OHCHR – Central Asia Regional Office
Regional Office for Central Asia, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' (OHCHR) Regional Office for Central Asia (ROCA) was established in 2008 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and currently covers all five countries in the region: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In line with the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as set out in the General Assembly's Resolution 48/141 of 20 December 1993, ROCA will engage with Governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector as well as relevant United Nations partners, to formulate and implement programmes and activities for the promotion and protection of all human rights in the countries of Central Asia.
ROCA works with countries in the region to strengthen the capacity of national governments, national human right institutions, non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders and civil society activists to increase compliance of national laws and practices with human rights standards and improve protection against human rights violations, in particular violations relating to fundamental freedoms, non-discrimination, freedom from torture, the right to a fair trial and independence of judges and lawyers.
ROCA is based in Bishkek and a presence in Osh, Kyrgyzstan; in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
OHCHR previous engagement and achievements
Since its establishment in 2008, ROCA has positioned itself as a solid, trusted source of human rights expertise and has established close links with many actors in the region, in particular with civil society, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-Up (NMRFs) and the international community.
ROCA's thematic priorities for the current programming cycle 2018-2021are: widening the democratic space, strengthening the capacity of NHRIs in line with the Paris Principles, strengthening the capacity of NMRFs, promoting the use of international human rights mechanisms and national engagement with them, building the capacity of national actors on compliance with principles of non-discrimination and equality, and combating impunity and strengthening accountability and the rule of law.
Across the region, ROCA undertook activities to strengthen the capacity of governments, NHRI, NMRFs, civil society, and the international community (including United Nations Country Team (UNCT)) to protect and promote human rights, focusing on priority areas listed above.
ROCA's engagement has contributed to the following human rights achievements:
- Supporting national actors with expertise on applicable international human rights standards during development and adoption of legislation and policies related to human rights;
- Increased state and civil society engagement with UN human rights mechanisms (UNHRMs). This can be seen through submission of national and alternative reports; interaction with special procedures, including country visits; ratification of outstanding core UN human rights treaties; and continued follow-up to the recommendations of the UN human rights mechanisms, including through expert support during drafting of national strategies and action plans on the UNHRMs recommendations, including UPR action plans;
- Accreditation of NHRIs in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with "B" status within GANHRI (former the ICC) and their regional collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Previous engagement has resulted in ROCA developing a comparative advantage for promoting and protecting human rights in Central Asia. ROCA's key added value lies in three main areas:
Expertise and authoritative voice on human rights: ROCA is often asked by state authorities, NHRIs, civil society and the international community to provide advice on international human rights standards. Further, expertise from OHCHR is sought due to its role as secretariat of the UNHRMs. ROCA has a good standing with partners for providing credible, balanced information, comprehensive guidance, and constructive engagement in difficult situations. ROCA has demonstrated its ability to provide timely advice to many partners which bodes well for future cooperation.
Mainstreaming and advocacy: ROCA has privileged access to authorities to advocate for human rights issues and to encourage practice and adoption of laws in line with international standards. ROCA engages with civil society and offers its support in conveying their independent voices to national authorities and the international community. Furthermore, ROCA regularly provides advice on mainstreaming human rights into UN programmes, including human rights-based approaches, human rights indicators and a human rights-based approach to data, training sessions for UN partners, state authorities, civil society, non-government organizations and other human rights actors and stakeholders. ROCA contributed human rights expertise in the rolling out of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In light of COVID-19 outbreak, ROCA is providing human rights expertise on building back better from the COVID-19 socio-economic impact.
Coordination: ROCA's coordination on human rights issues with international and national counterparts as well as with UNCTs has facilitated synergies. ROCA's coordination role ensures strategic planning around human rights developments and that human rights issues are on the agenda of other actors.
These elements highlight ROCA's comparative advantage and explain why the Office is best placed to further advance human rights in Central Asia, by playing an active role in promoting and protecting human rights.