UN resolution urges States to bolster support for NHRIs during COVID-19 pandemic

Geneva, 6 October 2020 – States from across the globe have pledged to strengthen their support for national human rights institutions amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in a resolution adopted today at the United Nations.

The resolution – led by Australia and adopted at the Human Rights Council – affirms the vital contribution of national human rights institutions to uphold human rights during the global health emergency.

This includes advising the State on human rights standards in responding to COVID-19; informing the public about their rights; examining and monitoring the national situation; working to protect groups in vulnerable situations; and cooperating with civil society, the resolution noted.

All States are encouraged to cooperate with and support their national human rights institution, ensuring they are adequately resourced to undertake their work.

The resolution also reiterates its call for all States to strengthen or, where they do not yet exist, establish national human rights institutions in full compliance with the Paris Principles.

“All people in all countries should have the benefit of a strong and independent NHRI that protects and promotes their rights at all times,” said incoming GANHRI Chairperson Dr Freddy Carrion.

“The current global health crisis is a stark reminder of the centrality of human rights across all parts of our lives. NHRIs play a critically important role to ensure human rights are placed at the heart of their State’s response and recovery measures”, he said.

The resolution also welcomes the role of GANHRI and NHRI regional networks, as well as the Tripartite Partnership GANHRI, UNDP and OHCHR – to support NHRIs during the pandemic.

GANHRI is supporting its members during the pandemic by documenting and facilitating the exchange of experiences, including through webinars and an online community of practice.

In cooperation with UNDP and OHCHR, under the Tripartite Partnership, a new GANHRI publication will document NHRIs’ experiences, challenges and needs for support. The preliminary findings of this ongoing research were presented in a high-level online event, co-hosted by the Tripartite Partnership and with the co-sponsorship of Australia, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and Norway, on 28 September 2020.

The resolution also recognises the invaluable contribution that NHRIs make within the UN and encourages all UN mechanisms and processes to further enhance the participation of Paris Principles-compliant NHRIs and their networks in their work. This includes the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and ECOSCOC and its subsidiary bodies.

Importantly, the resolution states that NHRIs should not face reprisals for undertaking work in accordance with their mandate. It encourages that States to make greater efforts to investigate and respond to increasing reports of cases of  reprisals against NHRIs and those cooperating with them.

In holding their governments accountable for their commitments under international human rights law, NHRIs and their leadership teams across all regions have experienced criticisms from political leaders, legal proceedings against NHRI members, cuts to their budgets and other forms of intimidation.

This issue has also been reported by the Secretary General in his most recent report to the Human Rights Council and has also been highlighted by GANHRI, including in a statement to the Council.

“With this resolution, the international community sends a strong and unequivocal message that independent NHRIs are essential to promote and protect human rights – especially during this global health crisis – and they should not be punished for doing their work,” Dr Carrion said.

The GANHRI Chairperson warmly thanked Australia for leading the resolution, as well as all States, civil society and UN partners for supporting the resolution.

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