The National Human Rights Officer works within the office of the Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Niger to ensure that human rights are integrated into their programmes and activities. The National Human Rights Officer also undertakes human rights assessments, provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice on cooperation with human rights mechanisms, and provides technical assistance and human rights capacity building to national institution such as the National Commission on Human Rights and civil society organizations.
An International Human Rights Advisor is expected to be deployed to Niger in 2019. OHCHR will also be deploying a G5 Sahel team composed of 6 staff to support the implementation of the compliance framework within the G5 Sahel Joint Force, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 2391 of 8 December 2017. OHCHR’s strengthened human rights intervention in Niger (working alongside the G5 Sahel Joint Forces Project) seeks to build mechanisms, systems and policies required for greater protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
Human rights situation
- Poverty and violations of economic, social and cultural rights: According to the 2017 Human Development Report published by UNDP, Niger is the poorest country in the world. The economy of the country depends on the exportation of raw materials such as uranium and oil with prices currently dropping. The country also depends on agriculture which is under increasing pressure due to its population growth (the annual rate of the population growth is about 3,9%) and climate change. In addition, there is a lack of economic opportunities for youth. This situation affects negatively the economic, social and cultural rights in Niger.
- Insecurity: Since 2015, Niger has faced increasing insecurity due to the combined effects of the crises in neighboring Mali and Libya, as well as Boko Haram attacks in the Lake Chad Basin area in the South-East of the Country. Due to these different crises, Niger received more than 57,000 Malian refugees,118,000 refugees from Nigeria in addition to 25,000 Niger returnees from Nigeria and registered about 250,000 Internally Displaced Persons in the Diffa region (South-East). The worsening of the humanitarian situation has increased the vulnerability of the host population and resulted in loss of life, gender-based violence, restrictions on freedom of expression with arrests of journalists and human rights defenders who criticize the Government. A state of emergency was declared in the affected regions. In addition, schools and health centers were closed, and some economic activities stopped.
- Human rights and migration: Niger is facing a migration challenge due to its geographical situation at the confluence of several migratory routes connecting countries of West and Central Africa with countries of North Africa and Europe. Given the limited opportunities for migration candidates to access regular migration channels, organized criminal groups have taken advantage of porous borders and the limited human and financial capacities of Governments concerned to combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Large groups of migrants, victims of these criminal groups, are often times exposed to sexual exploitation and abuses, contemporary forms of slavery and loss of life. To address the migration issue, the government has adopted a new legal framework to combat smuggling of migrants and human trafficking. This legislation needs to be harmonized to be in compliance with international human rights standards in order to increase the protection of migrants and victims of human trafficking.
- Human rights defenders and media workers: Freedom of expression has deteriorated in the country since 2015, due to political tensions and the fight against terrorism. Since 2017, there has been an increasing number of arrests of journalists and human rights defenders, and closing of private media that criticize the government. Despite the existence of a national legal framework to protect the enjoyment of civil and political rights, the legal provisions are often circumvented under the pretext that they risk to disturb public order or the safety of the population.
- Violence against women and discrimination: Discriminatory practices persist in Niger, in particular in regards to the rights of women and children. Slavery and other similar practices, such as human trafficking, also continue to be reported. The constitution of Niger includes the promotion and protection of women and children's rights. In addition, the revision of the penal code in 2003 takes into account issues relating to women’s rights. Sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, slavery, prostitution, and rape are punishable by law. Despite legislation and policies, the promotion and protection of women's rights remain a great concern for the Government, civil society organizations and the international community. Regrettably, there has been a lack of progress due to the failure to develop a family code despite several attempts, and the non-respect of the legislation on quota for women's representation in the political area. The representation of women in the municipal council is only 14.94%, while 3.3 % of women were elected as mayors and 6.64% as deputy-mayors.
OHCHR presence in Niger:
- Provides technical assistance and advice to the Government of Niger to improve its cooperation with treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council at the international and regional levels. As a result, Niger was able to submit reports to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group (second cycle), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children.
- Strengthens the technical capacities of the Interdepartmental Committee in charge of drafting reports for treaty bodies and the UPR Working Group, and developing a national action plan to implement UPR recommendations. This action plan cover the period of 2017-2021.
- Provides technical assistance and capacity building to establish a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that has been accredited with an A status in March 2017 by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). With the support of OHCHR, the NHRC has developed in 2018 its Strategic Action Plan for 2019-2023.
- Seeks to build mechanisms, systems and policies required for greater protection and promotion of human rights in the country. This effort will be strengthened with the expected deployment in 2019 of an OHCHR G5 Sahel Joint Forces team composed of 6 staff to support the implementation of the G5 Sahel compliance framework, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 2391 of 8 December 2017. The compliance framework constitutes a framework to reduce the risks of harm to civilians by the conduct of offensive military operations. It consist of an innovative package of actual and concrete mechanisms and measures to prevent, mitigate and address violations that could be committed by the FC-G5S during the conduct of its operations in all G5 Sahel countries, including Niger.
Source: UN Human Rights Country factsheet/March 2019