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International workshop on “Enhancing cooperation between regional and international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights”: Closing statement by Ms. Navanethem Pillay United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

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Geneva, 4 May 2010

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank once more representatives and experts who shared their experience and expertise at this important event.  With so much good will, energy and knowledge converging in the past two days, the road map to cooperation between international and regional human rights mechanisms has no doubt received a significant boost.

All speakers have highlighted the importance, utility and need to further enhance existing cooperation and go beyond merely ad hoc arrangements, by devising appropriate and more predictable vehicle to improve collaborative efforts. They have also agreed that the ultimate aim of such cooperation is to make a difference for individuals at the national level, strengthening the role of the national protection system, including the Courts, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society organizations in ensuring the realization of all human rights.

Another important conclusion of the discussions is the importance of always taking into account the realities and priorities expressed at the international, regional, sub-regional and national levels, in order to better address a broader array of cooperative possibilities at each and every level. Allow me to expand on some of such possibilities. 

The first is on information-sharing. Periodic exchanges and meetings, either thematic, or on specific human rights situations at the bilateral or multilateral levels have been proposed. This may require, for instance, meetings among members of regional mechanisms and of UN treaty bodies and UN special procedures mandate holders.  The venues and agendas of these meetings should reflect a two-way street approach maximizing scheduled events in the calendar year and setting specific objectives, timelines and expected outcomes.

The necessity of improving the sharing of information, in particular with respect to databases and web pages, has been reaffirmed. The accessibility to information by general public should also be improved, by using technology tools, provided that the principle of confidentiality is respected. It has also been proposed that judicial and quasi-judicial mechanisms establish arrangements to better share their jurisprudence. The existing contribution of regional mechanisms to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is recognized. However, this could be developed, such as through the establishment of exchanges between the UPR and the African Peer Review Mechanism, considering the similarity between their mandates.

Secondly, joint activities of regional and international human rights mechanisms should be envisioned. On a case by case basis, mandate holders from international and regional human rights mechanisms should consider joint actions such as, conducting joint visits, issuing joint statements and press releases on a more regular and frequent basis, so as to optimize efforts by generating more visibility and greater weight to their recommendations.

In addition, the practice of issuing joint reports and jointly monitoring follow up with recommendations should be expanded.

Developing joint publications constitute another important possibility of enhancing cooperation. In this regard, the role played by NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions to disseminate and publicize these publications among a vast variety of interlocutors and readers cannot be overstated.

Thirdly, it is crucial to avoid delivering contradictory messages. In this respect it would be important to enhance cooperation arrangements, which would facilitate the dialogue between international, regional, and sub-regional mechanisms involved. For example, synergies should be sought between UN Peace Missions, OHCHR field presences and regional mechanisms, such as those of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

Continuing desk to desk cooperation where it already exists is also recommendable. Crucially, best practices could be used in developing similar exchanges with other human rights mechanisms.  This hopefully will result in a better planning at the country level, bearing in mind that we all share the same objectives.  It follows that more opportunities to work together foster better, more comprehensive and more visible results.  In this connection, the appointment of focal points in each human rights mechanism would facilitate the cooperation process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During these two days of discussion it has been recognized that the lack of knowledge of both regional and international human rights mechanisms outside specialized circles constitutes an important challenge. Capacity building activities, such as training and expert meetings are crucial to tackle this problem and foster a better understanding of these complex machineries among States, National Human Rights Institutions, NGOs, and the general public. 

This brings me to my next point, which is the necessity to channel resources in order to strengthen national capacities regarding the use of international and regional human rights mechanisms. In this respect, I would like to encourage States and international organizations, including UN agencies and programmes, in particular UNDP to support these initiatives of cooperation, which will result in more effective promotion and protection of human rights at the national level and create a favorable environment for rule of law and good governance initiatives.
In developing all arrangements for cooperation it will be important to take into account the diversity in the mandates and functions of regional human rights regional and international human rights mechanisms.  The aim is to ensure more effective use of existing resources. 

Let us together build on our productive interaction to attain the better, deeper and wider cooperation to which we all aspire. A detailed report reflecting the key areas of understanding achieved in the past two days will be presented at the 15th session of the Human Rights Council.
I would like to reiterate that OHCHR stands ready to provide you with all the necessary support to ensure the success and sustainability of these important collaborative efforts.

Thank you.