Protecting displaced and stateless persons: the role and experiences of NHRIs and opportunities for collaboration with UNHCR

16th February 2021, 14.00 -15.30 CET – Online event on Teams

Online event co-hosted by GANHRI, UNHCR and the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva

You can find the Guide on UNHCR’s engagement with NHRIs here


National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) play a crucial role in promoting and protecting human rights in countries in all regions worldwide. With constitutionally or legislatively entrenched broad mandates to protect and promote human rights, NHRIs are uniquely situated to influence policy, law and practice on the ground, being both part of the States’ institutional framework and independent from State interference. Committed to uphold the human rights of all people without distinction or discrimination, they are particularly well-placed to engage with and support those who may face challenges accessing other State mechanisms and exercising their rights. This includes  refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons, returnees and persons who are stateless or at risk of statelessness.

UNHCR works strategically in partnership with GANHRI and NHRIs in many countries to enhance the protection of these groups and the well-being of their host communities. Key opportunities these partnerships present include:

  • UNHCR can support and encourage NHRIs to use their broad mandates to promote and protect the human rights of all persons in their territory or under their jurisdictions, including persons who are in need of international protection, such as those forcibly displaced or stateless;
  • NHRIs’ expertise and competences are valuable strengths upon which UNHCR can call to advance legislation related to asylum, immigration, internal displacement, nationality or statelessness, handle individual cases, monitor cases of refoulement, monitor detention, facilitate access to redress mechanisms and advise public authorities on the inclusion of persons under UNHCR’s mandate in national programmes, policies and services; and
  • NHRIs, unlike other actors, make public their findings and recommendations to national authorities including parliament, as well as at regional and international levels, which can increase the visibility of issues related to the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers, displaced and stateless persons, and provide further basis for advocacy at local level.

Many positive examples of cooperation between NHRIs and UNHCR staff exist worldwide which UNHCR in partnership with GANHRI is now exploring to replicate in other contexts. In order to build on this positive collaboration between UNHCR and NHRIs in the field, UNHCR with the contribution of GANHRI has developed the Guide on UNHCR’s engagement with national human rights institutions which provides an overview of key features of national human rights institutions and suggests ways whereby UNHCR across all regions can concretely engage and leverage these institutions and their broad mandate and competences. It is also is part of a broader effort to both mainstream human rights approaches in UNHCR’s protection work, and to support colleagues to expand in an informed manner their advocacy opportunities related to human rights engagement at national, regional and international level.


The Guide on UNHCR’s engagement with national human rights institutions in the context of forced displacement and statelessness was launched during this online event co-hosted by UNHCR and GANHRI. The event focused on the role and experiences of national human rights institutions in protecting and promoting the human rights of forcibly displaced and stateless persons. The event explored opportunities for strengthened collaboration between NHRIs and UNHCR in support of affected population, in collaboration with other stakeholders. The event showcased examples of good practice of UNHCR-NHRI collaboration at local level, and discussed opportunities for such practice to be replicated in other contexts across all regions.

Specifically, the webinar event was an opportunity for NHRIs and UNHCR participants to:

  1. Discuss the role and experiences of NHRIs in protecting displaced and stateless population and related consequences on their enjoyment of rights;
  2. Showcase examples of good practice of UNHCR-NHRI collaboration at local level, and discuss opportunities for such practice to be replicated in other contexts across all regions;
  3. Develop practical strategies for NHRIs to employ to address the situation displaced and stateless persons;
  4. Draw from the guidance and experience from experts and identify opportunities for collaboration in support of displaced and stateless populations; and
  5. Present the Guide and launch the online community of practice for NHRIs/ UNHCR.

RightsDESK: A Joint Community of Practice for NHRIs and UNHCR

To continue strengthening collaborations between UNHCR and NHRIs, UNHCR and GANHRI are co-hosting a community of practice dedicated to UNHCR staff and to members and staff of NHRIs across all regions. The community of practice is an online platform to facilitate discussion, engagement and the exchange of information, skills and expertise on human rights of forcibly displaced and stateless persons and on the UNHCR-NHRIs cooperation.

The RightsDESK community of practice has the following goals:

  1. Disseminate information relating to UNHCR’s and NHRIs human rights engagement, including opportunities for synergies and relevant outcomes of such engagement;
  2. Provide a virtual space to exchange on related topics between UNHCR and NHRIs and sharing of good practices
  3. Foster greater interest, and discussion around how human rights advocacy and the use of human rights mechanisms can improve the protection of forcibly displaced and stateless persons; and
  4. Serve as a repository of tools, trainings and resources relating to human rights advocacy, focusing in the context of forced displacement and statelessness.

Concretely, members of the community of practice can share documents, links to online articles, video materials; they can ask questions and provide comments. Such comments can be posted to the attention of all the members of the community or to specific members. They are also able to create channels dedicated to specific topics or regions.

The RightsDESK is being hosted on Microsoft Teams. Join us by sending your email to