NHRIs must be strengthened to support progress on the Sustainable Development Goals

Ahead of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York from 8-17 July, GANHRI has urged political leaders to bolster their support for national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and refresh momentum on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The theme of this year’s Forum is “Reinforcing the 2030 Agenda and eradicating poverty in times of multiple crises: the effective delivery of sustainable, resilient and innovative solutions”. The meeting will also include a review of five Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 16.

The “existence of independent NHRIs in compliance with the Paris Principles” is a global indicator for achieving SDG 16, which is focused on promoting peaceful societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.

However, the Global Progress Report on SDG 16 – published in 2023 by UNDP, OHCHR and UNODC – has described efforts towards achieving SDG 16 as “worryingly slow” and, in some cases, “even moving in the wrong direction”.

“With their unique mandate and close connection to communities, NHRIs play a powerful role to promote human rights-based and people-centred implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” GANHRI Chairperson Maryam Al-Attiyah said.

“This expertise makes NHRIs essential partners for governments in their efforts to deliver on the 2030 Agenda and its central promise to leave no one behind,’ Ms Al-Attiyah said.

GANHRI – representing 120 member NHRIs – presented a Declaration to leaders at the 2023 Global SDG Summit, featuring nine key principles for human rights-based action. NHRIs also reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate with States and use their broad and independent mandate to contribute towards the realisation of the 2030 Agenda.

“To restore progress towards SDG 16, we urge Governments to strengthen existing NHRIs, including by providing them with adequate technical and financial resources, and ensuring that they and other human rights defenders are effectively protected,” Ms Al-Attiyah said.

“We also encourage the establishment of independent NHRIs in those countries where they do not currently exist.”

In December 2023, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution encouraging “all relevant United Nations mechanisms and processes”, including the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, “to further enhance the participation of national human rights institutions compliant with the Paris Principles and to allow for their contribution to these United Nations mechanisms and processes.”

Ms Al-Attiyah said the participation of ‘A status’ NHRIs at this year’s Forum should be supported and facilitated, as recognised by the UN General Assembly.

“Through a truly inclusive approach that engages NHRIs, the Forum can multiply its impact at all levels, foster accountability and guarantee meaningful contributions of rights holders to deliver results,” Ms Al-Attiyah said.

Ms Al-Attiyah stressed that NHRIs are eager to take part in this year’s Forum and join with other stakeholders in official sessions and side events, as well as contribute to the conduct and presentation of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) by Member States on their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“One of the great strengths of NHRIs is that they are in a unique position to voice the hopes and concerns of communities in the countries they represent,” Ms Al-Attiyah said. “Their contribution to the Forum will showcase the immensely practical work that NHRIs undertake, often in very complex and challenging settings, to help build peaceful and just communities, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Guided by the Mérida Declaration, NHRIs in all regions have been active in implementing the 2030 Agenda, with some notable good practices.

To follow up on the Kigali Declaration, the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions set up a Working Group in 2017 to develop and strengthen a systematic and sustainable approach to sharing experiences, good practices and knowledge management – with and among NHRIs, civil society, governments and other stakeholders – on the implementation and monitoring of the UN 2030 Agenda and the African Union 2063 Development Agenda.