Building insights into the functioning of the UN Human Rights Mechanisms
Twelve academics from China, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Vietnam were invited by the NCHR and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights to attend the co-organised, fifth training on the UN Human Rights Mechanisms in Geneva 6-10 May.
Participants in front of the UN office in Geneva, Palais des Nations. (Photo: Susanne Flølo/UiO)
The training aims at building a rare, practitioner’s insight into the functioning of the UN human rights mechanisms, and ultimately to increase the participating scholars’ and academics’ capacity to contribute to constructive involvement with human rights discourse through teaching-learning activities, academic research, and other forms of engagement.
The topics covered during the training ranged from the mechanisms of treaty bodies and Universal Periodic Review (UPR), to the political dynamics of the mechanisms, as well as the role of academics and civil society engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms. Throughout the training, the participants engaged in lively discussions with prominent experts and practitioners from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), NGOs, as well as diplomats.
Leading Experts and the role of Academics
The training was designed to complement both theory and practice with the participation and guidance of leading UN human rights mechanisms’ experts. Kamelia Kemileva, Special Project Manager of the Geneva Academy and former UN Diplomat, led the first introduction and discussion on the UN human rights mechanisms system, in addition to Q&A sessions and presentation of the law making in the UN Human Rights Council. Patrick Mützenberg, director of the Centre for Civil and Political Rights, provided a presentation and led an interactive discussion on the role of academia and civil society on engaging with the UN treaty bodies.
Ben Lee, from the Commission of inquiry Syria, discussed the role of Special Procedures and independent investigations with the participants. Elena Kounthouri, OHCHR, offered guidance on how to navigate in OHCHR procedures and documentation. Miloon Kothari, President of UPR Info and former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, discussed the UPR and the role of the participants as activists and academics during the process of State’s UPR review. Hoa Nghiem complemented this session with insight into how to connect the UPR recommendations to the field, drawing on her field experience from Vietnam. Finally, Michael Pfeiffer, diplomat from the Permanent Mission of Austria, discussed with the participants politicisation of the UN Human Rights mechanisms and offered insights from his experience as a diplomat to the UN.
The experts stressed the importance of academia and civil society, and the vital role they play in countries where there is limited space for civil society, including on how to engage with and provide treaty bodies and independent experts with important insights on issues fundamental for their work.
Attending live UN sessions and practical exercises
The theoretical aspects of the training were complemented with attendance to the Universal Periodic Review of Albania at the Palais des Nations, and the review of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in the Committee against Torture. This provided the participants with a great opportunity to experience the work of the UN human rights mechanisms in practice. Finally, the participants engaged in practical exercises covering the politics of the UN human rights mechanisms and on how to engage with the implementation of recommendations.
Three year programme 2017-2019
This UN human rights mechanisms training is part of a series of activities that the International Department of the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) has prepared for the period of 2017-2019. The Programme seeks to increase the institutional capacity of local academics as well as to facilitate their engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms, both in terms of implementation and follow-up. The training in May 2019 was the fifth training on UN human rights mechanisms organised in Geneva since the programme was initiated in 2017.