Skip to main content

Statements Multiple Mechanisms

Annual Thematic Discussion on Technical Cooperation

Assisting States to uphold human rights

20 June 2017

Statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

35th session of the Human Rights Council

Distinguished panellists
Colleagues, Friends,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss the technical cooperation programmes undertaken by my Office – programmes of which we are, I believe justly, proud.

Effective technical cooperation is one of the keys to prevention. Prevention of suffering; prevention of discrimination and marginalisation; prevention of conflict. And the report before you, which analyses some of the lessons of the technical cooperation and capacity-building work we have undertaken over the past decade, is an impressive sweep of many types of cooperation across the globe. It demonstrates the importance of joining up all the work of my Office, so that legal guidance flows naturally into practical assistance programmes – which to be relevant and effective, must also be anchored in the contributions of monitoring work and public advocacy.

Effective technical cooperation also benefits from strong integration into the work of UN Country Teams, particularly in the context of the 2030 Agenda. It is human rights – and especially the right to development – which puts the "S", for Sustainable, into the SDGs.

My Office continues to make very significant efforts to monitor the impact of our technical cooperation, including through our performance monitoring system and periodic evaluations. And it is evident that two basic components of any successful cooperation programme are time, and partnership.

'One size fits all' is not an effective or a principled human rights approach. No technical cooperation programme that is short-term or isolated from the broader context can hope to succeed in creating sustainable change. The work of shifting fundamental conditions within society must be grounded in local knowledge, reach out broadly to every relevant dimension of society, and connect deeply with the real actors and experts – people on the ground.

For example, engagement with law enforcement and military and security forces is part of the work of almost every OHCHR field presence. It has become evident that isolated training activities with individual units are far less effective than a sustained engagement with military or police training academies and more systemic reform.

In order to guide successful technical cooperation it is also important to make progress visible and trackable. Paraguay's online system for reporting on follow-up to recommendations is an excellent example, including all relevant policies and programmes, and this work is being replicated in Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Guatemala and Honduras among others in the region. Elsewhere, Fiji, Mongolia and Tunisia, among others, are working on similar tools. OHCHR has also provided extensive assistance to enable States to establish national human rights action plans, and to further coordinate implementation through the work of national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up.

This kind of systemic approach involves reaching out to NHRIs and civil society – including people from vulnerable and traditionally marginalised groups – as well as to regional, national and local officials. We are also particularly keen to promote strong accountability for follow-up to national plans and international recommendations.

In struggling to establish such comprehensive and profound engagement with the national and local landscape of issues and actors, my staff need to be able to count on a long-term mandate for the OHCHR field presence in question, as well as secure funding. Short and unsustainable interventions that lack the proper follow-up are not the right way to approach the implementation of human rights. Many of our most effective OHCHR technical cooperation activities span five to ten years or more.

It would be impossible to cite all the successful programmes we have undertaken, but our experience in Colombia, for example, has demonstrated that the impact of our work is greatly magnified when we have the time, the means and the opportunity to seek practical implementation of our full mandate. In Tunisia, too, the Office has assisted in building the Constitutional process, strengthening independent institutions and establishing effective counter-terrorism work. In Uganda, we have helped integrate human rights into the Vision 2040 development strategy. In Thailand, together with UNODC, we have facilitated justice sector reforms, including on improvements to the conditions for detained women. A model protocol has been drawn up with UN Women for investigation of femicides across many Central and Latin American countries. In Europe, our efforts to guide the EU directive on trafficking are another example of the national impact of regional initiatives.

Looking forward to the third cycle of the UPR, technical cooperation will be essential to advance implementation of recommendations. Many Member States are in an excellent position to provide guidance, suggestions and support. My Office has assisted a number of effective South-South cooperative efforts. I urge all representatives of Member States to consider how they, too, can engage in technical cooperation to uphold human rights.

Thank you, and I look forward to your discussions.