Experts Discuss Strategies for more Effective National Human Rights Systems

17 December 2020

During the course of two days, more than 60 participants – experts from Geneva-based human rights mechanisms and representatives from more than 20 different national human rights systems, ranging from Latin America, Northern Africa, Far East Asia and the Pacific – discussed in an online meeting the implementation of human rights standards through national human rights systems (NHRSs).

‘This topic is both timely and important. The international covenants and conventions do have intrinsic value in shaping the discourse around the globe but they can only unleash their full potential if implemented and adhered to domestically’ underlines Ambassador Hans-Peter Jugel, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations in Geneva.

Identifying Best Practices and Discussing Key Questions

NHRSs come in different forms and structures. This seminar presented a unique forum for different national human rights actors – governmental bodies, independent state institutions and civil society organizations – to exchange their latest strategies for human rights implementation and monitoring and helped to enhance interaction between two or more national actors. The seminar notably highlighted a number of tangible common features for a most effective NHRS, providing best practice examples in a peer-to-peer learning process.

The seminar also discussed specific issues including NHRSs’ information management capacity; the capacity of different domestic actors to mutually engage with each other and liaise with international human rights bodies in the context of reporting, visits by UN special procedures or other international expert bodies; and NHRSs’ capacity to foster participation and provide a platform for consultations among national actors.

‘The discussions notably allowed identifying obstacles and good practices that can guide the process towards a consolidated NHRS, including reducing the load on national actors, reducing duplication in reporting to UN human rights bodies and the possibility of a common monitoring methodology’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Manager of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy and Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Participants also suggested exploring the possibility of devising a list of general principles related to the functioning of effective NHRSs, which might include specific sections on broad characteristics like institutional design, effective interactions among national human rights actors, meaningful participation of all relevant stakeholders, transparency and accountability in the decision-making process, availability of resources, as well as accessibility and digitalization.

A Larger Research

This meeting forms part of our research project on the role of national human rights systems in implementing international human rights standards and recommendations.

‘This seminar will allow us to integrate the different experiences into our wider research, enriching our reflection on how to increase the effectiveness of national human rights monitoring and implementation strategies’ stresses Domenico Zipoli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘One early finding of our research is the growing relevance of digital tracking tools for human rights monitoring, implementation and follow-up – such as the National Recommendations Tracking Database and the Human Rights Index developed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); SIMORE PLUS developed by Paraguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with OHCHR; IMPACT OSS, maintained by the Impact Open Source Software Trust and IWAZI, developed by HURIDOCS. This encourages us to strengthen our efforts in the field of human rights information management systems, including research and dedicated seminars, in order to define convergences, complementarities and best practices useful for all relevant stakeholders’ he adds.

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