2015 Fellows of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing Sates (SIDS) in the work of the Human Rights Council, Graduation Ceremony From left to Right: RajendraThapa (Nepal), Myntha Ernest (Saint Lucia), Jolina Tsausinga (Solomon Islands), Ambassador Filloreta Kodra of Albania and Vice-President of the Human Rights Council , Cassandra Labor Bangura (Sierra Leone) and Damas Mutagoma (Rwanda). © Danielle Kirby
Taking a huge step towards strengthening their countries' human rights capacities, six government officials from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) completed the final stage of an OHCHR-administered fellowship programme in Geneva aimed to enhance their ability to participate more effectively and fully in the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.
Government representatives from the Bahamas, Nepal, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone and the Solomon Islands successfully completed the three-month training programme, held 31 August to 27 November 2015, which included a series of detailed presentations on various aspects of the role of the Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights globally, mock exercises in relations to Council activities, and peer exchanges and mentoring with OHCHR colleagues.
The programme was made possible by the Voluntary Trust Fund to Support the Participation of LDCs and SIDS in the work of the Human Rights Council. This is the second time that the Office offers this programme which was initiated in 2014 with only 2 Fellows. For 2015, a total of 88 fellowship applications were received by the OHCHR; 14 were retained and six candidates were eventually selected.
The 2015 Fellowship programme overlapped with the 30th regular session of the Human Rights Council and the 23rd session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group enabling the six Fellows to gain first-hand knowledge of how the meetings are held in the Swiss city.
For all of the 2015 Fellows, it was their first time to participate in person in the Human Rights Council and for some their first stay in Europe. “Being with delegates from other countries has been a lifetime experience. We learnt together, we shared a lot and we discovered that we had a lot in common”, noted a Fellow.
"I would like to thank the OHCHR for this opportunity offered to government officials from LDCs/SIDS. This is a unique experience and it has enabled us, the fellows, not only to learn on the various mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and their modalities, but also to share when we will back home what we learnt with other colleagues in our respective Ministries", said one of the Fellows.
The Fellows presented their research papers covering a variety of issues. Ambassador Filloreta Kodra of Albania and Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, presented each Fellow with the Certificate of the Academy 2015 signed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The ceremony was attended by diplomats from LDCs/SIDS and representatives of donor countries to the Fund as well as UN staffers.“The voices of all countries regardless of the size should and must be heard in Room 20. We hope that this three-month Fellowship programme has equipped you to be the voice of your country and to participate more fully in the work of the Human Rights Council”, stated Eric Tistounet, acting Director of the Human Rights Council and Mechanisms Division of the Office.
The six Fellows (see attached biographies), four women and two men, working in their ministries of foreign affairs and justice, were chosen taking into consideration the complementarity of their roles with their colleagues’ at their respective permanent missions in Geneva. Designed to transfer knowledge and build capacity back home, the key of the programme, in effect, is to also support the SIDS/LDCS permanent missions in Geneva that have limited staff on the ground and to reinforce the links with their capitals.
“The fellowship ends today. But in our view it is just the first step towards a beginning of a long-term engagement to promote and protect human rights, all human rights in your country”, noted Fatou Camara Houel, Trust Fund Coordinator in the OHCHR.
Since it became operational in January 2014, the Trust Fund has enabled 35 government officials from 30 countries (17 LDCs, 8 SIDS and 5 LDCs/SIDS) to travel to Geneva where they actively participated in Council meetings and engaged with other government representatives, civil society and UN staff, and ultimately share their experiences with those back in their countries.
For more information on the Voluntary Technical assistance Trust Fund to support the Participation of LDCs and SIDS in the work of the Human Rights Council, please refer to the following links: www.ohchr.org/sidsldc
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