National human rights institutions

Ombudspersons, human rights commissioners and other participants in Zagreb, Croatia
Ombudspersons share their experiences in strengthening national human rights institutions in Southern Europe.

In many European and Central Asian countries, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and the Ombudsman institutions play an important role in advancing human rights, strengthening rule of law, and widening access to justice with particular emphasis on the most marginalized and the vulnerable groups.

Twenty years since the adoption of the Paris Principles, a set of international standards which frame and guide their work, over 100 NHRIs in different forms and models have been established worldwide.

Although NHRIs are increasingly seen as central to a strong national human rights system, the lack of their internal capacity and resources often leaves them irrelevant and limited in their role in fostering good governance. UNDP supports these institutions in order to help them become a true cornerstone of national human rights systems.

What we do


In collaboration with NHRIs and other partners, UNDP seeks to enhance their capacities, facilitate their partnerships with national stakeholders, and support their engagement with international human rights mechanisms. We work with our partners to:

  • Strengthen capacities of NHRIs to promote and protect human rights at the national level 

  • Develop NHRIs' capacities for their active participation in the Universal Periodic Review and its follow up as well as other international human rights mechanisms;

  • Assist in self-assessment of the impact and effectiveness of NHRIs;

  • Support NHRIs to partner effectively with legal aid bodies, bar associations, and civil society;

  • Promote development of NHRIs' capacities to protect the rights of persons with disabilities;

  • Assist UNDP Country Offices to devise effective policy and programming support for NHRIs;

  • Promote innovation in NHRIs work for human rights protection.


Some results so far


In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine, UNDP raised awareness of the NHRIs and their mandate through the works of eight journalists who share their own observations on the accomplishments, good practices, and future direction of the Ombudsman institutions in their respective countries.

>> Read their stories in our publication, Dignity and justice for all.

In Central Asia, UNDP convened a series of training workshops and meetings with representatives of the NHRIs, Ombudsman institutions, and UNDP country offices throughout 2011-2012. The meetings assisted in developing homegrown strategies and helped strengthen staff and institutional capacities the NHRIs in the region in order to support implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

>> Read about critical lessons learned during this process in our guidance note.

In 2013, UNDP organized an international workshop in Zagreb where representatives of NHRIs and Ombudsman’s offices from the Western Balkans shared their experiences and lessons learned through the Universal Periodic Review follow-up and European Union accession process.

Call to action


1.    As policymakers, continue developing the capacities of NHRIs to engage pro-actively in gender equality, protection of minorities, and access to justice support.

2.    As citizens, reach out to NHRIs for the protection of your rights and provide feedback to improve their performance.

3.    As representatives of NHRIs and the Ombudsman institutions, measure your impact and development effectiveness; apply social innovation approaches to reach out to your citizens; and share information and ideas on good practices with your counterparts in the region.