Programming at the country level

32. Adopting a human rights-based approach to programming is a critical part of UN activities that can be taken to meet the responsibilities to promote the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. This in-line with the The Human Rights Based Approach to Development Cooperation: Towards a Common Understanding Among UN Agencies (2003), which called for the HRBA to be integrated into all programming work, including CCA and UNDAFs, and with the 2010 Guidance Note on Application of the Programming Principles to the UNDAF which sets out human rights as one of the five core UN programming principles.(15) Adopting the HRBA:

  • Offers a distinct human rights lens through which to analyse a situation;
  • Focuses on the most marginalized groups and individuals whose rights are regularly denied or ignored or violated;
  • Seeks to bring laws, policies and social practices into line with international standards, addressing structural inequalities and patterns of discrimination;
  • Encourages governments and other actors as duty bearers to meet the obligations they have voluntarily committed to under human rights law;
  • Pays attention to not only the results of development but also the process of development through the principles of participation, non-discrimination, empowerment, transparency and accountability;
  • Provides a set of international standards that helps ensure a consistent one-UN approach to sensitive issues, with a normative grounding in international standards.

33. Drawing on the reports and recommendations of the human rights mechanisms can help to identify priorities at the national level and provide a basis for an agreed framework for joint action by governments, UN agencies, NGOs and other partners, since governments have already committed to taking action. As experience from the field is demonstrating, UN Country Teams are increasingly using human rights commitments as an entry point and basis for setting strategic priorities, advocacy and capacity development and programming in a coordinated manner, across different country contexts and settings.(16)



Addressing discrimination: Incorporating a human rights analysis into the design of UNDAFs

“Departing from a traditional common country assessment, which is organized around sectors or themes, the UN Country Team prepared a country analysis with people at its core,” says Robert Piper, the RC/HC in one country. The analysis found that in that country “the most fundamental socio-cultural root cause of vulnerability is the structural discrimination emanating from socio-cultural traditions, norms and practices developed over centuries”. The UN Country Team found that discrimination, and the related issue of stigma, has produced widespread social exclusion, highlighting the need for more inclusive development, in line with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the country’s Interim Constitution, the Three Year Plan, and the national Peace and Development Strategy.

The UNDAF used the HRBA to identify key outcome areas. One of the outcome areas is focused on addressing discrimination, and seeks four outputs:

  • Vulnerable groups and those who discriminate against and stigmatize them are progressively engaged and challenged on their own assumptions, understanding and practices that result in stigma and discrimination;
Non-discriminatory policies and procedures are progressively implemented in institutional contexts such as schools, health facilities and workplaces;
Political participation in institutions and society of vulnerable groups, and their capacity to organize and mobilize themselves, are progressively strengthened;
  • Media, religious institutions, labour unions and CSOs are progressively engaged in the development by challenging assumptions, understanding and practices resulting in stigma and discrimination.

The UN Country Team acknowledges that it will take more than five years to address the issue of stigma and discrimination. Even with dedicated resources, tangible results will take time. However, the UN Country Team is positioning itself to play its part in working with national counterparts to achieve a longer term goal: progressively ending long-standing disadvantage by addressing the deep-rooted causes of stigma and discrimination in the country, and making the HRBA central to its interventions.

Advocacy with governments and other actors

34. Advocacy for improving the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground is also a key responsibility of the RC under the current RC Job Description. Advocacy activities can range from written communications and discreet engagement with governments to more public advocacy, depending on the situation and the best means to raise issues and concerns with authorities. Advocacy can be strengthened through the coordination of activities and engaging with a common perspective and common objectives.


A United Nations Country Team “Common Viewpoint” on evictions and resettlement

In mid-2008, in light of human rights violations linked to the controversial issue of land tenure and forced evictions in one country, the UN Country Team came together to build a common understanding of the issues of land tenure, forced evictions and resettlement, and to strategize how to address them. The “UN Common Viewpoint on resettlements and evictions” was developed for this purpose with guidance from the OHCHR country office, setting out a clear framework for policy actions as well as advocacy in specific cases of evictions based on international human rights treaty standards. The Common Viewpoint proved an effective tool for dialogue with the government and other partners and raised awareness among diverse stakeholders of the relevant national and international laws and standards underpinning land and housing issues.

The UN Country Team’s joint advocacy had important impacts. A joint public statement on 16 July 2009, signed by 16 development partners, called for a halt to evictions of the country’s urban poor and urged equal recognition of the rights of all citizens. Partly as a result of this coordinated advocacy, the Government developed a Circular setting out minimum procedures governing resettlements in urban areas. In 2009, the UN Country Team also advocated and intervened in response to the eviction of a community of persons living with/affected by HIV, from the capital to a remote area with very poor living conditions on the outskirts of the city. The intervention of the UN Country Team (led by the RC, UNAIDS and OHCHR) turned the situation around. A resettlement plan was developed in cooperation with NGOs, the National AIDS Authority and the municipality of the Capital. UN agencies and NGOs supported the delivery of food and health care. With extra land donated by the Municipality, adequate housing was built, and the community was included in a larger community development plan. The UN Country Team acted as a principled advocate (behind closed doors as well as publicly) and convener of the parties involved, as well as service provider. In providing services and funding, the UN made it clear that it in no way condoned the evictions, and reiterated the human rights principles stated in the Common Viewpoint.

35. If difficult decisions have to be taken regarding whether or not to speak out publicly about particular human rights issues, the RC should seek support and advice from the Regional UNDG and OHCHR’s field presences or UNHQ if none is present. Where a strategic decision is taken to not speak out publicly on a sensitive issue at country level, the RC and UN Country Team should request support from UNHQ to address the issue. For example, it may be useful for the UN Secretary-General or High Commissioner for Human Rights to raise public attention to an issue from outside the country, accompanied by and complemented with quiet diplomacy and strategic national and local programmatic interventions by the RC and UN Country Team at country level. Alternatively, the Country Team could also engage with the international human rights mechanisms, including the UPR, the treaty monitoring bodies and the special procedures (Special Rapporteurs) (see Annex C for an overview of these bodies).17 For example, Special Rapporteurs can be strategic allies and can support advocacy by publicly speaking and reporting on sensitive situations and concerns when RCs and Country Teams might, at a given moment, determine this not to be the best approach for them to take themselves. By virtue of their legitimacy and special status, Special Rapporteurs may draw the authorities’ attention to sensitive political issues, without incurring political repercussions or impacting negatively on the relationship of the UN Country Team with the government. This can also help to build on the strengths and complementarities of different parts of the UN system, as RCs and UN Country Teams in turn can follow up on the recommendations of special procedures and offer any necessary support to national authorities.


Building on the visit of a United Nations Special Rapporteur to advance work on sensitive issues

In one instance, the RC and UN Country Team made strategic use of a country visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women to bring public attention to a very sensitive issue: the high rates of rape of a large proportion of girls in the country. The Special Rapporteur addressed this within the context of comparative experience gained from 30 other countries, emphasizing the widespread, universal nature of the problem and depoliticizing the issue in the local context. This created political momentum to confront the issue at the country level, and the RC and UN Country Team were able to use the political opening strategically to offer concrete support to the government to address the situation in line with international standards.

36. The UN’s role is to sensitively, but always consistently, promote the norms and standards established in international law, even if this appears to conflict with the position of the government or with locally distinct social and cultural attitudes, norms and values. The RC should lead on the common messaging of the UN system and encourage the UN Country Team to consistently promote international standards. Annex D provides some brief guidance on a catalogue of often sensitive and specific human rights issues, to help guide a common UN position that is grounded in the international 
normative framework.


Culturally sensitive approaches in advocacy on sexual and reproductive health rights

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) remain a sensitive issue in many countries, often as a result of ideological or religiously conservative influence. This requires a non-traditional approach and new partnerships when pursuing advocacy for their fulfilment. For many years, international development has been a field dominated by largely “secular” agents of development, with a preference for keeping faith and faith-related matters out of the picture. However, there is now more awareness of the need, within advocacy strategies, to engage directly in dialogue with traditional and religious leaders, as one community among many critical agents of change. If faith-based organizations and religious leaders are well sensitized and trained and are engaged in partnerships, they can have major social, behavioural and political impact. They can also foster an enabling environment for social change. They have the capacity to reach right down to the grassroots levels to deliver messages to change people’s lives, particularly those of groups most at risk. There is a growing number of successful partnerships with faith-based organizations, customary chiefs and religious leaders as an integral part of efforts to end violence against women and girls, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), etc.

Engaging with the United Nations human rights mechanisms

37. All Member States are required to report regularly to the UN human rights mechanisms on their progress in meeting their human rights obligations, giving an important opportunity for public scrutiny of government progress on the implementation of the human rights treaties. The RC and UN Country Team should engage with these UN human rights mechanisms, as a strategic entry point for engaging in dialogue with governments on human rights issues. UN Country Teams can also make strategic use of recommendations emerging from the UN human rights mechanisms to support and strengthen their own positions when advocating for policy change with governments. This can be a particularly effective strategy where the government has voluntarily accepted to follow up on specific recommendations. The recent Secretary-General’s Policy Committee Decision on UN support to the UPR and Human Rights Mechanisms* also sets out the important role the RC and UN Country Team has to play in advocating and tracking at the national level the follow-up to recommendations of the international human rights mechanisms.

38. The relevant UN human rights mechanisms include the UPR, the human rights treaty bodies and the special procedures (Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups) (see Annex C for an overview of these bodies). These mechanisms all have different mandates, procedures and activities in which they engage, which will shape the ways in which the UN Country Team, in turn, engages with them. Some deal with early warning and urgent actions on imminent threats of human rights violations (e.g. rapid communications with governments to prevent or respond to violations), while regular reporting processes aim to contribute to encouraging longer term changes in legal frameworks and policies to create an enabling environment for the protection of human rights.

39. The preparation and follow-up at the national level of the regular reporting processes of the human rights mechanisms can help to generate powerful momentum to address difficult issues, with enormous potential to bring Member States, civil society and other stakeholders together around the same table to discuss human rights concerns. The UN Country Team can exercise its conveningrole,creating a platform
 rights at the country level, bringing together various stakeholders, including different government agencies, line ministries, state entities, regional and local authorities, parliament, the justice sector, the media, NHRIs, ombudspersons, NGOs, representatives of minorities, traditional and religious leaders, and CSOs, among others. This can be a critical first step to bringing about legislative, policy and programmatic change. It can be useful to set up a national coordination mechanism for reporting and following up recommendations with the involvement of all key stakeholders. The government can also be encouraged to draw up a national human rights action plan to address the recommendations of the human rights bodies, setting out specific timelines, indicators and benchmarks for success.


Experiences Engaging with the Universal 
Periodic Review 

In one country, following a request for technical and financial assistance by the government to engage in the UPR reporting process, the RC and UN Country Team made a strategic decision to use this opportunity to support an inclusive and transparent process with the full engagement of all stakeholders. Organizing consultative workshops through CSOs in the preparatory phase of the UPR, the UN used its convening role to ensure dialogue and feedback from civil society to the government on its national report and key issues facing the communities represented by the different CSOs. This permitted open discussion of long-standing issues of concern, such as freedom of the media and the abolition of the death penalty. Issues not traditionally perceived as human rights issues, including indirect discrimination, the right to an adequate standard of living, labour issues and the rights of indigenous peoples, were also discussed in a consultative, non-confrontational manner. These consultations influenced the national report, as well as the UPR discussion in Geneva and the follow-up at the national level, including informing the design and activities of the UN Development Assistance Plan.

In another country, engaging with the government on human rights issues had historically been difficult and attempts to do so by the UN Country Team had not been welcomed. However, when the country was reviewed under the UPR, the government accepted to take action on half of the 200 recommendations received. This provided a critical opportunity for the UN Country Team to constructively engage on human rights with the government, to assist it in meeting these recommendations.

As a first step to foster the government’s trust, the RC proactively engaged with the relevant government agencies and the NHRI to initiate a discussion on the UPR recommendations. The UN Country Team mapped all the human rights support being provided by the international community, which it then shared with the government. As a result of this proactive engagement, the government requested the UN to coordinate the international community’s assistance in strengthening the country’s NAP for supporting implementation of the UPR recommendations.

Under the lead of the RC, the UN Country Team began a process of substantive engagement with the NAP. First, drawing on its convening role, it organized consultations on the NAP with the participation of the international community and government representatives. The RC co-chaired round tables, which ensured high participation and visibility in the dialogues. This helped build trust among these new partners working together on human rights. As the next step, the UN, working closely with OHCHR, provided analytical and substantive inputs to the NAP. It clustered the recommendations into a few key areas to help focus the efforts of the government into achievable objectives. It worked to strengthen the “results-based” focus and, drawing on OHCHR’s Indicator Framework, identified baselines and indicators for the design of a joint (government and UN) national monitoring mechanism for the NAP. The UN also carried out studies examining the deep patterns of discrimination that lay behind some of the major issues raised by the UPR, to ensure that key institutional and long-term changes needed were identified, with the assistance of national human rights experts.

At the end of this process, the RC’s Office consolidated the inputs and comments from the UN agencies and international community agencies into a single set of inputs to the government on the NAP. In response, the UN received a stern letter from the NRHI, stating that its suggestions had been too far reaching. Nonetheless, the revised draft that was later released had incorporated many of the UN’s suggestions. This included creating a joint monitoring mechanism on human rights (to be carried out every six months) and 45 key areas of work for which the UN’s support was requested. The UN was now formally engaged, on a continuous basis, with the government on supporting the country’s human rights agenda.

40. While OHCHR has the main responsibility to support the human rights mechanisms (and can provide UN Country Teams with more information on their distinct roles and mandates), the Country Team itself can play a critical role in providing relevant information, facilitating the engagement of national stakeholders and facilitating inclusive national dialogue and collaboration on human rights. Such engagement can transform the regular reporting process into a dynamic tool for assessment and dialogue between Member States, the UN and civil society, and can provide an important entry point for dialogue and accountability with authorities. Engaging with the mechanisms can also provide a space for the UN Country Team to reflect on its own role in contributing to the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. In 2014, the UNDG HRWG, under the leadership of OHCHR, sent the first of what is intended to be an annual letter to each RC, outlining the upcoming opportunities to engage with the international human rights mechanisms—the UPR, treaty bodies and special procedures—in their country of residence, to facilitate the engagement of the UN Country Team.

41. The international human rights mechanisms (like the regional and national mechanisms, as well as OHCHR itself) can provide inputs and be key sources of guidance and support that can help to refine the UN Country Team’s strategy on the ground, including by providing technical advice. They can help to draw the attention of local and international media to particular situations and this, if used strategically, could help support the overall UN Country Team strategy.


Engaging with Special Rapporteurs for guidance on changes to national laws

In one country, a new draft law on peaceful assembly was inconsistent with the human right to freedom of assembly. The RC, in preparing a public statement for Human Rights Day, benefited from advice on the core elements of this right from the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of assembly, as well as from another public statement on the issue published by several UN Special Rapporteurs. Publicly raising this issue generated national dialogue over the new law, informed by international human rights standards and other countries’ experiences.

42. Because the UN human rights system is made up of various bodies with their own specific procedures, it can be useful to understand the human rights system as being comprised of different mechanisms that are complementary and mutually reinforcing, in that they can build on the work of one another. The timing and sequencing of interaction with the different bodies can therefore be a key component of a successful engagement strategy. For example, the raising of a particular human rights issue during the UPR process could generate an invitation from the country concerned for a Special Rapporteur to visit the country to conduct a more in-depth examination of the issue (which would provide important and deeper information for country analysis and programming), and this in turn could be followed up by the UN Country Team tracking subsequent progress on the issue.


UN Women, UNICEF and UNDP working together with CEDAW to challenge domestic violence

In one country, the UN Country Team was confronted with the challenge of tackling sensitive human rights issues such as birth registration and domestic violence. The RC and Country Team had reached a deadlock in trying to tackle these issues. Engaging with the country’s regular reporting process to the UN Committee reviewing the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the RC led a national preparatory process bringing together concerned agencies (in this instance UN Women, UNICEF and UNDP) to identify the key issues of concern, supporting the government to engage in the process and presenting the UN Country Team’s position clearly to the government and CEDAW experts. This had important impacts, with the Committee’s issuance of clear recommendations to the government on domestic violence. This subsequently opened the door for capacity development assistance from the UN Country Team. Similarly, the CEDAW dialogue opened up space that led to the invitation of a Special Rapporteur to move the human rights agenda further forward.


Building strategic partnerships at the national level

43. As well as engaging with the government, effective human rights work will require building strategic partnerships with other relevant counterparts at the national level, including parliamentarians, the judiciary, NHRI, civil society, the most marginalized or affected communities, trade unions, traditional and religious leaders, the private sector and the media. This might mean reaching out beyond the partners the UN Country Team usually works with, to engage with other counterparts, e.g. national human rights organizations and human rights defenders. Building new partnerships can ensure that the UN Country Team has a fuller understanding of the human rights situation on the ground, and that it has more effective entry points for its work. For example, building partnerships with non-state actors (while exercising due diligence), whether they be in civil society or the private sector, can also provide important opportunities to raise awareness, build capacities and promote a more enabling environment for the respect of human rights by all actors.

44. National
 human rights in situations (NHRIs)
 have been established in many countries to promote and monitor the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level, including through working with the parliament, civil society and the media. An accreditation system is in place for NHRIs to ensure they comply with the principles relating to the status of national institutions, commonly referred to as the Paris Principles, which define the role, composition, status and minimum standards for the functioning of NHRIs, to ensure inter alia their independence from government and effective working methods (an institution with “A” status is in full compliance with these standards). NHRIs with “A” status provide reports on changing patterns of human rights issues, as well as on the complaints that they have handled, which can provide a key source of information on human rights trends in the country. UN Country Teams should also work with NHRIs to support them to become effective and independent in their contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights at the national level – to achieve “A” status.


45. CSOs,
 working with indigenous peoples
 or minorities,
 and other groups andindividuals working to
 protect human
 rights: Engaging with these actors will be a key component of any strategy to promote and protect human rights. This means going beyond working with CSOs as service providers for development, towards supporting and building on their role as human rights advocates, given their closer links with people on the ground and greater awareness of changing patterns of violations, inter-community tensions or emerging themes warranting attention. Building the capacities of these organizations to engage with the UN human rights mechanisms can also be a powerful strategy to link national and international actors, in ways that empower rights holders and may provide some response and redress when advocacy at national level is insufficient.


46. The humanitarian Country Team,
 clusters, will provide a platform for key strategic partnerships beyond the UN system to include national and international civil society actors, and national state and non-state actors, as well as the affected communities themselves.

Responding to individual petitions

47. The RC and UN Country Team might receive urgent actions, petitions or complaints from individuals or their representatives regarding possible violation(s) of human rights. In such an instance, the first step should be to transmit the petition or complaint to OHCHR, which has a special mandate to advise RCs and UN Country Teams on how to deal with human rights cases. OHCHR can advise the RC and Country Team whether the complaint(s) should be passed to a particular Special Rapporteur or human rights treaty body, or requires another type of intervention. Special Rapporteurs, for example, can respond to urgent situations instantly, by sending an urgent appeal or allegation letter to the state concerned. They can also issue public statements, which, in some cases, can prevent a human rights violation from occurring. OHCHR should ensure that the RC is kept fully informed of any follow-up measures taken by special procedures. OHCHR can also advise the RC and UN Country Team on procedures for submitting complaints to Special Rapporteurs or treaty bodies.


Submitting petitions or complaints

OHCHR can provide advice on the submission of petitions and complaints. The requirements are:

•  The complaint should not be anonymous;

•  It should present a clear and sufficiently detailed statement of the author’s claim;

•  It should not contain abusive language;

•  It should clearly indicate the country against which the complaint is made;

It should explain how domestic remedies have been exhausted, or, alternatively, how they are unavailable, demonstrated to be ineffective, or represent unreasonable delay;

If redress is expressly sought under a particular human rights treaty mechanism, (a) the author must be either the victim, or an authorized representative of the victim; (b) the country in question must be a party to the treaty and must have accepted the competence of the treaty body in question to deal with individual complaints; and (c) in principle, the right contained in the treaty alleged to have been violated should be cited.

48. Principles
 of accessibility,
 promptness: A key aspect, of which all members of a UN Country Team should be aware, is the need to ensure the principles of accessibility (i.e. channeling communications to the appropriate recipient), confidentiality (i.e. not revealing the identity of the complainant, or the existence and content of a communication) and promptness (i.e. avoiding delay). Following up individual cases, and the responses obtained, can together provide a useful entry point for the RC and UN Country Team, subject, of course, to the confidentiality of the information and taking account of lessons and guidance on the handling of sensitive information. Changing patterns in the nature of petitions might also be an indicator of escalating crisis and, thus, the number and types of petitions should also be taken account of in the human rights analysis carried out on the ground.

Responding to protect individuals in the context of reprisals and intimidation

49. Civil society actors and human rights defenders around the world face risks of threats, reprisals and even killings in speaking up on human rights or cooperating with the UN, including providing information to the UN human rights mechanisms. Addressing the risk of reprisals and protecting the safety of individuals requires a coordinated and unified response by the RC and the UN Country Team, including calling on the UNDG and OHCHR where necessary to raise attention to the issue. This response should take account of the operational capacity of agencies to respond, as there may be protection-mandated actors present on the ground who could undertake rapid intervention in specific cases to ensure a person’s safety.


A coordinated response to reprisals

In recent years, cases have been documented of alleged harassment, intimidation of, and reprisals taken against, human rights defenders, CSOs and others for submitting information, providing testimony and participating in meetings of the UN human rights mechanisms. These have included a journalist murdered for defending the rights of LGBT persons, a blogger whose site was shut down, an NGO prohibited from receiving funding, a whistleblower imprisoned for revealing corruption, students forbidden from peacefully demonstrating 
against misrule, and human rights activists spied on or having their computers confiscated
 (see A/HRC/27/38).

The Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the HRC, and various UN human rights mechanisms, including Special Rapporteurs, have consistently raised concerns about reprisals and intimidation and called on the international community to ensure a stronger and more coordinated response. The HRC has adopted a series of resolutions to reinforce the importance of a positive, enabling environment for civil society and to urge States to prevent acts of intimidation or reprisal and ensure accountability for any that occur.

50. When the UN speaks up about human rights concerns, there may be implications for the safety and security of its own staff and their dependents. All UN staff should be mindful of their own security and safety at all times, as well as that of all those who come into contact with them. This necessitates their taking commonsense security measures and abiding by UN security rules, including country-specific rules established by the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS). Particular attention needs to be paid to the safety and security of national staff, who are often more exposed than international staff to threats and reprisals as a result of their work. The RC and senior leaders should be aware that, every time circumstances evolve or the political and security environments change, the safety of national staff may be affected and thus their exposure and the nature of their work may need to be reviewed, taking into consideration the capacity of the UN to ensure their protection. This consideration should be built into the development of strategies to prevent and respond to human rights violations, including within the HRuF framework.

Responding to human rights crises

51. RCs and UN Country Teams might be confronted with such a situation as a sudden upsurge in violations or an acute crisis that requires immediate prevention and protection activities, including urgent intervention with the authorities or other actors.(18) Addressing these politically sensitive issues with the government can be a challenge for the UN Country Team, particularly when programming is highly dependent on good relations and/or the national resources controlled by the government. The experiences of RCs in these situations have highlighted the following useful strategies:

  • Identifying and engaging with key national actors, including within government, that might be open and willing to address the issues or engage in reform with UN technical assistance and/or advocacy support, and adjusting programming priorities and activities as appropriate;
  • Creating an inter-agency “crisis response group” to coordinate the UN Country Team’s response, ensuring a shared analysis of the human rights situation and common messages  through Communicating as One. This should include UN entities with normative mandates, including non-resident entities;
  • Seeking advice from lead agencies and agreeing on appropriate divisions of roles between agencies, taking account of different agencies’ mandates and comparative advantages. This should include, for example, calling on non-resident agencies, the Secretary-General or the High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak out publicly on the human rights issues, and coordinating with OHCHR and DPA where necessary to ensure coherence in public messaging and coordination of the response in the field with UNHQ priorities.


Rapid action by the Resident Coordinator and 
United Nations Country Team during a crackdown  
on public protest

In one country, during a crackdown on protestors, the RC took a number of quick actions. First, the RC supported urgent visits by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and a Special Rapporteur to engage directly with the authorities. Second, after consulting with OHCHR and other UN system counterparts on procedures for responding to human rights abuses and handling sensitive information, the UN Country Team established a hotline for victims and families of missing persons. This provided a basic but critical level of information and support to those affected and was carried out in consultation with relevant national authorities. Notwithstanding the difficult confidentiality constraints, the hotline soon evolved into a vital source of data on detentions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings, and served to anchor the establishment of a “protection” working group in the UN Country Team.

52. As outlined in the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights Up Front” Detailed Action Plan (updated March 2014) if the situation deteriorates or human rights risks or violations call for a comprehensive response—going beyond adjusting programming and advocacy at the country level—the RC is expected to lead the development of a strategy to prevent and respond to violations, seeking support and referring the situation to regional HQ or UNHQ where necessary. With support from UNHQ and the HRuF support mechanisms, the RC should contribute to the development of a system-wide response, leveraging the capacities of the entire UN system, not only at the country level. This will include the UN and humanitarian Country Teams, as well as the broader humanitarian community. The UN Country Team might also consider working to the Programme Criticality Framework to ensure the UN’s ability to stay on the ground and deliver on human rights and protection priorities.


Strategies for gaining access for human rights monitoring and reporting

In one country, the UN was prevented from access to a specific area where violent attacks infringed on the right to education. However, the advocacy of an external human rights mechanism—the SRSG on children and armed conflict, who made reference to this situation in her public report to the UN General Assembly as part of her regular monitoring of all country situations—facilitated a change in the dynamics within the country. The public advocacy in the form of the SRSG’s report, opened up space for the UN on the ground to push further at the national level. The UN managed to obtain access to the area to verify the accuracy of the allegations, opening up the area to international scrutiny and technical support.

Maintaining focus on the protection of human rights in humanitarian crises

53. In situations that deteriorate into crisis or conflict, simultaneously ensuring humanitarian access in order to provide life-saving assistance, and promoting and protecting human rights, can raise serious challenges for the UN on the ground—and are sometimes perceived as conflicting priorities. While humanitarians are negotiating access to areas where there are people with urgent humanitarian needs, human rights actors might be simultaneously trying to access the same areas to monitor and investigate human rights violations, and this can lead to the perception of a stark choice between these priorities. It is critical, however, not to draw such a stark dichotomy between human rights and humanitarian access, as human rights protection should be at the core of all humanitarian action. The provision of life-saving assistance can, in and of itself, contribute to the protection of human rights.   A whole-of-system approach, carefully coordinated, and fully human rights-based, offers the best hope for marshalling the comparative strengths of the UN system to act together to ensure the protection of human rights at all times.

54. Guidance on this issue is provided in the IASC Human Rights Guidance Note for Humanitarian Coordinators (2009). Following up the Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka (2012), OHCHR and UNHCR prepared a Joint Background Paper on The Protection of Human Rights in Humanitarian Crises. This reiterates that the IASC definition of protection (see footnote 10) places the protection of human rights at the centre of humanitarian action. It also highlights that the monitoring of the human rights of affected persons in humanitarian crises, including root causes of violations, is critical to inform and contextualize humanitarian strategies and responses. A core principle is that humanitarian actors should regularly share information with other relevant actors, while fully respecting principles of confidentiality and the safety of the people involved. In 2013, IASC Principals agreed to develop further guidance, through a ‘Comprehensive policy on protection in humanitarian crisis, including with a view to preventing and responding to international human rights and humanitarian law violations’.

55. It is critical that all UN entities work together to ensure that they can meet their mandates while maintaining the centrality of the protection of human rights. There are a number of practical options by which this focus can be maintained, even though particular strategies agreed upon will always depend on the particular context. These options include entities’ sequencing interventions or creating divisions of labour, and potentially relying on external pressure to shift the dynamics of the situation and facilitate access to areas for humanitarian purposes.


Leveraging comparative advantages for refugees: 
a creative division of labour

In one country in 2008, UNHCR and OHCHR developed a joint strategic intervention plan, with a division of labour that leveraged the comparative advantage and mandate of each agency to address key human rights and humanitarian concerns regarding the arrest, detention, ill-treatment and non-refoulement of refugees. While UNHCR ensured access and assistance to refugees, it provided real-time information on numbers of refugees and conditions to OHCHR, which in turn made the information and analysis available to the special procedures (the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on torture). Under its mandate, OHCHR used the information to remind the national authorities of their international treaty obligations, including issuing a public statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This helped to ensure the better protection of refugees in very difficult circumstances.

(15) Environmental sustainability, like HRBA, is one of the five programming principles that should be applied for effective UN-supported country programming that balances the pursuit of international norms and standards with the achievement of national development priorities. It is important to take account of environmental dimensions, including the duty to ensure the environmental protection needed to enable the fulfilment of human rights, particularly the rights to food, safe water, sanitation, housing and health. Procedural rights, such as access to information, participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, are essential. The intersection of these concerns means that development processes must pay attention to the legal, policy and institutional processes that determine access to, and control of, ecosystem resources, especially for vulnerable, excluded groups.
(16) ECOSOC Dialogue on the “longer-term positioning of the UN development system”, UNDG Perspectives on Functions, 20 March, 2015.
(17) Seeking alliances with regional organizations and their human rights bodies could also be effective.
(18) Human rights crises might also emerge in specific areas, such as access to health or the prevalence of HIV. For specific advice
in relation to such crises, see Preventing and Responding to HIV-related Human Rights Crisis: Guidance for UN Agencies and

* To access these documents write to humanrights@undg.org

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Silo Fighters Blog

An excellent tool for mainstreaming human rights

BY Jessica Braver, Valeria Guerra, Maria Jeannette Moya | July 28, 2015

The process of reviewing a country’s human rights records can become an opportunity to bond human rights with development. In Argentina, the Universal Periodic Review process has promoted human rights as the daily work of everyone in the UN system. This spirit exemplifies the ‘Human Rights up Front’ initiative. Human rights are at the core of the United Nations mandate. In the UN Charter (1945) and in UN resolutions, we have reaffirmed our faith in fundamental human rights. As UN staff members, we need to bear this in mind in our daily work, regardless of our area of expertise. Improving UN action to safeguard human rights Human Rights up Front seeks to ensure that the UN system takes early and effective action to prevent or respond to large-scale violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. The initiative, launched in 2013 by the UN Secretary-General, calls for a major cultural shift within the UN, placing the protection of human rights and of people at the heart of UN strategies and operational activities. A leading role in human rights mainstreaming Human Rights up Front highlights the role of the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) system in mainstreaming human rights, encouraging us to work together in a more cohesive and coherent way. In Argentina, the Resident Coordinator’s office has been working on positioning the topic in the UN agenda, as well as on building an inter-agency culture for the Universal Periodic Review, so as to install human rights mainstreaming as a priority. What is the Universal Periodic Review? The Universal Periodic Review examines the human rights situation of all 193 UN Member States (A/RES/60/251) under the umbrella of the Human Rights Council. The State under review submits a report declaring what actions it has taken to improve human rights situations in the country. Information is also provided by relevant stakeholders, and by UN international experts and agencies working in the country, who highlight concerns and propose action. Each State is assessed by fellow State representatives, under the principles of cooperation and equal treatment. State delegates then make recommendations for action. The expertise and on-the-ground knowledge of UN agencies, funds and programmes working in each country are invaluable assets for the UPR. And we, as UN officials, must make the most of this opportunity to help improve the human rights situations of our host countries. How we did it in Argentina We welcomed support from the OHCHR The RC’s office has been supported by the Regional Office for South America of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Argentina participated in the OHCHR UPR Project covering five South American countries, which provided an overall framework for UPR-related matters, information sessions and technical assistance on how to draft our UPR report. OHCHR insisted that the effective engagement of the whole UN system was crucial to a successful UPR process. In the end, Argentina received 119 recommendations in its second UPR (2012), some of which embodied inputs from the UN system, which meant that local agencies, funds and programmes could see their added value reflected in the outcome report. We established the Inter-Agency Group on Human Rights Based on conversations held by the RCO, OHCHR-South America and the Government, the Inter-Agency Group on Human Rights (IAGHR) was set up in 2012. It supports the monitoring of recommendations made to Argentina, having its own duties, coordination mechanisms and work plan. It also puts a special emphasis on including a human rights-based approach in the preparation of the new 2016-2020 Cooperation Framework for Argentina. Five agencies helped hire a human rights advisor At the suggestion of OHCHR, a human rights advisor for the RC’s office was hired to specifically address human rights mainstreaming and to monitor the implementation of UPR recommendations. The position was funded by OHCHR, UNICEF, UNDP, UNODC and UNHCR. The human rights advisor was also part of the five-country OHCHR UPR Project. We created a matrix linking human rights and development The OHCHR UPR Project prepared a matrix systematizing all recommendations made to its countries of coverage. The UN system in Argentina produced its own matrix linking the UPR recommendations with development projects by the different UN entities. By connecting UN initiatives with the UPR recommendations, which were accepted by the country, the UN system found a new and strong source of legitimacy. Further, the State committed to implement the UPR recommendations in four and a half years. We took action with the government and other stakeholders The UN System in Argentina provided support to the government in following-up and implementing UPR recommendations. Also, workshops were held to disseminate the UPR mechanism and its recommendations among UN System, Senate, Judiciary, civil society and ombudsperson’s office. These workshops encouraged the submissions of UPR midterm reports. How can you use the UPR process to enhance human rights? There can be no peace without development, no development without peace, and there is neither without human rights. On one hand, the Universal Periodic Review process presents a unique opportunity to engage Member States in the protection of human rights, and encourages cooperation between States and the exchange of international experiences to strengthen policies and institutions. On the other hand, UPR is a key instrument for the UN System to provide a framework for coherence and joint action among UN System and also opens a window for cooperation with the governments and other stakeholders in the process of follow-up and implementation of UPR recommendations. If you have a story to share about the UPR, please post a comment and links for more information.

Country Stories

Viet Nam Engaging with International Human Rights Mechanisms to Achieve Universal Access to Education

March 8, 2014

The most important reason for us to support mother tongue-based bilingual education is to promote social equality in education by creating equal opportunities for ethnic minority children to have access to quality education. - Mr. ViVan Dieu, Director, Research Centre for Ethnic Minority Education, Viet Nam Institute of Educational Sciences. Abstract As a direct result of Viet Nam undergoing the Universal Periodic Review in May 2009, the government invited six Special Procedures mandate holders of the United Nations Human Rights Council to visit Viet Nam. Four Special Procedures visited Viet Nam during 2010-2011, one of whom was the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues in July 2010. During her visit, the Independent Expert on minority issues engaged closely with the United Nations country team, which contributed to ensuring that her recommendations reflected the realities, priorities and challenges in the country. The recommendations from the Independent Expert proved a valuable tool for guiding and strengthening efforts to move forward on ensuring equitable and inclusive growth in Viet Nam. In particular, her engagement with UNICEF on the issue of bilingual education for children of ethnic minorities resulted in an explicit reference to UNICEF’s work in this area and a recommendation that this approach be supported and expanded in the country. These recommendations added significant weight and credibility to UNICEF’s work on bilingual education, providing UNICEF with an advocacy tool to raise attention and commitment to this approach. Bilingual education has since been recognized by the Ministry of Education as one of the solutions to reducing disparities in access to education. Background The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party of Viet Nam. It has an estimated population of 87.8 million people, of which 14.3 percent belong to one of 53 minority ethnic groups.1 Many of these ethnic groups have their own distinct language, religion and cultural identity and live in remote parts of the country. The rest of the population belongs to the majority ethnic group, known as the Kinh. Over the past two decades, Viet Nam has achieved rapid economic growth and has significantly reduced overall poverty rates from 58.1 percent in 1993 to 14.5 percent in 2008.2 As a result of this growth, Viet Nam attained the status of a middle income country in 2010.3 One of the biggest development challenges that Viet Nam faces in the process of transitioning to a middle income country is the widening gap between rich and poor and between different regions. The ‘feminization of poverty’4 is also a growing challenge. Local customs, patriarchal attitudes and traditions have led to gender inequality in the labour market and in political and public life. Furthermore, ethnic minorities continue to be particularly vulnerable to high levels of poverty and inequality. While in 1990, only 18 percent of those living in poverty belonged to ethnic minorities, by 2008 ethnic minorities accounted for almost 56 percent of the poor.5 In 2012, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted its concern over the lower level of development indicators among ethnic minorities, especially regarding access to health and education.6 Viet Nam faces significant human rights challenges in the area of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and assembly. Space for expressing views on government policies and practices is also limited.7 Education for ethnic minorities The official language used in schools in Viet Nam is Vietnamese. While the law recognizes that ethnic minorities have the right to use their mother tongue in schools in order to preserve and develop their ethnic and cultural identity, the lack of teaching capacity in minority languages has meant that in practice children are taught in Vietnamese only. As many minority communities have only a limited understanding and proficiency in Vietnamese, this has created a language barrier for many of these children. Lack of access to education in their mother tongue, together with the use of Vietnamese, is considered one of the reasons why the net primary school completion rate among ethnic minority children (61 percent) is significantly lower than the rate for Kinh (86 percent). For minority women the problem of illiteracy is particularly acute; literacy rates for ethnic minority women are just 22 percent, as compared to 92 percent for ethnic Kinh women.8 Strategy Engaging with international human rights processes and mechanisms Since 2008, UNDP has been implementing a capacity-building project on human rights treaty reporting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project has provided an opportunity for the United Nations country team in Viet Nam to engage with and support the government in its interaction with international human rights mechanisms. Supporting engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, human rights treaty body reporting, sharing knowledge on processes and procedures, and supporting the government in organizing visits of Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council proved a useful way to concretize human rights concepts and provide expertise to the government. In May 2009, Viet Nam was assessed under the Universal Periodic Review. This afforded the government an important chance to present an overview of the main opportunities and challenges they faced in meeting their international obligations, as well as to demonstrate progress made toward achieving key commitments under human rights treaties. It also provided an opportunity for the United Nations to support the government to engage effectively with this process. At the government’s request, UNDP, in close coordination with the United Nations country team and with OHCHR Geneva support, facilitated training for government officials on the Universal Periodic Review. As part of this training, UNDP invited other countries from the region (Indonesia and Philippines) that had already undergone the process to share their experiences with Viet Nam. These activities helped build the government’s capacity and openness to engaging with international human rights mechanisms and, in doing so, strengthening the quality of Viet Nam’s engagement in the Universal Periodic Review. Viet Nam ensured representation at the highest level, which reflected the importance given to the Universal Periodic Review by the government. The Universal Periodic Review experience, in turn, generated greater momentum to engage with other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. One of the follow-up measures to the Universal Periodic Review process was the government’s invitation to six Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council to visit Viet Nam. BOX United Nations Special Procedures: The Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special Procedures are either an individual (called Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert) or a working group, usually composed of five members. Mandate Holders serve in their personal capacities and do not receive salaries or other financial compensation for their work. They rely on government invitations and cooperation to carry out their work. Mandate holders are appointed by the Human Rights Council and their work is supported by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). END BOX Viet Nam received four visits of United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders between 2010 and 2011: the Independent Expert on minority issues (July 2010); the Independent Expert on extreme poverty and human rights (August 2010); the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt (March 2011); and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health (November – December 2011). These visits provided significant occasions for Viet Nam to benefit from the expertise of Special Procedures in its efforts to follow up on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, and to address key human rights issues in the country. The United Nations country team took a number of steps to maximize the value and impact of these visits and to optimize the benefits of the government’s engagement with the Special Procedures. As a first step, and in collaboration with OHCHR Geneva, the United Nations country team organized workshops for the government to provide guidance on the overall procedures of such visits and the mandates of the Special Procedures. During the visits, the United Nations country team and technical experts from the agencies played an important role by providing the Special Procedures with technical expertise on issues falling within their mandates. This was particularly important in Viet Nam where civil society is developing its capacity to engage in these processes. In turn, being able to draw on this expertise ensured that the Special Procedures report and recommendations reflected the realities, opportunities and challenges in the country. United Nations country team engagement with the Independent Expert on minority issues In July 2010, the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougal, visited Viet Nam. The United Nations country team viewed the visit of the Independent Expert as an opportunity to strengthen and further reinforce government efforts to address widening inequalities and persistent poverty among minority ethnic groups. Supporting the government to achieve inclusive and equitable growth is a core part of the United Nations country team’s development agenda. At the beginning of the visit, the United Nations country team organized a formal briefing with the Independent Expert to discuss key issues, challenges and opportunities. This was followed by in-depth briefings with technical experts from several United Nations agencies. The United Nation’s inter-agency approach proved extremely valuable in this process. Having all United Nations agencies around the same table provided the Independent Expert with a breadth of expertise and knowledge on a wide range of issues affecting her mandate – ethnic minority poverty, cultural diversity, sexual reproductive health for minorities and bi-lingual education. United Nations agencies’ expertise in the relevant areas enabled the Independent Expert to support the agencies’ work. It allowed the Independent Expert to draw on agency expertise to make concrete and useful recommendations that could assist the government to move forward. According to the Independent Expert, her visit was, “a great opportunity to re-introduce Viet Nam to the international human rights mechanisms. It allowed Viet Nam to share its accomplishments and the obstacles it has had to surmount with the Human Rights Council and human rights mechanisms. The government took my mission very seriously. They learned a lot from the mission on what they can expect in engaging with human rights mechanisms.” Engaging the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues in support of bilingual education for ethnic minorities Internationally there has been consistent recognition of the value of bilingual education in improving learning and reducing drop-out rates.9 To examine ways by which this concept can best work in Viet Nam, the Ministry of Education and Training worked together with UNICEF to pilot a project on bilingual education in three provinces (see Box 1). In addition, to generate support among government counterparts for this approach and to ensure the government would benefit from the expertise of international human rights mechanisms, UNICEF, in collaboration with the United Nations country team, strategically engaged with the Independent Expert on minority issues during her visit in July 2010. UNICEF provided the Independent Expert with in-depth briefing notes on the legal framework for ethnic minority languages in education and their rights to use their mother tongue in school. UNICEF also held face to face meetings with the Independent Expert and organized her participation in a mother-tongue teacher training workshop. This participation enabled her to interact directly with teachers being trained. BOX Box 1: UNICEF’s Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education in Viet Nam UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Training to implement and monitor a pilot project on bilingual education since 2008. The pilot project is being carried out in three provinces – Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh – in the minority languages of H’mong, Jrai and Khmer, respectively. Students in each province will complete the pilot programme by 2015. Through the project, teachers are trained in bilingual education techniques and provided special teaching and learning materials developed in consultation with local communities. The project is being carefully monitored for evidence of improvements in the quality of education. The ultimate objective is to feed the research results into a national education strategy that supports bilingual education.10 END BOX Results In the Independent Expert on minority issues’ report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the issue of bilingual education for ethnic minorities featured prominently among the key recommendations. The Independent Expert explicitly referred to the example of UNICEF’s work in bilingual education and recommended that this approach be supported and expanded to other districts. According to the Independent Expert’s report, “the importance of improving the education outcomes of minorities cannot be overstated. Access to quality and appropriate education is a fundamental gateway to development and poverty eradication for minorities in Viet Nam..." The independent expert saw clear evidence that bilingual education ultimately serves to increase the potential of ethnic minority children and communities to learn and use Vietnamese…The government should permit and support bilingual education for ethnic minority children.”11 Her recommendations to Viet Nam were fully in line with the United Nations country team’s overall policy recommendations on minority issues outlined in the United Nations’ One Plan. This is an achievement realized through the engagement and cooperation of the United Nations country team with the Independent Expert during the course of her visit. Most importantly, the visit of the Independent Expert provided a powerful advocacy opportunity for the United Nations’ efforts to promote bilingual education. By validating the methodology that UNICEF and the Ministry of Education were piloting and encouraging its institutionalization, the recommendations provided authoritative inputs for UNICEF to draw upon in advocating for this approach.12 The recognition and support of the Independent Expert added weight and credibility to the methodology, providing a significant recommendation for its acceptance in the country. The Ministry of Education has now formally recognized that bilingual education is one of the solutions to strengthen ethnic minority children’s education.13 Moreover, early results from the UNICEF Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education are promising. As a whole, children enrolled in the programme are performing better than minority children not enrolled in the programme in language competency tests in both their mother tongue and Vietnamese. They also outperform ethnic minority students not in the programme in listening comprehension and mathematics. As a result of the encouraging results from the Action Research, this approach is increasingly being recognized as a good practice, both nationally and in the region. One provincial department of education and training has opted to use its own funds to more than double the number of bilingual education classes; 344 Mong ethnic minority children are now enrolled in these classes. Three additional provinces, Dien Ben, An Giang and Ninh Thuan, have also expressed interest in the methodology and have committed to applying the approach. The Provincial Department of Education and Training is supporting these efforts and has scaled up mother tongue-based bilingual education so that each school year from 2011 to 2015, a new group of 210 children aged five will enter mother tongue-based bilingual education classes. Specific policy recommendations on the use of bilingual education have also since been promulgated by the National Assembly and Committee for Ethnic Minorities. In addition, delegations from Myanmar and China visited Viet Nam to learn from this experience. Equally, the report from the Independent Expert raised the visibility and interest in the approach among donors and development partners in Viet Nam. These partners have expressed interest in supporting the follow-up to the Independent Expert’s recommendations. For example, the European Union delegation in Viet Nam welcomed the Independent Expert’s recommendations on the expansion of mother tongue-based instruction and requested UNICEF to prepare a concept note on how this approach could be expanded within the country. The experience of Viet Nam also highlights the important role that the United Nations country team, through its long-term presence in the country, technical expertise and normative mandate, can play in supporting the government to follow up on recommendations of the Special Procedures mandate holders. As noted by the Independent Expert, “the United Nations country team is essential and may be the only possible mechanism for follow up, given the limited capacities of Special Procedures” Since the visit of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Viet Nam’s growing engagement with other human rights mechanisms is leading to greater international exposure on the issue of bilingual education. The country recently reported to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 2012)14 and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (June 2012).15 Both Committees, in their Concluding Observations to Viet Nam, urged the country to increase the provision of bilingual education programmes for ethnic minority children, further supporting and validating Viet Nam’s efforts in this area. Lessons Learned The Universal Periodic Review presents an opportunity for government to strengthen its engagement with all international human rights mechanisms and for the United Nations country team to support government capacity in engaging with these mechanisms. The United Nations country team can play an important role in maximizing the value and impact of the visits of Special Procedures mandate holders. Engaging with the United Nations country team during a country visit allows the Special Procedures to draw upon the expertise of development agencies to offer concrete and useful recommendations that can help the government move forward on human rights issues. Access to quality and appropriate education is a gateway to development and poverty reduction for minorities. The introduction of bilingual education for minority children can help these children to make better early progress and creates strong and culturallyappropriate foundations for their future schooling. The recommendations of international human rights mechanisms can provide valuable and authoritative inputs to integrate human rights into United Nations advocacy, policy and programming initiatives to further development outcomes. The visits of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council can ensure that government efforts to address human rights challenges and to mainstream human rights into development programmes benefit from internationally-recognized expertise. Endnotes UNICEF Action research brief UNICEF, Vietnam and the Millennium Development Goals United Nations in Viet Nam Website United Nations compilation report to the Universal Periodic Review, OHCHR, March 2009, A/HRC/WG.6/5/VNM/2. Viet Nam Millennium Development Goals National Report 2010, p. 114. Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam, June, 2012, CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4. Concerns over access to freedom of information, the independence of the media from the State, freedom of assembly, the ability of individuals, groups and civil society to express their opinions or dissent publicly were noted at the interactive dialogue of the Universal Periodic Review of Viet Nam by the Human Rights Council in May 2009: A/HRC/12/11. Report of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, January 2011, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2. Mission to Viet Nam (5-15 July 2010) UNICEF Annual Report 2010, p. 23. UNICEF Action research brief  Report of the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, 24 January 2011, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2 paras. 85, 87 and 89. Mission to Viet Nam (5-15 July 2010) UNESCO has been a key partner with UNICEF in advocating for and promoting multilingual education in Viet Nam. The 2011 “Management Document on Teaching Vietnamese to Ethnic Minority Students” of the Ministry of Education and Training, explicitly cites the Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education as one of the four solutions to improving education for children of ethnic minorities. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Viet Nam, March 2012: CERD/C/VNM/CO/10-14. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam, June 2012: CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4.