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National human rights institutions

An important objective of the Technical Cooperation Programme is to consolidate and strengthen the role which national human rights institutions can play in the promotion and protection of human rights. To this end, information materials and a manual have been developed for those involved in the establishment and functioning of national human rights institutions. In addition, a number of seminars and workshops have been conducted to provide government officials with information and expertise in the structure and functioning of such bodies. These events have also served as forums for exchange of information and experience concerning the establishment and operation of national human rights institutions. Direct cooperation in establishing or strengthening national human rights institutions has been offered, often in collaboration with UNDP, to some 30 countries.

Administration of justice

The Programme provides training courses for judges, lawyers, prosecutors and prison officials, as well as law enforcement officers. Such courses are intended to familiarize participants with international human rights standards relevant for the administration of justice; facilitate examination of humane and effective techniques for the performance of penal and judicial functions in a democratic society; and teach trainers to include this information in their own training activities. Topics offered in courses for judges, lawyers, magistrates and prosecutors include: international systems of human rights protection; the independence of judges and lawyers; human rights standards applicable in criminal investigations, arrest and pre trial detention; elements of a fair trial; juvenile justice; protection of the rights of women in the administration of justice; and human rights under a state of emergency.

Similarly, the training courses for law enforcement officials cover a variety of topics, including the following: relevant international human rights standards; the duties and principles of the code of conduct for the police in democracies; the use of force and firearms by law enforcement agencies; protection against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment; effective methods of legal and ethical interviewing; human rights during arrest and pre-trial detention; and the legal status and the rights of the accused.

Assistance for constitutional and legislative reform

Assistance is provided with a view to ensuring consistency of national legislation with the international human rights standards. The assistance may take the form of advisory services provided by experts, organization of conferences, provision of human rights information and documentation, assistance in drafting laws, or support for public information campaigns to ensure the involvement of all sectors of society in law-making. This Programme component includes assistance with respect to constitutional law; penal codes and codes of criminal procedure; prison regulations; laws regarding minority protection; laws affecting freedom of expression, association and assembly; immigration and nationality laws; laws on the judiciary and legal practice; security legislation; and, in general, any law which might have an impact, directly or indirectly, on the realization of internationally protected human rights.

National parliaments

Projects developed in cooperation with national parliaments address, inter alia, ratification of international human rights instruments, the provision of information on comparative national human rights legislation, the role of parliamentary human rights committees and, in general, the role of parliament in promoting and protecting human rights.

The armed forces

The Programme has carried out a number of training activities for military officers. It conveys the importance and applicability of the rule of law and human rights in the activities of the armed forces, as well as their role in a democratic State.

Electoral assistance

This component includes the preparation of guidelines for analysis of electoral laws and procedures, publication of a handbook on human rights and elections, and public information relating to human rights and elections.

Treaty reporting

The Programme regularly organizes training activities for government officials responsible for the reports due under international human rights treaties to which their State is a party. Such assistance is provided at national and regional levels. The fellowship programme facilitates participation in the training, which includes workshops with experts from various treaty-monitoring bodies, as well as specialized OHCHR staff. An OHCHR Manual on Human Rights Reporting has been produced and visits to observe meetings of treaty bodies are being organized.

Non-governmental organizations and civil society

Strengthening civil society is one of the aims of the Programme. Accordingly, projects may include assistance to non-governmental organizations in the context of its country activities, by including them in seminars and training courses and supporting appropriate projects they have developed, as appropriate. Non-governmental organizations are not only addressees of technical cooperation projects but increasingly are also involved in their implementation. This empowers civil society and increases the potential of the Programme.

Training and education materials

OHCHR develops materials to support human rights education and training within the framework of OHCHR global, regional and national technical cooperation programmes. Training and education materials are tailored to specific audiences and reflect relevant training methodologies; they are developed in close cooperation with professional associations and relevant experts and organizations. In addition to their role in OHCHR’s activities, those materials constitute a valuable resource for any organizations and individuals involved in human rights education and training.

Human rights education

Human rights education promotes values, beliefs and attitudes that encourage all individuals to uphold their own rights and those of others. It develops an understanding of everyone's common responsibility to make human rights a reality in each community. Human rights education constitutes an essential contribution to the long-term prevention of human rights abuses and represents an important investment in the endeavour to achieve a just society in which all human rights of all persons are valued and respected. Information on OHCHR’s work in the area of human rights education and training is available here.

National plans of action

The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that each State consider the desirability of drawing up a national action plan identifying steps whereby that State would improve the promotion and protection of human rights.

The fundamental purpose of a human rights action plan is to improve the promotion and protection of human rights in a particular country. It does this by placing human rights improvements in the context of public policy, so that governments and communities can endorse human rights improvements as practical goals, devise programmes to ensure the achievement of those goals, engage all relevant sectors of government and society and allocate sufficient