Helen Clark: Remarks at the launch of the UNDG Human Rights Mainstreaming Multi-Donor Trust Fund

27 Oct 2011

I am pleased to co-host tonight’s event with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose advocacy has been central to mainstreaming human rights within the work of the United Nations development system. As a result the UN Development Group Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism has been established, and now we are launching a Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support this work.

Thank you for joining us to discuss the steps we are taking and propose to take in partnership with Member States to integrate our development and human rights work better.

Through development, countries can improve their ability to promote and protect human rights. And conversely, through the application of human rights principles, including non-discrimination, participation, and accountability, countries can help make national development efforts more effective and peace more secure.

In signing the 2000 Millennium Declaration, world leaders recognized this, stating clearly that they “will spare no effort to respect all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development”. Member States reaffirmed this commitment at last year’s MDG Summit by agreeing that human rights were integral to the work needed to achieve the MDGs.

At the request of the Secretary-General, UNDG established in 2009 the Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism (HRM) –to strengthen coherence and collaboration on the issue and the support given to UN Country Teams. The aim is to equip the UN development system to respond effectively to the growing numbers of human rights-related requests from Member States.

Through the Human Rights Mechanism UN Country Teams have been supported to integrate human rights within UN Development Assistance Frameworks. To that end, since the Mechanism was established, training has been provided in over twenty countries to UNCTs and their national partners, and a large pool of resource people has been established to support related work as requested.

Looking forward, the UNDG has agreed on a HRM work programme which will help meet Member State requests for support in four areas:

The first is increasing the UN’s ability to help countries integrate human rights principles and standards within their national policies, development plans, and strategies.

This will not only help countries translate the human rights commitments they have made into their law and practice, but will also help deploy those human rights principles and laws in the service of making sustainable advances in human development.

By integrating human rights into development, countries can better address the root causes of development challenges. Analyzing and understanding which groups have been excluded from development progress, and why, is an important step for countries seeking to accelerate progress on achieving the MDGs.

For example, when a human rights approach to development was used in Botswana, it highlighted the importance of addressing discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS, refugees, and people with disabilities, and resulted in changes to the UNCT’s programming there.

Progress on the MDGs in a number of countries remains stubbornly off track, at least in part because women, rural inhabitants, ethnic or linguistic minorities, and other excluded groups continue to lag well behind national averages of progress.  

A second area in the HRM’s work programme is improving the UN’s ability to respond to Member States’ requests to strengthen national human rights protection systems and follow up on Universal Periodic Reviews. That enables us to provide national partners with the legal, policy, and capacity development assistance needed to engage with UN human rights mechanisms and to develop domestic institutions which can promote and protect human rights. These institutions can monitor, advise, and question governments and agencies on behalf of citizens; act as a bridge between people and states; handle complaints when human rights are being breached; and carry out independent inquiries.

The UN is responding to an increasing number of Member States’ requests to strengthen the capacities of national human rights institutions to play these demanding and often politically charged roles effectively. It is in the interests of all stakeholders, including governments, to ensure that national human rights institutions have the space and ability to function independently and effectively.

The third HRM work area is improving the ability of the UN to share its experiences and knowledge and to advocate for the integration of human rights within the development agenda. This is essential for delivering on the work programme and mainstreaming human rights across the development system.

The fourth and final HRM work area is providing tailored support to UNCTs as they work to promote a “rights approach to development and a development approach to human rights” as was stated eloquently by Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva    this month.

In support of this work programme, we are launching here today the UNDG Human Rights Mainstreaming Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

We look forward to your support through this Fund for  expanding the support the UN can offer national partners to promote and protect human rights and, by so doing, to advance sustainable human development for all.