GANHRI 2021 Annual report: A year in review
The past year has presented serious challenges for NHRIs in all parts of the globe. New waves of the COVID-19 pandemic saw national lockdowns and other restrictions continue, limiting how NHRIs could connect with the communities they serve and forcing changes in nearly every aspect of their work.
Operating in such a complex environment has required innovation, resilience, commitment and determination. Collaboration has also been essential. Many of our members asked GANHRI for support to identify effective approaches they could incorporate into their work during the pandemic. Through our Tripartite Partnership with UNDP and OHCHR, we made responding to these requests our priority for 2021.
Despite the many constraints, NHRIs have continued to uphold their mandate: to monitor and report on the human rights situation in their country; to advise the State and advocate respect for human rights; to receive and investigate complaints; and to engage with and support those most vulnerable to discrimination and other human rights violations.
Our 2021 Annual Report documents what we achieved together to promote and protect human rights across the globe.
In collaboration with partners, we provided ongoing support for NHRIs during the pandemic through a programme of webinars, an online community of practice and a dedicated knowledge exchange session at our 2021 Annual Meeting.
We addressed international fora on behalf of NHRIs and contributed to the 2021 resolution on NHRIs, which, for the first time, included specific reference to NHRI participation at the UN Economic and Social Council.
In coordination with regional networks and partners, we responded to cases of threats and reprisals against NHRIs, including support for Afghanistan’s NHRI following the Taliban’s military takeover in August.
Leading on human rights and climate change
During 2021, we established the NHRI Caucus, comprising representatives from more than 30 NHRIs, to lead our policy and advocacy efforts on human rights and climate change at the regional and international levels.
In November, we co-convened the COP26 NHRI Symposium, bringing together more than 100 participants, to discuss the role of NHRIs in bridging the accountability gap in the climate emergency. During the gathering, NHRI participants prepared an open letter on practical steps to mitigate the human rights impacts of climate change, which was shared with delegates to the global COP 26 negotiations in Glasgow.
Historic resolution for NHRI participation
For the first time, a resolution adopted in December by the UN General Assembly has called for the participation of NHRIs in the work of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the principal organs of the UN. While NHRIs have long-held participation rights at the Human Rights Council and, more recently, within certain mechanisms of the General Assembly, this endorsement represents a powerful new avenue for NHRI contribution and advocacy.
Supporting human rights defenders
Our 2021 Annual Meeting, held online in June, brought together more than 300 NHRI representatives, partners and experts for discussion of priority issues.
We hosted a high-level event to discuss a draft of the Global Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders and Civic Space. The Global Action Plan has been developed through a consultative process, involving GANHRI members, regional networks, UN partners and human rights defenders, as part of the NHRI.EU capacity building project.
Responding to the human rights challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic was the focus of our Knowledge Exchange session, involving more than 150 NHRI representatives.
Supporting and strengthening our members
We organised or co-hosted more than 15 webinars and online discussions for NHRIs during 2021, involving an average of 100 participants for each event.
With OHCHR and UNDP, we published a global study on NHRI responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report included good practices, experiences and lessons learned from NHRIs in all regions. It also highlighted the deep resilience and adaptability of NHRIs.
In April 2021, staff members from 15 NHRIs took part in GANHRI’s annual training programme on engaging with the international human rights system. The programme was held online for the first time and included presenters from UN agencies and civil society organisations in Geneva.
Accrediting GANHRI members
We held two sessions of the Sub-Committee for Accreditation (SCA), in June and October 2021. The outcomes included: 12 NHRIs retaining A status; three NHRIs upgraded from B status to A status; one NHRI was downgraded from A status to B status; and one new NHRI was accredited with B status.
GANHRI membership at the end of 2021 included 118 NHRIs: 86 with A status and 32 with B status.
Supporting NHRIs under threat
In close coordination with other partners, we supported NHRIs under threat – in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kenya and the Philippines – with actions to uphold their independence and prevent further attacks. This included emergency assistance to evacuate members and staff of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission following the Taliban’s military takeover of the country in August, as well as supporting the Commission’s advocacy within the UN.
Giving voice to NHRI priorities
During 2021, GANHRI contributed to broad range of discussions at key UN fora, including the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing.
GANHRI and individual NHRIs also joined international advocacy efforts that saw the UN Human Rights Council adopt a landmark resolution in October recognising the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right.
During 2021, we assisted 18 NHRIs to engage directly with the UN Human Rights Council to deliver written or video statements. We also assisted approximately 50 NHRIs to engage with the UN human rights treaty bodies, either with direct support or through the assistance we provided to OHCHR.
Supporting and sharing NHRI expertise
We provided ongoing support to GANHRI’s four working groups, which included facilitating global consultations with NHRIs and other stakeholders. We also helped share NHRI expertise with:
- UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
- UN Network on Migration
- UN mechanisms in support of the Sustainable Development Goals
- UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
- Office of the UN Victims’ Rights Advocate
- Special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
Strengthening our communication
In 2021, we expanded our communication efforts, launching a quarterly newsletter, enhancing our social media presence and further developing our website. We recorded very high engagement across each of these channels, with our website recording an increase in pageviews of more than 400%.