At global meeting, national human rights institutions approve new strategic plan, expressing concern at pushbacks for universal human rights


More than 200 representatives from national human rights institutions (NHRIs), as well as from states, civil society, academia and partners including the UN Human Rights Office and UNDP met from 14-16 March in Geneva to participate in the 2023 GANHRI Annual Meeting. 

The Annual Meeting was hosted by GANHRI in cooperation with the UN Human Rights Office, and the first in person Annual Meeting of GANHRI since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020. The Annual Meeting featured meetings of the GANHRI General Assembly and GANHRI Bureau meeting, meetings of the four NHRI regional networks, a Knowledge Exchange on NHRI experiences and good practices, and the 2023 Annual Conference. 

The Annual Meeting marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Principles by the UN General Assembly in December 1993. Specifically, the Annual Conference on 16 March offered an opportunity to participants to reflect on the current state of human rights identifying challenges and opportunities, and on the significance of the Universal Declaration and the Paris Principles in today’s context.

Opening the Annual Conference on 16 March, GANHRI Secretary Amina Bouayach said “We stand here today on a momentous occasion, celebrating a significant milestone for international human rights. NHRIs are the backbone of our nations”.   

“NHRIs are a critical component of the human rights ecosystem. GANHRI and its members can rely on our office as strong partner to promote human rights at country level” added Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

Václav Bálek, President of the UN Human Rights Council in his opening remarks added that “NHRIs bridge the gap between national & international human rights institutions. Without translating Council recommendations into real outcomes on the ground, our work would be useless.” 

“Effective, inclusive, and independent National Human Rights Institutions do represent the bedrock of just and inclusive societies that can advance peace, security, human rights, and sustainable development for all” – Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator 

The Annual Conference also saw the participation of the Chairperson of the UN Child Rights Committee, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention, representative from UPR Info, Geneva for Human Rights as well as Chairpersons from NHRIs from all regions and contexts, and an interactive break out session inviting participants to exchange experiences and perspectives. 

At the Conference close, participating GANHRI members adopted a powerful Statement in which they expressed concern at severe rolling back of human right protections and growing pressure on those who defend them and resolved to continue cooperating with states and public institutions to create a safe space for human rights defenders. Furthermore, to engage with international bodies, raising important concerns and pushing States to preserve as well as address any violation of the rights of individuals.

During their Bureau meeting on 14 March and General Assembly on 15 March, GANHRI members adopted: 

  • A new Strategic Plan for 2023-2027 which sets out the organisation’s mission and priorities ahead 
  • Amendments to the GANHRI Statute aimed at enhancing the rigour of the accreditation process by ensuring that all accredited NHRIs (A-status and B-status) may be subject to a Special Review or Suspension of accreditation status when their continued compliance with the Paris Principles has changed. The amendments will also provide the SCA with the ability to recommend the removal of the accreditation status of an NHRI where it can no longer be considered to be operating in compliance with the Paris Principles.
  • A strategy for strengthening NHRI participation across the United Nations 
  • The Work Plan for GANHRI’s Head Office and the 2023 Budget for the Organisation  
  • Workplans for its Working Groups and the GANHRI Climate Change Caucus 

The Knowledge Exchange discussed NHRIs experiences, knowledge and challenges in addressing incidents of torture and ill-treatment in their respective countries. 

In response to this grave human rights violation, NHRIs are implementing innovative approaches, including through investigating, monitoring, reporting, and advising the state and its institutions, as well as by conducting human rights education and awareness. 

The Knowledge Exchange also discussed NHRIs’ critical role in addressing situations of persons with special vulnerability, including children, women, older persons, migrants and persons deprived of their liberty. 

NHRIs under the auspices of GANHRI will meet again next for the 14th International Conference on “Torture and other ill-treatment: The role of National Human Rights Institutions” to be held in Copenhagen from 6-8 November 2023. The Conference will be co-hosted by GANHRI, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Office.


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