Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Remarks at Opening Ceremony of the 28th General Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

12 Mar 2015

Mr. Chair, Advocate Lourence Mushwana,
President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Rucker,

Excellences, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the UNDP Administrator, Madam Helen Clark, I would like to thank you for the invitation extended to UNDP to address this opening session.

Advancing human rights and strengthening the inextricable link between human rights and development is core to UNDP’s mission of supporting sustainable human development. If it is not rights-based, it is not real human development.

We live the paradox that extreme poverty has dropped to historic lows in recent times whilst inequality has become one of the greatest development challenges of the century. Today, as we witness widening inequalities within countries, intensifying competition around scarce natural resources and the continued exclusion of marginalized groups, National Human Rights Institutions are more relevant than ever: they form the cornerstones of our national systems for the promotion and protection of human rights which has also become inseparable from the Post-2015 agenda. The SDGs are, among other things, a universal action plan for rights.

Our cooperation with NHRIs has made our work better in 80 countries. In the past year only, we partnered with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to support the establishment of such institutions in Botswana, Samoa and Sao Tome and Principe. We continue to provide capacity-building support to foster human rights protection, such as through the handling of complaints in several member states or by supporting the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process in others. In Mozambique, UNDP is assisting the National Human Rights Commission in monitoring places of detention.   

UNDP welcomes the Human Rights Council resolution  from last September which reaffirms the vitally important role that National Human Rights Institutions play in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, in strengthening participation and the rule of law, and in developing and enhancing public awareness of those rights and freedoms. We also particularly welcome the specific reference to the role that these institutions play, within their respective mandates, in contributing to the prevention of human rights violations and abuses through assisting, advising and engaging with the State and other stakeholders. As has been reiterated this morning, the important stipulation in the resolution that NHRIs should not face any form of reprisal as a result of their activities, undertaken in accordance with their respective mandates is vital for both a safe operating environment and the independence required for NHRIs to complete their essential functions.

The importance of their role is heightened by the recent rise in social tensions and violent extremism around the world. Recent events have shown once again that when basic human rights are systematically denied, when freedom of choice is oppressed, and when governance and political systems are not inclusive and protect all people in society, then poverty and conflict have no hope of being turned into prosperity and peace through the political process.

Towards the end of 2013, the Secretary-General launched the Human Rights-up Front initiative for the UN system. This initiative reaffirms the importance and centrality of human rights to the UN and renews our commitment to uphold the responsibilities assigned to the UN by the Charter, the Security Council and the General Assembly, whenever there is a threat of serious and large-scale violations of international humanitarian law.  A central aspect of the Human Rights up Front Action Plan is the crucial need for immediate preventive action, and the responsibility of the UN system to respond immediately to human rights violations. UNDP is proud the support the Deputy Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the highest level in this important platform.

Human rights are needed everywhere, and at all times. Where there are public health emergencies, as seen with the recent Ebola virus outbreak, National Human Rights Institutions have demonstrated the value of waging a rights-based response which is also an alert to risks of further rights infringement, not uncommon in emergency settings. For instance, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone provided vital technical expertise and advice to the government to safeguard the respect for human rights throughout the crisis, coordinating closely with the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response and with UNDP to support human rights training for police and other officials while emergency laws were in place.

Excellences, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

2015 is a critically important year for development. We are moving towards the most crucial phase of the post-2015 process, as governments will be given the opportunity and responsibility to agree on an agenda that will have a significant impact in reducing poverty, improving people’s lives and promoting peace and the respect for effective governance and the rule of law.  For years to come, these goals will influence national policies, legislation and budget allocations. This is an agenda for dignity, for people and the planet, for prosperity and justice. An agenda we want to build in partnership.

In order to ensure a truly transformative development agenda, the goals must be anchored in human rights and in the universal values of equality, justice and peace and security.
The Outcome Document of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals reaffirms the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international instruments relating to human rights and international law. Efforts have been made to not only mainstream human rights throughout all the proposed goals, but also align human rights standards and principles with specific goals and targets. In particular, both the goal on access to justice and accountable and inclusive institutions, and the goal on the reduction of income inequality within and between countries, are critically important contributions to the new development framework, from a human rights perspective.  We will advocate to maintain all indicators at the level of inter-governmentally agreed standards, avoiding regressions through back doors in the last months of the negotiation process.
The successful implementation of the new development agenda will require a strong accountability framework at the international and national levels.  National Human Rights Institutions have an essential role to play in operationalizing a human rights-based approach both in the planning phase and after the adoption of the agenda, particularly in terms of promoting, protecting and monitoring the implementation of human rights across the post-2015 framework of goals and targets.

UNDP will continue to support these efforts, and it is in this light that I look forward to the discussions and recommendations that will emerge from this 28th ICC meeting.

Thank you

Source: General