Opening Remarks by Ms. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Human Rights Council intersessional meeting


9 November 2016

Panel discussion on International Cooperation to support national human rights follow-up systems and processes

Geneva, 9 November 2016

Mr. President of the Human Rights Council,
Excellencies, Distinguished panellists, Colleagues and Friends,

It is a true privilege to contribute to the Human Rights Council’s first intersessional panel discussion on international cooperation to support national human rights follow-up systems and processes, pursuant to Council resolution 30/25.

I would like to thank, in particular, the main sponsors of that resolution - Brazil and Paraguay- and underscore our deep appreciation of the Council’s leadership too in placing this matter high on its agenda, and in giving it significant time for a substantive discussion.

The cycle of national assessment, reporting, recommendations for progress and implementation of those – is among the most precious of the assets that this Council offers to the world.   A virtuous cycle - driving forward momentum for human rights progress - in powerful counter-action to that all too vicious cycle which this Council also seeks to disrupt – the spiral tipped downwards into its deterioration by inequality driving to abuse on to impunity to injustice to inequality to abuse.

The wheels of a virtuous cycle – for a driving momentum for human rights advance as doable, achievable, sustainable – turn all the better when oiled by States open exchange on the central questions to be considered here – how best to follow-up on recommendations from UN human rights mechanisms such the universal periodic review, the treaty bodies and the special procedures. 

This is a dialogue that gives us space to consider together follow up - in the context of a comprehensive State-driven process - in consultation with national and international stakeholders – and the value it provides to for effective national action and sound public policy development.

Given that we have here the chance to draw on the States’ experiences across all of the world’s regions, this is a dialogue that also provides opportunity to learn more about, identify more clearly, and later disseminate more widely information on the keys to effective national human rights follow-up systems.

Our time together further opens up the space for States to consider and speak to their needs for technical cooperation to strengthen this virtuous cycle – both in terms of the institutions and mechanisms that can promote and coordinate follow-up, and in regards to specific thematic issues.

As a contribution to that consideration I am pleased to introduce you to a new information leaflet that OHCHR has prepared on international cooperation & national human rights follow-up systems and processes. This document outlines the different elements of follow-up systems and processes, and presents the different tools developed by OHCHR, as well as the technical assistance provided by the Office and United Nations Country Teams, in all these areas. We hope you will find this to be a useful “one-stop shop” guidance on how effective engagement can take place.

Next week we will launch additional guidance, together with a full study, entitled “National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-up: A Practical Guide to Effective State Engagement with International Human Rights Mechanisms”.  We hope you will find these documents useful.

National mechanisms for reporting and follow-up strengthen engagement with the human rights mechanisms; enable coordination among the branches of the State and its specialized bodies; provide for sound consultative processes with relevant stakeholders, such as national human rights institutions and civil society representatives from across the board; and support effective information management capacity.

And as we will hear from the distinguished panellists today, key tools for effective follow-up include:

  • National implementation plans for follow-up on human rights recommendations, of treaty bodies, the universal periodic review and special procedures;
  • Development of indicators to help assess the implementation and impact of recommendations on the ground. They are essential to ensure that efforts translate in desired and tangible results on the human rights situation at country level; and
  • Creation and maintenance of a database to track and report on implementation of recommendations.

And on that note, I am pleased to advise that we have finalized a Universal Human Rights Index Web Service for the transfer of recommendations from the Index to customized national databases. Furthermore, a multi-lingual application to create national databases of recommendations and report progress on implementation will also soon be made available to States, free of charge.

The integration of a gender perspective throughout these structures and processes is paramount for ensuring that implementation supports the achievement of gender equality and the enjoyment of all human rights without discrimination based on gender or sex.

We have exercised some creativity in support of this very first intersessional panel discussion. In this context, I am very pleased to let you know that OHCHR is organizing tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. a series of “knowledge cafés” on national human rights follow-up systems and processes entitled “Highlighting and Demystifying the Issue”. These participative “knowledge cafés” are open to everyone, States and civil society alike and we hope you will find that they offer an informal and enriching space to continue today’s dialogue.

Comprehensive processes for follow-up to human rights recommendations enable States to drive forward an evidence based, progressive human rights; to set in train a coherent action agenda grounded for human rights in sound analysis and to identify concretely any capacity gaps it may face in meeting its human rights goals, obligations and commitments. A key additional benefit of this robust approach is that States – who seek technical cooperation can move from generic pleas for assistance to more targeted requests, which can then be better met. And by this measure, ultimately then we can better serve human rights’ primary purpose which is the alleviation of preventable human suffering and the elevation of human dignity.

I hope that today’s discussion will prove to be rich, inspiring and practical too in that regard, and for that purpose, I wish you a fruitful and constructive exchange.

Thank you.