On 15 February 2016, OHCHR organized an event to bring together beneficiary and donor countries of the Trust Fund to support the participation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and to review the Trust Fund’s achievements and challenges.
Some 35 diplomats representing donor and beneficiary countries, both current and potential, gathered to discuss why the increased participation of LDCs and SIDS in Human Rights Council meetings was essential and the challenges facing these States in realizing this.
Eric Tistounet, Senior OHCHR Official said that “2015 has been a landmark year for the Trust Fund. The number of beneficiary countries has tripled. While in 2014, the year the Fund became operational; it only supported seven delegates and two Fellows, in 2015 it was able to cover the participation of 20 delegates and six Fellows. With the total number of LDCs/SIDS amounting to 76, it means that almost 45% of those countries benefitted from the Trust Fund, he noted. He stressed that over the past year, the number of women beneficiary has also tripled. With regard to gender, the Trust Fund has made progress over the year.
Ms. Fatou Camara Houel, Coordinator of the Trust Fund, updated the audience on the progress made with regard to the E-learning tool on the Human Rights Council (HRC) and its mechanisms for LDCs/SIDS delegates, which is another activity mandated to the Fund. She noted that the E-learning will be needs-based and will take into account the complementary roles of the government officials based in the capital and of the ones based Geneva. The E-learning, to be launched during a side event in June, will be accessible for persons with disabilities and available in English and French.
OHCHR also informed of its efforts to keep the LDCs/SIDS missions in New York abreast on the developments in the HRC.
During the ensuing discussion a dozen of participants took the floor to stress the importance of the Funds. Representatives of beneficiary countries such as the Bahamas, Sierra Leone, Haiti, the Maldives, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Djibouti - in their remarks stressed the value of the Fund by explaining how it had enabled them to participate and contribute more actively in the work of the Council. The Permanent Representative of the Bahamas said that her country was considering establishing a National Human Rights Institution. She stressed that the Fellow supported by the Trust Fund in 2015 was providing key support to the process. Donor countries echoed the positive impact of the Fund and Switzerland announced that it would pledge CHFrs 25,000 this year. Ireland, first donor to the Fund, as well as Germany and Italy said that they would continue to support it.
This event was also an opportunity to introduce the four LDCs/SIDS delegates from Malawi, Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, selected by the Fund to attend the 31st session of the HRC (29 February-24 March). Three of them are women and it will be their first time in Geneva attending an HRC session although they are working on human rights issues in their respective country. Informing that two of the delegates did not have a permanent representation in Geneva, Mr. Tistounet called upon the audience to act as peers for them. This call was positively responded to by several missions.
“We need to understand that the Trust Fund is not about who gives and who receive. It is about ensuring that all Member states that do not have a representation in Geneva are able to participate and contribute to the discussions being held in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations room” added Ms. Camara Houel.
In the context of this Trust Fund, cooperation with cross-regional organizations that include LDCs/SIDS members was noted. Ms. Camara Houel thanked the Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva for its offer to provide office space to the delegates. The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) expressed its appreciation to the Fund for having supported 10 French speaking delegates out of the 12 selected in June 2015.
OHCHR officials recalled that the average cost of a delegate and a fellow was US$ 10,000 and US$ 16,000, respectively. “The beauty of this Fund is that your money has a face “noted Ms. Camara Houel. “In supporting the Fund, even with a modest amount, you know that you have enabled a delegate, a peer, to voice the human rights opportunities and challenges of an LDC or a SIDS” she added.
Mr. Tistounet said that the Fund needed urgent contributions to enable it to continue its activities. Hence, the launching of a campaign entitled “10, 000 for the 10th. “It is critical that on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the first session of the Human Rights Council, a delegate from every single one of the 193 UN Member states be able to sit behind the name plate of his/her country. All LDCs/SIDS must be able to attend. In launching this campaign our objective is to fund the 16 SIDS that do not have a permanent representation in Geneva” he concluded.
The Trust Fund, designed to enhance the institutional and human capacity of LDCs and SIDS, was established through Human Rights Council resolution 19/26 of March 2012 adopted unanimously by the Geneva-based body in order to enable delegations from LDC and SDIS “to participate more fully in the work of the Human Rights Council”.
For more information, please refer to the following link: http://www.ohchr.org/sidsldcs
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