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National Human Rights Institutions – the critical links

They are crucial partners for the UN Human Rights office and have a central place in the national human rights protection system. National Human Rights Institutions have a particularly prominent role which addresses, “the most critical human rights issues at the national level including through promotion of the rule of law and ensuring accountability.” Addressing the 23rd Annual Session of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) in Geneva, UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay said States parties must strengthen the mandate and capacity of National Human Rights Institutions and ensure they are adequately funded.

The ICC meets in Geneva - ©Joining the High Commissioner at the opening of the Session, the head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Helen Clark noted the linkages between the three pillars of the UN – peace and security, development, and human rights. “UNDP’s development work sits in that context,” she said, “Human development embraces the range of social, economic, cultural, and political rights defined by the international community.”

UNDP partners with the UN Human Rights Office in many efforts to strengthen and promote human rights institutions globally. Clark spoke of the link between human rights and the achievement of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals – to reduce hunger and extreme poverty; achieve gender equality and universal primary education; improve child and maternal health; halt and reverse the spread of deadly diseases; protect the environment; and forge strong global development partnerships.

“The denial of human rights, and the persistence of exclusion, discrimination and a lack of accountability are barriers to the pursuit of human development and the MDGs,” Clark said, “Global, regional, and national human rights institutions can play and are playing a critical role in overcoming those barriers.”

National Human Rights Institutions promote and monitor protection of human rights in individual countries. The mandates of the institutions vary but Pillay said they “all contribute directly or indirectly to the prevention of human rights violations, such as torture, arbitrary detention, gender discrimination, and human trafficking”.

The ICC coordinates the activities of more than 100 of these institutions globally and with the support of the UN Human Rights office, it also reviews and analyzes applications for accreditation based on the Paris Principles. These Principles, adopted by the General Assembly set down methods of operation for the institutions, outline their responsibilities, and describe the composition and guarantees of independence and pluralism that must be afforded them.

Sixty five of the institutions have been awarded “A Status “, formal recognition from the ICC of full compliance with the Principles.

Delegates to the 23rd session will consider a broad range of issues including challenges in monitoring international obligations; the protection of women’s rights; human rights and business; developments in human rights education and training; and HIV/AIDS.

24 March 2010