UN Human Rights chief meets non-governmental organizations
At a meeting with more than 100 representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed the importance of safeguarding the independence of NGOs worldwide. The NGO representatives were attending the 13th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
OHCHR works in close collaboration with civil society, particularly through its field presences, and the High Commissioner encourages this to ensure effective protection mechanisms and remedies.
The NGOs’ comments and recommendations to the High Commissioner at their meeting were dominated by two themes: protection of human rights defenders and combating discrimination.
Several speakers noted with concern the increasing introduction of laws at the national level, which restrict the activities of human rights NGOs and individual human rights defenders. Others drew attention to threats of reprisals against individuals engaging with UN Human Rights mandates and mechanisms, in particular, the Universal Periodic Review.
In response, Pillay emphasized the importance of safeguarding the independence of NGOs’ human rights work worldwide. Her Office assists States in implementing the Declaration on Human Rights defenders, and stands ready to explore new avenues to enhance protection for civil society.
Participants also highlighted violations of the economic and social rights of women, caste-based discrimination, discriminatory practices against minorities and indigenous peoples, and discriminatory laws and practices based on sexual orientation.
“I cannot but stress that equality before the law and freedom from discrimination are basic legal principles that underpin the protection of human rights for all,” Pillay said.
The High Commissioner reiterated her call to States to “ensure the application of human rights law and protection to all without discrimination in accordance with the principle of universality.”
Pillay welcomed the opportunity to meet with the NGO representatives, noting that many had travelled long distances to attend the Council meeting. She called attention to the six thematic priority areas of work contained in the Strategic Management Plan for 2010-2011 which sets the office priorities for the next two years: discrimination, combating poverty and inequalities; migration; combating impunity and strengthening accountability; armed conflict; and strengthening human rights mechanisms.
“These themes,” she said, “present ample opportunities to explore the synergies of the respective roles of my Office and of civil society to advance human rights protection and promotion in each of these areas”.
26 March 2010