Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the Fourth Annual Seminar for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs): NHRI's Role in Conflict and Fragile Contexts

Jun 17, 2016

Excellencies, Mr. Deputy Secretary-General, distinguished Commissioners and representatives from National Human Rights Institutions, representatives from Permanent Missions and civil society, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you to our Fourth Annual Seminar on National Human Rights Institutions.

I am also very pleased to acknowledge our partnership with the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations. I thank the Mission for co-sponsoring this important seminar, and for their consistent engagement in and advocacy of the importance of national human rights institutions at the global level.

Excellencies, Commissioners and Colleagues,

As the development agency of the UN system, advancing human rights and strengthening the inextricable link between human rights and development is central to UNDP’s mission.  

We don't have a normative or a monitoring role in relation to human rights, but it has a strong mandate for capacity development.  Our role is to support Member States in meeting their human rights obligations and, --- as emphasized strongly in the “Agenda 2030, our new development framework.” If there was a new human rights principle, it would be to ensure that ‘no one is left behind.’ We work to deliver on the promise that all groups in society, including the most disadvantaged, have a voice in decision-making processes that affect their lives.  In special development situations --- during or following a conflict, or in fragile context --- this is a critical human rights imperative. We find there those left furthest behind, and the hardest to reach.

Excellencies, Commissioners and Colleagues,

Today, more than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by fragility and conflict, and large numbers of people are in flight from them. These are some of the “people we cannot leave behind”. Promoting and protecting human rights is more crucial than ever. Human rights protection is the primary responsibility of States, but it is also a responsibility that we all share, particularly in contexts where the State, as the principal duty bearer, cannot shoulder alone the responsibility towards its people due to conflicts or persistent fragility.

UNDP aims to strengthen national human rights systems, and we have focused some of our efforts specifically on supporting the capacity of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in over 90 countries. We work hard to support them, as was just said by the Deputy Secretary General. These institutions work to promote and protect human rights in every context, including during and following conflicts, in situations of fragility and during recovery and hard-earned reconciliation times. We have seen this happening in Rwanda and elsewhere, with transitional justice arrangements supported by NHRIs. They play a vital role in efforts to prevent conflict and to build and sustain peace in often challenging environments and themselves regularly face challenges that include threats of reprisals.

In these contexts, NHRIs assume an exceptional function: promoting the mitigation of tensions, and supporting responses that are inclusive and that advance social cohesion through advocacy and outreach to the most marginalized. Such institutions may also monitor, investigate and document abuses, all of which can be vital in contributing to early warning. As the Deputy Secretary-General has illustrated, prevention is also the fundamental premise of the Secretary-Generals’ Human Rights-up Front (HRuF) initiative, which has highlighted the importance of gathering reliable human rights information. NHRIs, with their unique mandates and efforts on the ground, are key players in that regard. The UNDP Administrator, as Chair of the UN Development Group, is the Vice-Chair to the DSG in the HRuF mechanism’s Senior Advisors Group. We are placing the entire UN Development coordination structure at the service of early warning and early action efforts of the UN.

NHRIs are increasingly called to play a stronger role in conflict and post-conflict settings. The Kyiv Declaration, which was the outcome of a global conference co-organized by UNDP and the Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of 2015, proposes important measures to prevent and address consequences of conflict. We were privileged to support the process for its adoption. The Kyiv Declaration is just the beginning -- NHRIs will contribute to SDG 16 to promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

We have long-standing partnerships with many NHRIs in crisis contexts.

In Ukraine, UNDP is strengthening the capacity of the Ombuds office to develop a methodology to monitor and address human rights violations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and to support the reintegration process by translating results into policy recommendations.

In Sierra Leone, we worked with NHRIs to support training of the police on a rights-based response to the Ebola pandemic. In Nepal after the earthquake, UNDP supported the National Human Rights Commission to establish mobile clinics that resulted in crucial human rights advice and information being provided to over 50,000 people in the most affected 14 districts

This commitment has taken on greater urgency as well as strength with the adoption, by the General Assembly and the Security Council, of the most comprehensive and far-reaching resolutions on peacebuilding and prevention to date.

The resolutions state that peacebuilding encompasses a ‘wide range of political, developmental and human rights programmes and mechanisms’, reminding us that ‘sustaining peace is a shared task and responsibility’ requiring ‘sustained international attention and assistance’ and that National Human Rights Institutions are relevant actors in these efforts.

Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

The work of the United Nations is built on three pillars: development, peace and security, and human rights. To promote an integrated, strategic and coherent approach to our work -- which is critical to both sustaining peace and achieving sustainable development -- we must recognize that all UN actors have a fundamental role in sustaining peace, promoting human rights and human development.

The partnership between the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, UNDP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been recognized as a good practice by the Secretary-General and the General Assembly. We are currently exploring ways to further scale up our engagement with you and national institutions worldwide, and we count on the support of the member states and non-state actors in this endeavor.

Thank you.

UNDP Around the world