An excellent tool for mainstreaming human rights
BY Jessica Braver, Valeria Guerra, Maria Jeannette Moya | July 28, 2015|Comments 0
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 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.
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