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Statement by President of Human Rights Council at 26th session International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Geneva 6 May 2013

Madame High Commissioner,
Mister Chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee,
Madame Director of the Democratic Governance Practice, UNDP,
Distinguished Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and privilege for me to attend the 26th Annual Meeting of the ICC.
At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to the ICC for its dedicated cooperation with the Council. In particular, I would like to commend Dr. Mousa Bourayzat for his strong leadership as ICC Chair. In a short time period your actions have had significant impact on the relationship between the ICC and the Council, by addressing the Council on critical human rights issues, including the statements delivered at the 22nd session following the presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the Annual Discussion on human rights and persons with disabilities, as well as the Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

As you know, NHRIs have been one of the priorities of the former Commission on Human Rights since its establishment in 1946. The process initiated by the then Commission had resulted in the adoption of the Principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights as annexed to Commission resolution 1993/55 of 9 March 1993 and General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 March 1993. As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Paris Principles this year, it is opportune to underscore the progress made in positioning NHRIs as key human rights players at both, the national and international level. The Human Rights Council, through its mechanisms, including the UPR and Special Procedures Mandate Holders, is also giving due consideration to NHRIs and their constituencies, including the ICC.

In the context of the UPR, much progress has been made to enhance the participation of the ICC and NHRIs. By introducing a separate section in the stakeholders report for contributions by A status national human rights institutions of the States under review and allowing A status NHRIs to intervene immediately after the State under review during the adoption of the outcome of the review, the Council has undertaken to accord an increasingly prominent role to NHRIs to better inform the Council’s deliberations. The use of video statements has also contributed to the same goal of increasing NHRIs’ engagement with the Council’s mechanisms.

In 2012, there was a 40 per cent increase over the same period in the first cycle in the number of written contributions from A-status national human rights institutions for the stakeholders’ reports submitted for the universal periodic review. A total of 17 A-status and two B-status institutions submitted such contributions. During the same period, eight A-status national human rights institutions delivered a statement immediately after the State under review with regard to the adoption of the outcome at a plenary meeting of the Human Rights Council.

NHRIs’ contribution to the Special Procedures and other thematic discussions of the Council is key to the enrichment of the interactive dialogue at the Council. In 2012, national human rights institutions were active before and during the sessions of the Human Rights Council, delivering statements, submitting written documentation, participating in general debates under specific agenda items, organizing parallel events and interacting with the special procedures. A total of 30 institutions participated in the sessions of the Council –
a significant increase over the 21 institutions that participated in 2011.

During the three sessions of the Human Rights Council in 2012, thirteen video statements were delivered by national human rights institutions following the presentation of reports by special procedures mandate holders.

We will make sure that the Human Rights Council continues to provide a platform for NHRIs to bring to the fore of the international community the core human rights issues prevailing at the national level and to contribute to the development of international human rights norms as well as other initiatives aimed at promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. The more NHRIs and the ICC work with the Council, the more fruitful its work will be.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The implementation of the recommendations from the UPR and other mechanisms of the Human Rights Council by States is essential in order to secure respect for human rights. There will be no progress, if determinations made by international mechanisms are not translated into practice. While the primary responsibility for the full realisation of human rights lies with States, NHRIs remain the most effective monitoring mechanisms, while serving as a bridge between the international and national level.

Therefore, the institutional and financial strengthening of NHRIs in order to enable them to effectively implement their mandate should be given high priority. It is also important that NHRIs enjoy a national environment where they can function independently and free from reprisals and impediments. I welcome the inclusion in your agenda of a topic on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders presented at the 22nd session of the Council, which shows your interest in these issues as they involve not only members of civil society organisations, but also members of NHRIs.

The Special Rapporteur in her report indicated that due to their unique position as State funded-institution which should function independently while addressing sensitive human rights cases, NHRIs face important challenges and are exposed to a number of obstacles in connection to their human rights activities.

The Special Rapporteur further mentioned the need for close interaction and cooperation between NHRIs and Human Rights Defenders, in developing programmes and undertaking activities aimed at promoting and protecting human rights. Such coordinated approach is commendable to avoid overlapping and contradictions as well as to maximise results. It also provides more credibility to their common initiatives without compromising the specificity of each partner.

I encourage the ICC and individual NHRIs to take into consideration the recommendations contained in the Special Rapporteur’s report in relation to the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs in accordance with the Paris Principles as well as NHRIs’ role on raising awareness on human rights and monitoring States obligations under international human rights law. A constructive dialogue with the Government and other State constituencies should provide avenues for the implementations of these recommendations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Through its resolution 20/14 of 5 July 2012 the Human Rights Council recognized the role of independent NHRIs in working together with Governments to ensure full respect for human rights at the national level, by contributing to follow-up actions to recommendations resulting from the international human rights mechanisms, as well as in supporting cooperation between their Governments and the United Nations in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Human Rights Council encouraged NHRIs to continue playing an active role in the prevention and protection of human rights as provided for in international human rights instruments, and encouraged member States to establish effective, independent and pluralistic NHRIs.

The resolution has also emphasised the important role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the development of independent and effective NHRIs in accordance with the Paris Principles, and has welcomed the role of the ICC in assessing the conformity of NHRIs with the Paris Principles and in providing assistance in strengthening their capacities.

OHCHR’s role also expands to facilitating the engagement of the ICC and NHRIs with the Human Rights Council mechanisms. I would like to commend OHCHR for its dedicated support in this regard and its ever central position in the Council’s functioning and achievements, especially along with the use of the Council’s sessions as a tribune by NHRIs and other human rights actors to raise awareness on the prevailing human rights situation on the ground.

I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.