Statement at Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) Annual Conference, 23 February 2018


23 February 2018

“Monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities and ensuring their participation: The role of National Human Rights Institutions”
10.00 – 11:00, Room XIX

Madame Chairperson,
Mr. High Commissioner,
Mr. Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,
Distinguished Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to thank Chairperson Dr. Beate Rudolf for the invitation to be here this morning. It is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to address you during this opening of the GANHRI 2018 Annual Conference.

Before anything else, I wish to recognize the 25th anniversary of the endorsement of the Paris Principles by the UN General Assembly, and the 25th anniversary establishment of the global network of national human rights institutions, today known as GANHRI. This important milestone provides us with the opportunity to not only celebrate all that has been accomplished in the promotion and strengthening of NHRIs over the past quarter of a century, but also to reflect on the challenges faced and the lessons learned, and consider how to become even stronger.
As you likely already know, this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. On this occasion, next Wednesday the Human Rights Council will hold a high-level panel discussion focused on the implementation of the provisions of the Declarations.

I wish to reiterate the Vienna Declaration’s statement of the important and constructive role played by NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights. The Declaration particularly highlights their advisory capacity to competent authorities, and their role in preventing and remedying human rights violations, in the dissemination of human rights information, and in human rights education.

NHRIs, with their long-standing cooperation, have become essential partners of the Human Rights Council. Moreover, as discussions take place within the Council to improve its efficiency and enhance the Council’s impact on the ground, NHRIs can play a strong part in heightening the Council’s effectiveness.

In addition to bringing to the Council credible, independent and evidence-based information about the local application of international human rights norms and standards, NHRIs can provide the Council with authoritative indications about where progress has been made and where challenges remain. They are also uniquely positioned to promote, monitor and report on the domestic compliance by States of their human rights responsibilities and their implementation of Council recommendations. 

Moreover, they can work to increase awareness of and involvement by national-level institutions and actors in the Council’s work, thereby helping to make the Council more relevant at the national and grassroots level, including rights-holders themselves.

The important role played by NHRIs in the work of the Human Rights Council, and especially in its UPR mechanism, has been acknowledged through resolutions of both the General Assembly and the Council, most recently in Council resolution 33/15 on “National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights”.

Given the important contribution that NHRIs make in the Human Rights Council, and the great potential they have for doing the same in other relevant UN bodies, we must ensure the existence of strong and independent NHRIs in accordance with the Paris Principles. It is for this reason that I wish to commend the Global Alliance of NHRIs and its Sub-Committee on Accreditation for upholding their transparent, rigorous and independent accreditation process.

The rights of persons with disabilities is a key priority in the Council’s agenda. For that reason, I welcome the topic of this year’s Annual Conference.

The Human Rights Council regularly addresses the issue of rights of persons with disabilities, including through the reports of the Special Rapporteur, the annual debate and regular resolutions. Moreover, the issue often arises within the context of the UPR as well as in the framework of discussions on technical cooperation, women, children, and ageing, among others.

Additionally, the Human Rights Council is regularly working to enhance accessibility for persons with disabilities to the Council. In 2011, through resolution 16/21, the Council established a Task Force mandated to study, among other issues, the accessibility to the Council’s work for persons with disabilities. I am pleased to inform you that at the end of last year, this Task Force, which is composed of the Bureau of the Council and representatives of OHCHR and UNOG, and meets regularly with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted an Accessibility Plan. The Plan sets out priority areas and related actions to address existing barriers preventing persons with disabilities from participating in and accessing the work of the Council.

And I encourage all of you to continue engaging in the work of the Council in order to provide your expertise and information on national situations in relation to persons with disabilities. Keep in mind that NHRIs can also bring individual cases of concern to the attention of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. Additionally, I hope that the guidance provided by the Council through its reports and recommendations can be a useful tool for NHRIs.   

Before concluding, I wish to commend the important work of NHRIs in preventing and addressing cases of reprisals against human rights defenders. It cannot be overlooked, however, that NHRIs themselves also face reprisals for their work. One of my priorities this year is to ensure safe and inclusive participation of all stakeholders in the Council.
In this regard, I will make great effort to ensure that NHRIs and all other human rights defenders can safely carry out their work in the Council. I encourage you to inform the Council Secretariat of any incidents or perceived threats that may arise in relation to the Council’s work. I assure you that we will remain alert on these issues throughout the year.

Thank you all very much. I wish you a fruitful and successful Annual Conference.