Posts Tagged ‘OHCHR’

Without more extra-budgetary funding human rights work in the UN is in trouble

March 1, 2018

In a year that deep cuts were made to UN budgets, resourcing for human rights also activities took a big hit. The UN General Assembly’s approved approximately 50% less funding for some human rights posts than requested. Funds to support the work of treaty bodies were cut, but the need to adequately fund treaty bodies was reaffirmed, establishing a mandate for future resource requests.

Decisions directly affecting human rights activities were caught up in a powerful push – particularly by the US – for deep cuts to the proposed biennium budget. The approved UN regular budget for 2018 -2019 of $5.397 billion, is almost $200 million below what the Secretary General had sought, and 5% less than the budget approved for 2016-2017.

The percentage of the UN budget directed to support the human rights pillar is already tiny. To then carve off funding for posts already agreed as essential, makes no sense,’ she added. ‘The General Assembly ignores the fact that investing in human rights protection is a smart choice. ISHR’s Tess McEvoy said on 4 January 2018. (for more information on the budget cuts see https://www.ishr.ch/news/unga72-human-rights-funding-takes-hit-key-mandate-reaffirmed).

On 27 February 2018 the OHCHR announced that Norway has pledged to increase its funding for the UN Human Rights Office, giving some USD 18m dollars – a year over four years. Generally there is impressive support for human rights from Scandinavia (Denmark is doubling its funding for 2018 USD 10m, and in 2017, Sweden was the second biggest donor with some USD16m).

However, even with a record USD142.8m in voluntary contributions last year, the UN Office still fell short of the funds needed to respond to all requests for assistance. Therefore it has just launched  appeal for extra-budgetary funding for 2018 – with as most ambitious target yet, amounting to USD278.3m.

The OHCHR hopes that the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will encourage all UN Member States to make voluntary contributions. If you want to see how much individual States gave to the UN Human Rights Office in 2017, please see: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/FundingBudget/VoluntaryContributions2017.pdf

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22715&LangID=E

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 MechanismsRead the rest of this entry »

Thailand returns recognized refugees to China (and falsely claims they did not know about their status)

December 8, 2015

Anneliese Mcauliffe in Al Jazeera on 6 December 2015 reported that two Chinese human rights defenders recognised as UN refugees were forcibly deported from Thailand to China last month and have appeared on Chinese state-run television and confessed to human-trafficking offenses. CCTV reported that Jiang Yefei was arrested for “assisting others to illegally cross the national border”, and Dong Guangping was charged with using a trafficking network to flee China while awaiting trial on sedition charges. It was the first time the two men were seen since being taken from a detention centre in the Thai capital Bangkok in November and deported to China.

Read the rest of this entry »

UN consultation on space for civil society

May 19, 2015

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is putting together a report of practical recommendations on how to create and maintain the space for civil society to work freely and independently. The freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly etc are at the heart of civic activity and good laws and rules to guarantee public freedoms, as well as ways to monitor and protect them are of course a necessary condition. But also needed are:

  • a political and public environment that values civil society’s contributions
  • free flow of information
  • long-term support and resources
  • space for dialogue and collaboration

The OHCHR is interested to hear from you about your experience.  Please share:

  1. your examples and illustrations of these and other ways to maintain space to work
  2. if there are limitations, how do you continue to carry out your activities
  3. useful links, tools, resources, guides (whatever the language)

And forward this Note to others who should know about it!!

Please send information before 30 June 2015 by email to: civilsociety@ohchr.org, with in the subject heading “Civil Society Space Report – Input”.

For the full text of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council, see: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/27/31

Consultation – updated 21 April 2015.doc – Google Docs.

OHCHR’s Civil Society Section offers to keep you informed weekly

May 15, 2015

Just a quick note to alert those (few?) who do not know it that you can easily subscribe (and unsubscribe) to the “Weekly Updates” from the Civil Society Section of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Mail:  civilsociety@ohchr.org.  Telephone: +41 22 917 9656humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

Films help educate students in Geneva about human rights

May 12, 2015

It may not be news to the readers of this blog but it is good to heart the Office of the Un High Commissioner for G+Human Rights say it: “Movies are powerful” said Elena Ippoliti, Human Rights Officer for the UN Human Rights Office. “Sometimes, young people can open their eyes more through an eight-minute film, than through a two-hour lecture.

For a decade the Office has partnered with the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) in carrying out an educational programme, which takes place during the annual film festival. It provides screenings and discussions of a selection of human rights films for students mainly attending the secondary schools in Geneva. The festival was getting good audiences, but films were being seen by people who were already familiar with the issues. He said reaching out to schools seemed a natural fit.

Ippoliti said the education programme is also a chance for the Office to work at a local level in the headquarters host city of Geneva: “We, OHCHR Geneva, work at the global level. But by working with schools here, we also reach out to the local level,”.

Films help educate students about human rights.

Joint Inspection Unit on human rights: not so innocent as it sounds

April 7, 2015

In a long but excellent post in Universal Rights of 23 March 2015, Subhas Gujadhur and Marc Limon dissect the issue of the Joint Inspection Unit‘s [JIU] report at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council (2 – 27 March) under the title: “The JIU report: what’s all the fuss about?”.

The background in short is that for years a number of countries – not by coincidence those that do not like the sometimes rather forthright pronouncements by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights -have tried to get more ‘control’ over its management and resources. They are in fact using the ‘backdoor’ of the UN inspection unit to get there.

This is a very important issue but one that is too much cloaked in UN jargon to make it to mainstream media. In the words of the authors:  “Casual observers of the Human Rights Council may have been forgiven.. for a degree of bafflement at repeated and sometimes quite excitable references to a three letter acronym: JIU.

So let me quote liberally from the post in question:

The report on the ‘review of management and administration’ of the OHCHR [JIU/REP/2014/7] was produced by the JIU in response to a request by the Human Rights Council in March 2013 (resolution 22/2) and the report’s author, Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare, hoped to be able to present is to the Council at is 28th session.

This may all seem innocuous enough. However, resolution 22/2 and the JIU report touch upon fundamental and extremely sensitive questions about the role, prerogatives and independence of OHCHR, and its relationship with the member states of the Council; and are part of a long-running struggle between two groups of states with very different views on what OHCHR is, what it is there to do, and how it’s work should be overseen.

Council resolution 22/2 (adopted by a vote, with developed countries against and developing countries in favour) requested the JIU to ‘undertake a comprehensive follow up review of the management and administration of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in particular with regard to its impact on the recruitment policies and composition of the staff.’ This resolution, like many previous ones with the same title, was pushed by Cuba and others in the belief that the staffing policies of the OHCHR favoured individuals from some regions (notably the West) over others.

In Cuba’s view, OHCHR had continuously failed to improve regional balance among its staff and thus, in order to strengthen accountability; it was asked to report and explain itself to the Council.

However, to others – especially Western states – asking the OHCHR to report to the Council on an administrative issue represented a worrying step towards making this supposedly independent entity answerable – and thus under the political oversight of – states sitting in the UN’s apex human rights intergovernmental body.

Similar differences of opinion have arisen, since the Council’s establishment in 2006, with regard to the financial resources of the OHCHR. Cuba and other developing countries have regularly expressed concern about where the Office’s money comes from (the UN’s regular budget or voluntary contributions from certain states), and how it is used and allocated (e.g. to certain field operations, to certain Special Procedures mandates). These concerns led Cuba and others to circulate a resolution in 2011, calling for greater financial transparency – though this was subsequently replaced by a Presidential Statement merely inviting the High Commissioner to provide more information on funding.

Central to the concerns of Cuba and others on both issues is a suspicion that the high proportion of individuals from Western states working at the Office (including at senior levels) together with Western financial support (especially where that support is ‘earmarked’ for certain purposes), gives the West undue influence over the OHCHR.

For its part, Western states, together with a number of states from other regions, suspect that Cuba and other leading countries of the Like Minded Group are intent on undermining the independence of the Office and bringing it under the political control of the Council (and thereby seeking to stop OHCHR criticism of states’ human rights records).

It should also be noted that the main author of the report is Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare, a former Ambassador of India to the Human Rights Council, who took position in the debates favoring the prerogatives of the Council over the OHCHR.

The report (more detail in the post itself) makes six recommendations:

  1. The GA should initiate an action-oriented review of the governance arrangements of the OHCHR through an open-ended working group/ad hoc committee […] so as to strengthen the capacity of member states to provide strategic guidance and to direct and monitor the work of OHCHR.
  2. The High Commissioner should update the existing action plan with specific measures, targets and timetables to broaden the geographical diversity of the professional workforce.
  3. The High Commissioner should develop a comprehensive strategy and related action plan to adapt specific circumstances and requirements of OHCHR’s human resource management strategy and policies.
  4. The Secretary General should, in the context of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, review the mandates of the different UN entities with human rights functions with a view of streamlining their work and mainstreaming human rights across the UN system.

The controversy even led to uncertainty that Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare would be allowed to present the report with some states (correctly, based on a legal analysis of relevant UN documents) arguing that discussing the management and administration of OHCHR is not part of the Council’s mandate as per GA resolution 60/251. In the end, the President of the Council and the Bureau announced that, as a courtesy, the JIU inspector would be allowed to present his report, but there would be no interactive debate with states.

By the time of the report’s presentation on 13th March, the Secretary-General had provided his comments on its findings and recommendations.[Note by the Secretary-General, A/70/68/Add.1] as follows:

  • The Secretary-General in effect rejected recommendation 1, arguing that ‘existing governance arrangements strike an appropriate balance between independence and accountability.’ The Secretary-General noted GA resolution 48/141 (1993) creating the post of High Commissioner, which decided that the High Commissioner would be appointed by the Secretary-General (i.e. is part of the secretariat). He also rejected the notion (used to support the view that while the High Commissioner is independent, the OHCHR is not and should operate under the political oversight of the Council) that the High Commissioner and OHCHR ‘have separate mandates and perform separate functions.’
  • Regarding recommendation 4, the Secretary-General noted that geographical diversity is a priority for the entire secretariat.
  • The Secretary-General also rejected recommendation 5 which called for the UN secretariat’s human resource management strategy to be ‘adapted to the specific circumstances and requirements of OHCHR’, on the grounds that ‘OHCHR is part of the Secretariat…and its staff members are subject to the same regulations, rules and policies as other departments.’
  • Finally, the Secretary-General welcomed recommendation 6 as a useful opportunity to strengthen the mainstreaming of human rights across the UN system.

There was some debate in which Western states, in line with the analysis of the Secretary-General, rejected key findings and recommendations in the report. For example, Norway noted that ‘existing governance arrangements strike an appropriate balance between independence and accountability,’ and underscored the importance of safeguarding the independence of the High Commissioner.

Countering this view, Pakistan on behalf of Like-Minded Group (LMG) states, expressed support for the JIU conclusions and recommendations, noting that oversight by a relevant intergovernmental body would contribute to ‘enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of the Office activities.’ LMG states therefore called for a clarification ‘of the respective roles of the different intergovernmental bodies with a view to streamlining the governance dynamics of OHCHR’ (i.e. in line with the JIU’s recommendations).

The post by Subhas Gujadhur and Marc Limon provides detailed and interesting background to the issue of imbalance in staffing and funding and rightly states that it “doesn’t take an international lawyer to understand that all these utterances are packed with possible political meanings, some subtle some less so, and have enormous potential implications for the functioning of the UN human rights system”.

——–

In this context, on 23 March a group of leading human rights NGOs (delivered by HRW, and supported by ISHRCivicusFIDHFORUM ASIAOMCT and EIPR), called in a statement to the Human Rights Council to resist Cuban-led attempts to micromanage and fetter the independence of the UN’s top human rights official.

The statement said that among its contradictory recommendations, the report proposes a mechanism to enable States to ‘direct and monitor’ the work of the High Commissioner and highlighted that creation of High Commissioner for Human Rights was one of the landmark achievements of the Vienna Declaration adopted by all States in 1994. For more than 20 years, successive High Commissioners have provided a strong and independent voice, committed to promoting and protecting human rights around the world, the statement said.

Today, that independence is under threat. The draft resolution, inaccurately titled “Composition of staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” seeks to affirm and encourage follow-up to the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), which reviews the “Management and Administration” said John Fisher of HRW delivering the statement.

The independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his office is axiomatic to his effectiveness. The High Commissioner must be free to speak without fear and without favour, unconstrained by the political agenda of any State or group of States,’ said ISHR’s Michael Ineichen. ‘This report must not be permitted to be used as a subterfuge to constrain the High Commissioner and his office at a time when both their monitoring and reporting, and their advice and technical assistance, are needed perhaps more than ever before.’

See the full statement here.

 http://www.universal-rights.org/blogs/128-the-jiu-report-what-s-all-the-fuss-about

Human Rights Council: Reject attempts to limit Office of the High Commissioner | ISHR.

OHCHR gives preview of new report on Libya in 2014

February 10, 2015

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] published today (10 February) a report, which will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council only in March, describing the situation of human rights in Libya during 2014. It paints a bleak picture of increasing turmoil and lawlessness, fanned by a multitude of heavily armed groups amid a broadening political crisis. Rampant violence and fighting, including in the country’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, as well as many other cities and towns across the country, is badly affecting civilians in general and particularly cases of harassment, intimidation, torture, numerous abductions, and summary executions of human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists and other media professionals, as well as members of the judiciary, politicians and law enforcement officers.

The report, produced in conjunction with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), also describes numerous incidents of violence against women over the past year, including reports of threats, attacks and killings of female human rights defenders, politicians and other women in public positions. Minority groups, including Egyptian Coptic Christians, have also been increasingly targeted. The report also highlights the extremely vulnerable situation of migrants.

Thousands of people remain in detention – mostly under the effective control of armed groups – with no means of challenging their situation as prosecutors and judges are unable or unwilling to confront the armed groups. UN human rights staff have received reports of torture or other ill-treatment in many places of detention. The deteriorating security environment has impacted heavily on the justice system, which is no longer functioning in parts of the country. Prosecutors and judges have frequently been subjected to intimidation and attacks, in the form of court bombings, physical assaults, abduction of individuals or family members and unlawful killings.

The report highlights the need to strengthen State institutions, ensure accountability for human rights violations and support the ongoing political dialogue.

The full report can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Documents/A_HRC_28_51_ENG.doc

via: OHCHR PRESS BRIEFING NOTES – (1) Libya, (2) Malaysia, (3) Thailand, (4) Venezuela – Press releases – News – StarAfrica.com.

Ban Ki-Moon calls civil society “an indispensable part of the United Nations”

March 27, 2014

Civil society actors must be able to do their work freely, independently, safe from fear, retaliation or intimidation. This requires collective action to denounce reprisals and defend free voices and protect those targeted,” said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, referring to civil society as “an indispensable part of the United Nations”. “We must expand the space for civil society to meaningfully participate and contribute,” he added in a video statement screened at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space, in the context of the Human Rights Council’s 25th session.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

Civil society actors around the world face risks ranging from threats and intimidation to horrible reprisals, even killings”, said UN Human Rights Deputy, Flavia Pansieri at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space. “From the NGO who is prohibited from receiving funding to the whistle-blower who is imprisoned for revealing corruption… we must work to protect civil society from such practices,” she said.

Hina Jilani, Read the rest of this entry »

Where is it (il)legal to be gay?

February 6, 2014

The BBC has produced a map which shows the broad legal status of gay people living in UN member states, according to data provided by the UN’s human right’s office, who built on information from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association.

The legal status of people in same-sex relationships depends very much on where they live. At one end of the spectrum there are those countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – as well as in parts of Nigeria and Somalia. At the other end, there are those countries where gay couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples. However, the categorisation of countries according to their approach to gay rights is not without problems. Some states have conflicting laws on same-sex relationships, simultaneously having laws that punish and protect, while other countries have different laws in different regions. This is reflected in the key. Countries have been categorised by their most progressive or regressive laws, apart from where laws are contradictory. Countries where gay rights vary between states have been coloured by their most progressive or regressive law. [The map does not reflect day-to-day experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and intersex people. In many places where anti-discrimination laws exist, gay people continue to be persecuted by state authorities and wider society.]

There is also an interesting timeline, pulled together by the UN, which uses 1789 – the date of the French Revolution – as its starting point. It was chosen by the UN as a baseline, as it was a time when homosexuality was criminalised in many countries.

BBC News – Where is it illegal to be gay?.