Arab region, behind the violations a glimmer of hope? Qatar regional meeting and a Arab League manual

January 11, 2016

 The Arab region is these days mostly known or its turmoil and attacks on human rights defenders. Still there are some more quiet developments that could over time improve the situation. Here are two of them” (1) a conference in Qatar and (2) a new manual The League of Arab States: Human Rights Standards and Mechanisms

(1) A Regional Conference on the Role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Promoting and Protecting Human Rights in the Arab Region will be held on 13-14 January 2016. Some 220 foreign delegates will take part in the event, including 15 foreign ministers, said a Qatar National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) official. Strangely, the senior NHRC official addressing the press meet didn’t wish to be named.

The conference will be held under the patronage of Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. The conference will bring together representatives of international and regional organisations, human rights institutions, civil society groups as well as human rights and legal committees of Arab parliaments and Advisory Council, GCC secretary General and the Organization of Islamic Conference States. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad, will take part in opening the conference, his first official visit to Qatar, along with the Secretary-General of the UN. The conference will not focus on certain countries or groups and will serve as a forum for an interactive dialogue on roles, best practices and expectations of various stakeholders in protecting human rights in the Arab region.

The conference will come up with recommendations at three levels: for the regional office of the OHCHR, for governments and civil society organisations, said the official.

The conference is to highlight appropriate approaches of the UN human rights system, particularly the role of OHCHR to promote and protect rights in the current context of the Arab region; assess the state of cooperation between Arab countries and the UN human rights system and share lessons learnt and support efforts of the UN regional office to strengthen human rights in the region.

According to a press release issued by NHRC, the conference also intends to discuss and create a common understanding of thematic rights priorities in the region including freedom of expression, association, human rights education, responses to regional basic human rights issues amid war and conflicts.

There will be several work papers presented at all the sessions and workshops. Papers will address issues such as Arab countries’ cooperation with UN human right organisations, ratification of core human right treaties. In addition to Arab countries’ engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms including Treaty Bodies and special procedures and implementations of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. (as reported by Mohammed Osman in The Peninsula on 6 January 2015). Qatar is not perfect [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/qatar/] but still one of the better places in the middle East.

(2) Until now, the role of he League of Arab States has been far from consistent or guided by a genuine human rights agenda. However, a closer look at the Arab League during the recent crises in the region reveals a slow shift in its positioning, highlighting the importance for civil society to engage with the Arab League and influence policies and reform in the region. The engagement of civil society in the region with the League has been fragmented, and at times not driven by a clear strategy. Therefore, this engagement and its impact can be strengthened through effective strategies and mechanisms. It is, therefore, paramount that the Arab League reform its relationship with civil society, and at the same time for civil society to improve its own relationship with the Arab League. The ultimate goal is better protection of human rights in Arab countries. This manual has been produced with these challenges and opportunities in mind. It aims at providing information to activists in the civil society movement, especially those working in the human rights field, on the structures, standards, and mechanisms of the Arab League relating to human rights.

Sources:

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/league-arab-states-human-rights-standards-and-mechanisms

The Peninsula Qatar – Qatar to host regional human rights meeting

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