forms of discrimination. As a few examples, we can cite gender violence, lack of access to maternal health, female genital mutilation, early and forced marriages, inequalities at work, the underrepresentation of women in decision making positions, and the lack of resources and opportunities, including access to credit, inheritance, nationality, education. The on-going political transitions should be an opportunity for changes.

In this context, it is necessary to develop and implement policies and comprehensive plans and programs for the promotion and protection of women and girls, in which men and women, boys and girls should be equally involved, in order to change stereotypes. Equal opportunity programs, integrating a gender perspective, should also be developed. Women and girls shall be at the centre of macroeconomic policies and women, as the main interested actors, shall be involved on an equal footing in the design of such policies. NHRIs should contribute to this national reflection.

The link between human rights and development is clear. The last Summit of Rio+20 again highlighted the interrelation between environmental, economic and social dimensions, as well as the importance of gender equality and empowerment of women in order to achieve sustainable development. The negotiation of the Sustainable Development objectives and post 2015 development goals should be an inspiration to all stakeholders.

As you know, the human rights of women and girls are at the top of the agenda of the Human Rights Council and of the Uruguayan Presidency.

The Council has several mechanisms dedicated to the promotion and protection of these rights.

I would like to draw your attention to the important work undertaken by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, and the newly created Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, which should complement the CEDAW Committee, as it has a universal scope and may receive communications.

With regards to the rights​​ of the child, the Human Rights Council has the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and the use of children in pornography, and also interacts with the Special Representatives of the Secretary General on violence against children and for children and Armed Conflict.

The Council held in March 2012 its annual panel on the rights of the child, which focused this year on the administration of justice. Moreover, the Council annually adopts a resolution on the rights of the child. In 2012, it was an omnibus resolution, and in 2013 it will focus on health related issues for children and adolescents. NHRIs should be able to use these resolutions to promote the necessary changes in their countries.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is almost universally ratified and the Committee is in charge of monitoring its implementation as well as that of its protocols. The third protocol on communications, which was opened for signature in February 2012, will be another tool to complement the national guarantees.

The Human Rights Council also seeks the integration of a gender perspective in its work. Not only does it hold an annual panel on the issue, which in September 2012 focused on the empowerment of women through economic, social and cultural rights, but several Special Procedures (Education, Health, Extreme Poverty, among others) also address the issue. In addition, the Council holds an annual discussion on the rights of women. In June 2012, it addressed the issue of remedies and reparations for women victims of violence.

Since violence against women and girls is a particularly sensitive issue, the Council adopted resolution 20/12, which requested the Office of the High Commissioner, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to prepare, by June 2013, recommendations on how to create or strengthen linkages and synergies between the mechanisms of the Council and other relevant intergovernmental processes.

The link with regional, sub regional and political organizations committed to the promotion and protection of human rights is fundamental. We are glad that the new Human Rights Commission of the OIC has identified the rights of women and children as one of its priorities.

Without further ado, I invite you to continue working and contributing to these efforts.

Thank you very much.