15. All UN entities and all UN staff are required to consistently uphold human rights, as part of meeting the core mandate of the UN set out under the UN Charter. However, the RC bears particular responsibility to lead the UN Country Team in ensuring that all operational activities of the UN at the country level are consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN and the policy framework on human rights. The RC, with the support of the Country Team, must play a critical role in strategically positioning the UN system at country level through supporting national efforts, upholding the rule of law (8) and contributing to the full realization of human rights.

The Resident Coordinator: Revised Job Description

16. The core human rights responsibilities of the RC are set out in the RC Job Description which was revised in 2014 to take account of new policy developments with respect to the mainstreaming of human rights, the exercise of human rights due diligence and the priorities set out in the Secretary-General’s HRuF initiative.

17. The role of the UN on the ground is not simply to support the government of the country where it is operating but to consistently uphold and promote the values and principles enshrined in international law, including international human rights law. Governments should always be aware that the UN will not contravene its own principles in any circumstances. Playing this role is not easy—as one RC has pointed out, it “takes determination and quite some courage to take the human rights message forward when facing challenging violations”. (9) Yet, despite the challenges, many RCs have shown great leadership in standing up for these values and supporting their staff in doing so.


2014 Resident Coordinator Job Description

Extract of key human rights responsibilities in the job description

The Resident Coordinator:

Coordinates the work of the UN Country Team in: a) mainstreaming international human rights norms and standards into operational activities for development; b) facilitating access to knowledge and expertise on international human rights norms and standards available in the UN system; and c) ensuring a coordinated UN approach, in accordance with the relevant mandates and at the request of the government, to building national capacity to implement human rights and other universal UN norms and standards to which the government has committed itself;
In situations of risk or actual serious violation of human rights and humanitarian law, in countries where there is no UN peacekeeping or special political mission/office, leads and coordinates the UN Country Team in developing and implementing a strategy to address such risks or violations, with support from OHCHR and, where present, the Protection Cluster, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) and the Situation Response Coordinator;
Ensures effective advocacy of human rights and other UN system values, standards, principles and activities on behalf of the UN Country Team with the highest level of government:  
Advocates fundamental UN values under its Charter, including respect for and protection of human rights;  
Promotes international human rights standards and principles and advocates for international human rights norms and standards as a common UN value in dialogue with national actors;
Considers and acts upon information and analysis of principal human rights concerns and risk of serious violations provided by OHCHR as well as from other sources;
Communicates, coordinates and promotes consistency in the implementation of the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (Policy Committee Decision 2013/110) across the UN in-country.

18. In
settings, the RC will usually constitute the first line of UN action at country level, engaging every day with national authorities, civil society and rights holders. As such, he or she is in a unique position to recognize changing events on the ground, to use their effective working relationships and alliances to understand and address the political context and the concerns of national counterparts, and to recognize the signs of human rights violations that might serve as early indicators of a deteriorating situation. RCs are thus a critical part of the UN system’s capacity not only to promote the realization of human rights but also to identify, prevent and respond to potential crises. The RC should seek support from UNHQ if the situation in the country is likely to deteriorate, as emphasized in the Secretary-General’s HRuF initiative. The RC also plays a crucial role in encouraging and coordinating the whole UN Country Team to take up this responsibility.

19. In
required, the RC may wear a “double hat” by also acting as the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC), or even a “triple hat” by further acting as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) if a Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) is appointed.(10)  In these contexts, the RC/HC retains important human rights responsibilities, including the duty to promote the respect of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties, including non-state actors where relevant. The protection of human rights is the ultimate aim of humanitarian action and this purpose should be central to the humanitarian strategy. (11)



Human rights responsibilities
The HC:
• Is guided by international humanitarian and human rights law, and by the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence;
• Ensures that a common strategic plan for realizing this vision (Common Humanitarian Action Plan [CHAP] or equivalent) is articulated, based on documented needs and integrating cross-cutting issues (e.g. age, gender, diversity, human rights, HIV/AIDS and the environment) and activities in support of early recovery, by leading and coordinating its development;
• Promotes the respect of international humanitarian and human rights law by all parties, including non-state actors, by coordinating the advocacy efforts of relevant organizations and using private and/or public advocacy as appropriate.

20. In
settings, senior mission leaders also have specific human rights responsibilities.


2011 OHCHR/DPKO/DPA/DFS* Policy on Human Rights in United Nations Peace Operations and Political Missions

Senior mission leaders must:  

Uphold international human rights law in the implementation of peace operations and political missions’ mandates;
Ensure that the promotion and protection of human rights is instilled as a fundamental principle of peace operations and political missions;
Ensure that all UN staff of peace operations or political missions—whether military, police or civilian—are aware of and abide by international human rights and humanitarian law;
Demonstrate by word and deed commitment to human rights and its implementation.

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights/Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Political Affairs/Department of Field Support

The Human Rights Responsibilities of the UN Country Team and the Broader UN System

21. Carrying out the UN’s role and responsibility within its human rights mandate is not a task for the RC alone. The RC must be supported in this task by an engaged and supportive UN Country Team as well as by the UNDG regional team and relevant UNHQ entities. Ensuring coherent and coordinated responses to country-level challenges is critical, as fragmented approaches risk losing the UN’s legitimacy—which is based on upholding international norms, standards and principles—and consequent loss of credibility vis-à-vis national stakeholders. The UN Country Team has clear human rights responsibilities.


2014 Guidance Note on United Nations Country Team Conduct and Working Arrangements

The UN Country Team’s human rights responsibilities:

UN Country Team members represent and advocate the goals, norms and standards of the UN system, including the promotion, protection and advocacy of human rights standards and principles, internationally agreed treaty obligations and development goals;
UN Country Teams together with RCs, uphold and promote the UN’s responsibilities with regard to preventing and responding to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law;
In situations of risk or actual serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, in countries where there is no UN peacekeeping or special political mission / office, UN Country Team members support the RC in developing and implementing a strategy to address such risks or violations.

All UN entities—including the Secretariat, agencies, funds and programmes—have a duty to uphold the UN Charter and its commitments to human rights. Many UN entities have already developed their own guidance, tools and training on human rights-related aspects of their work at the country level. At the inter-agency level, UNDG HRWG provides coordinated and consistent support to RCs and UN Country Teams on human rights across agencies and between regional and UNHQ levels. It is critical that all members of a UN Country Team are aware of the latest policy guidance and available tools from their own HQ as well as from UNDG HRWG.

23. UN entities play distinct, but complementary, roles on human rights. OHCHR is the lead entity within the UN system for the promotion and protection of human rights. It coordinates all human rights-related actions under its broad mandate on human rights monitoring and technical assistance. OHCHR Human Rights Officers and UNDG Human Rights Advisers can provide assistance to UN Country Teams. Many other UN entities also have mandates focused on specific issues or improving the rights of particular groups. For example, UN Women works to promote gender equality and women’s rights, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works to protect the rights of children, UNAIDS works to promote human rights-based responses to HIV and AIDS and to address human rights violations that increase vulnerability to HIV, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) focuses on labour rights. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) leads the Global Protection Cluster and works to protect refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless persons.  Other entities similarly integrate and address human rights in their work. Other agencies also play an important role through their presence and activities on the ground aimed at respecting, protecting or fulfilling human rights, for example the right to adequate food, acting in accordance with their mandate, capacities and 
operational needs.

24. While each agency will develop its own approach in accordance with its specific mandate, joint analysis and strategic planning through a human rights lens is critical to ensure approaches that are complementary rather than competitive or contradictory. The aim should be to maximize agencies’ comparative advantages and enable the UN system to respond in a flexible, context-specific fashion, to maximize overall effectiveness. A conscious and strategic division of labour, and the use of a range of different tools in different contexts, can amplify the UN’s collective strength and moral authority, while avoiding negative impacts on any one agency.

25. The UN system as a whole also bears a collective responsibility towards upholding the UN Charter. The shared responsibility of all UN entities to prevent serious human rights violations is at the heart of the Secretary-General’s HRuF initiative. HRuF calls on all UN entities to contribute under their individual mandates to prevent or respond to serious violations, which are often too complex for a single UN entity to address on its own. A range of mechanisms and tools has been put in place to support the RC and UN Country Team. This includes support for analysis, planning and advocacy at the country level. If the situation escalates beyond the capacity of the RC and Country Team to address it, and the complexity of the situation requires the involvement of UN actors at the regional or global level, the RC should refer to the established support mechanisms, including the Regional Quarterly Review (RQR). The Joint letter from the Deputy Secretary-General and the UNDG Chair addressed to RCs clarifies that the responsibility to address the risk of serious violations will not fall on RCs and UN Country Teams alone.

(8) The “rule of law” in this Guidance Note is understood as “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards”, as defined in the Secretary-General’s 2004 report ‘The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies’ (S/2004/616).
(9) This quotation is drawn from feedback in 2014 from RCs to the individualized letters to RCs from the UNDG HRWG co-chairs setting out upcoming opportunities to engage with human rights mechanisms in their country.
(10) The RC’s role in coordinating humanitarian assistance is outlined in Section II and III of the UN Resident Coordinator Generic Job Description (Feb 2014).
(11) “Protection” in the humanitarian context is defined as encompassing “activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of all individuals in accordance with international law – international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law – regardless of their age, gender, social, ethnic, national, religious, or other background” (Inter-Agency Standing Committee [IASC]). See also the IASC Principals’ statement on the “Centrality of Protection” in humanitarian action.

Related Blogs and Country stories

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.