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Strengthening human rights starts at home: the Paraguayan experience

27 February 2012


“Paraguay is working hard to cope with its challenges and this explains the development of a participatory process for establishing a National Human Rights Action Plan,” says Liliana Valiña, the Human Rights Adviser in Paraguay.

The National Human Rights Action Plan was presented by the Government of Paraguay in a large public event in December 2011. The document aims at improving the promotion and protection of human rights and sets achievable targets, involving State, civil society and academic institutions, to improve the human rights situation in the country.

The 300-page document represents the commitment of the Government to fulfil the recommendations made by different international human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Universal Periodic Review.

Key objectives of Plan stress the need to include a human rights education programme in all levels of the education system, through the prompt adoption and implementation of the National Plan on Human Rights Education. The Human Rights Action Plan also aims at reducing the housing deficit, meeting demands for urban and rural housing through the design and implementation of a national policy on housing. It also seeks at strengthening public policies on the right to food and ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation services.

The National Human Rights Action Plan outlines the challenges that Paraguay faces on administration of justice and impunity, indigenous peoples and women’s rights, inequality and discrimination, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as in combating poverty.

The Plan is the result of broad and inclusive consultations among representatives of national authorities, civil society organisations and the academia across the country. Broad participation ensures that the Plan’s goals are widely shared and that the process of elaboration of the Plan is transparent.

“The great achievement of this process has been the inclusion of different sectors of society in a joint effort with the Government and other State institutions to establish their goals of protection and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” says Valiña.

The Human Rights Adviser based in Paraguay has provided support and assistance on the elaboration of the Plan. “A National Human Rights Action Plan represents a new national project. Each country identifies its own challenges, priorities and goals,” says Valiña. “Each society evaluates its current situation from its experiences and identifies the path to move forward as a transformed society which gives space to diversity, dignity, empowerment and equality of opportunities.”

The Plan addresses issues such as equality and non-discrimination, rule of law, education and promoting a human rights culture and human security. It specifically outlines targeted measures to improve the human rights situation of vulnerable and discriminated groups, such as indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, persons with disabilities, women, children, older persons, sexual minorities, and migrants.

While the development of a National Human Rights Action Plan is an important step, implementation is what matters.

A successful Plan will be assessed by whether its objectives are met through concrete measures and actually strengthen the enjoyment of human rights in the country.

Among the major benefits is that the very process of developing a National Human Rights Action Plan, if well designed and implemented, is an opportunity to raise awareness of human rights and to promote the creation of a human rights culture. National plans can promote dialogue among different sectors of society and broaden public’s participation in the development of human rights policies. They are also an important means to identify human rights priorities within the country and set time-bound goals and programmes to meet them.  Plans that are concise and practical help identify key actors and recommend priorities and solutions, make implementation easier and are more likely to succeed.

The allocation of a budget from within Government funds to carry out the planned activities is also important.

The origin of preparing a National Human Rights Action Plans dates back to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Actionadopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, which recommended 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 UN Human Rights office has developed guidelines and produced a Handbook on National Human Rights Action Plans. It also provides assistance to States on Plans’ development.

27 February 2012