Report of the 26th Annual Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC)

06-08 May 2013- Geneva, Switzerland

Day 1 – Monday 06 May 2013

  1. Opening Ceremony of the ICC 26th annual meeting

The ICC 26th General Meeting was opened by Mrs Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ambassador Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council, Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of the Democratic Governance Practice of the United Nations Development Programme and Dr. Mousa Burayzat outgoing Chairperson of the ICC.

  1. Dr. Mousa Burayzat, Chairperson of the ICC

Dr. Mousa Burayzat welcomed NHRIs from around the world to the 26th general meeting of ICC. He reminded that NHRIs are human rights bodies at national level. He acknowledged the presence of the high level representatives attending the meeting’s opening session.

  1. Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The High Commissioner’sspeech highlighted number of achievements in the human rights area. 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Vienna shaped a number of milestone human rights commitments and fostered strong global recognition regarding the importance of national human rights institutions. The High Commission referred to the interaction of NHRIs with the UN Human rights mechanisms and stressed on its importance

On a next level, the High Commissioner recalled some challenges that NHRIs are encountering. One key challenge is to maintain independence and effectiveness on the ground. The strongest characteristics of effective NHRIs must be their independence, their pluralism, their integrity and their inclusiveness. In order to be perceived by the victims of human rights violations as useful and credible actors, it is vital that national institutions remain accessible and open to all population groups — including the disadvantaged and marginalized — and they must work in close collaboration with civil society.

In addition, NHRIs are in some cases facing legal and institutional obstacles preventing it from fulfilling its mandate effectively. Partly because of this often considerable pressure from States — not all NHRIs which are formally accredited with A status are fully effective in promoting and protecting human rights It is then necessary to work further to improve the accreditation procedure. The High Commissioner reaffirmed that OHCHR will continue to work closely with the ICC to achieve a more rigorous, but also fairer and more transparent accreditation process.

The High Commissioner talked about the context of reduced human and financial resources that the Office is operating in, this despite the increasing focus on human rights as one of the three main driving principles of the United Nations system. The Office's capacity to support the work of NHRIs via activities such as workshops is likely to be affected, including specifically OHCHR's support to the ICC and the SCA.

At the end of her address, the High Commissioner acknowledged the presence of Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of the Democratic Governance Group of UNDP as well as UNDP engagement with national human rights institutions.

  1. Ambassador Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council

Ambassador Henczel expressed his appreciation to the ICC Chair for the invitation to address the 26th annual meeting of the ICC. He referred to NHRIs increasing participation in the UPR, the Special Procedures and other thematic discussions of the Council. He welcomed the fact that the meeting’s agenda is to address the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. The President of the Human Rights Council stated that the Council encourages NHRIs to continue playing an active role in the prevention and protection of human rights as provided for in international human rights instruments, and encouraged member States to establish effective, independent and pluralistic NHRIs. He also commended OHCHR’s role of facilitating the engagement of the ICC and NHRIs with the Human Rights Council mechanisms and its ever central position in the Council’s functioning and achievements, especially along with the use of the Council’s sessions as a tribune by NHRIs and other human rights actors to raise awareness on the prevailing human rights situation on the ground.

  1. Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of the Democratic Governance Practice of the United Nations Development Programme

Ms. Fraser-Moleketi reminded that UNDP’s relationship with NHRIs flow from its human development core mission. The Tripartite Partnership Framework between OHCHR-UNDP-ICC allowed UNPD to reply to requests for support from NHRIs. She stressed the importance of working in partnership in the human rights area illustrated by activities implemented in central Asia, in Ukraine and in the Asia Pacific region. In addition, Ms. Fraser-Moleketi addressed the theme of Post-2015 framework and how it should be human-rights based, provide necessary mechanisms of accountability. The Post-2015 process should ensure further strengthening of the role of NHRIs towards an inclusive, sustainable and achievable agenda.

The agenda of the 26th annual meeting of the ICC was adopted.

  1. Theme 1: Theme 1: 20 years - the Vienna Declaration and Plan Action, Paris Principles and the ICC – planning for the future

Chair: the NANHRI Regional Vice-Chair, Ms. Lauretta Lamptey, Ghana

Speaker: Mr. Anders Kompass, Director FOTCD- OHCHR,

NHRI interventions: Mr Albert Sasson – Morocco, Mr Michael O'Flaherty – Northern Ireland, Mr Satyabrata Pal – India, Mr Rolando Villena Villegas – Bolivia

a)Mr. Anders Kompass, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, OHCHR

Mr Kompass’ intervention focused on how to examine the situation and future of NHRIs and the ICC in the context of the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and of the Paris Principles.

First, Mr Kompass elaborated on OHCHR role vis-à-vis NHRIs and the ICC namely its catalytic role for the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs. As indicated in the most recent report of the UN Secretary-General to the Human Rights Council, in 2012 OHCHR provided advice and assistance for the strengthening of national human rights institutions in 55 countries, and for the establishment of such institutions in 18 countries.Current efforts are focused at four major strategic objectives : country engagement, through which OHCHR supports efforts by governments to establish or strengthen NHRIs, monitoring and advice, through which the Office assesses compliance with the Paris Principles and strengthens the capacity of NHRIs to work effectively and independently, assisting the interaction between NHRIs and the international human rights system, and the forth is strengthening partnerships, especially with UN agencies and programmes on the ground, the ICC, regional organizations as well as regional coordinating bodies of NHRIs.

Secondly, Mr. Kompass also identified current challenges and potential ways to address them. One outstanding challenge is the independence and effectiveness of NHRIs. This brings about the need for improvement of the accreditation procedure. In this respect, it is difficult to overestimate the role of OHCHR, through its National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms section (NIRMS), as secretariat of the ICC and its Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) in achieving a more rigorous, but also fairer and more transparent accreditation process. Adequate funding is among the most frequent challenges that NHRIs are facing today. Given the general responsibility of states to fund NHRIs, governments should ensure that national budgets provide sufficient funding for NHRIs. UN agencies and donors need to continue to provide technical and capacity support and bridge the gap where resources are lacking. Another challenge is the existence of multiple human rights-related institutions in one country and the need for close cooperation among them. Yet another challenge relates to the importance for NHRIs to have a monitoring and protection mandate, including prevention of torture and arbitrary detention, detention monitoring and the protection of human rights defenders. NHRIs frequently face threats from government agencies. Some states interfere with NHRIs’ independence by creating legal and institutional obstacles to prevent them from fulfilling their mandates effectively. Targeted and effective support for NHRIs is more important than ever. NHRIs could make use of Human Rights Council special procedures in relation to threats faced at the country level.

b)NHRIs intervention : Morocco, Northern Ireland, India, Bolivia

Mr Albert Sasson, NHRI of Morocco

Mr Albert Sasson took the floor on behalf of the Moroccan NHRI. His intervention focused on three main issues. First, he referred to the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action and how the Moroccan NHRI developed collaboration around human rights education within the VDPA perspective. In addition, he touched upon ICC and its development since the VDPA. He expressed the need for ICC to reflect on its future and urge each member to shape that future. As far as the speaker is concerned, ICC is a cooperative body and should become a platform of sharing of experience and best practises. The next issue addressed in this intervention pertained to some achievements of the Moroccan NHRI i.e. a new constitution containing 68 articles related to human rights and freedoms were delivered to the King. Last, the speaker referred to the Secretary General’s report which provides information related to OHCHR’s role vis-à-vis ICC.

Mr Michael O’ Flaherty, NHRI of Northern Ireland

Mr Michael O’Flaherty’s intervention was twofold: he first identified areas of achievements and secondly looked into remaining challenges in the perspective of the VDPA.

Five areas of the achievements related to the VDPA were identified by the speaker: the VDPA was a straightforward assertion of the universality of human rights; it reaffirmed the indivisibility of human rights and provided an institutional architecture for its protection namely the establishment of OHCHR and the High Commissioner. In addition, the VDPA indicates the world willingness to propose accountability for criminal abuses i.e. the International Criminal Court, ICTR and ICTY. Indeed, he affirmed that Vienne provided the impetus for the establishment of NHRIs and Paris provided the normative framework.

On a next perspective, Mr O’Flaherty looked into remaining challenges for NHRIs within the VDPA perspective. He pointed out that the principle of universality continue to be under-attach and question was raised about NHRIs work to look out for the most vulnerable group. The second challenge pertained to indivisibility of human rights which constituted niche activity. In that sense, question should be asked, why, for instance, dealing with human rights in business is not a core priority. It is proposed to move to OHCHR as partner and not a support to ICC, this towards a greater collaboration. For instance, NHRIs are not always informed if a special rapporteur is visiting country, Treaty body system is also under threat. The fourth challenge addressed by the speaker is related to universal criminal accountability and to what ICC could do in that area. The last point of this intervention reflected on what can NHRIs do collectively. National and regional network levels are efficient and well organised, however ICC should increasingly be heard and more coordinated at the global level namely on key human rights issues e.g. through releasing statements condemning certain issues. ICC must not only talk about issues at meetings but act.

Mr. Satyabrata Pal, NHRI - India

Mr Pal started by reminding the audience that the Indian Human Rights Commission celebrate its 20 year anniversary this year. He reported that the Commission received 107, 655 complaints during 2012, this figure illustrated the difficulty to cope with expectations namely the increasing number of complaints. Additionally, he highlighted some challenges that the Commission is encountering on the ground. The first issue related to the quasi-jurisdictional power and the need to find a balance between whether to be case driven or issue driven. While mentioning the quasi-jurisdictional power, Mr Pal noted that this issue is weakly addressed by the Paris Principles and should be made mandatory. Question also was asked on should NHRIs protect by promoting or promote by protecting. The speaker also referred to new thematic challenges such as environment as trans- generational rights, business and human rights: impact on human rights on displacement caused by industrialisation, terrorism: shrinking of human rights because of protection against terrorism. These three issues have transnational aspects. Secondly, Mr Pal invited ICC to retrospect namely about its accreditation process where too much emphasis is given on law and legislation reforms. The speaker also addressed the issue of NGOs; he noted that no NHRIs can function without NGOs despite the uneven quality of NGOs. He also mentioned that the ICC does not have a screening process for NGOs. Finally, Mr Pal reminded that all NHRIs differ from country to country and one cannot force an international framework into specific domestic issues.

Mr. Roland Villena Villegas, NHRI- Bolivia

The intervention of Mr Villegas elaborated on new form of violations of human rights and on how this creates serious problems worldwide. He also noted that many NHRIs are bearing the brunt of financial and environmental issues. Trends today are also felt by NHRIs and there NHRIs should be the vanguard to promote and protect without detracting. He mentioned the high expectations put on NHRIs.

Theme 1: answers and comments

Palestine: Recall that 20 years ago, VDPA tried to address human rights from an international perspective; - Question of the open relationship between NGOs/NHRIs and the need to develop real partnerships; - Sometimes perception is created that NHRIs is superior to NGOs and this should not always be the case.

Nicaragua: a lot have been achieved during the last 20 years, what needs to be done is to align change in events and circumstances, there is a need to think of how to move forward and the need to get together and convene more often. Dynamic has changed much over the last 20 years.

Qatar: role of NHRIs has changed in the last 20 years, mentioned the role of the SCA, must be noted that criteria for accreditation is stricter.

Cameroon: There is a tendency for international donors to rather fund NGOs than NHRIs. Appeal to the UN to support NHRIs.

Day 2 – Tuesday 7 May 2013

  1. General Meeting

Chair: Dr. Mousa Burayzat, ICC Chair


ICC Bureau Report, Dr. Mousa Burayzat, ICC Chair

ICC Finance Committee Report, Dr. Raúl Plascencia-Villanueva, Chair of the ICC Finance Committee

Sub-Committee on Accreditation Report,Dr. Ali Bin Smaikh Al Marri, SCA Chair

Ratification of ICC Bureau members (Pursuant Article 34, ICC Statute)

OHCHR’s work with NHRIs: Mr. Vladlen Stefanov, Chief NIRMS-OHCHR

Report on Treaty Body Strengthening, Prof. Michael O'Flaherty

c)ICC Bureau Report, Dr. Mousa Burayzat, ICC Chair

The ICC Bureau Report referred to the document on cooperation between NIRMS and ICC. The Bureau Report includedregional chairs highlights and ICC missions and three new general observations. Some recommendations were formulated with regard to regional highlights i.e. the need to strengthen cooperation across the Mediterranean, the meeting to be held in Qatar in May 2013 and the Arab network meeting scheduled for June 2013. Debate around ICC Working Group also arose namely if ICC thinks that there should new matter of focus, or should the working group devolve its work to the regions. In that sense, APF proposes a two track approach: to keep the status quo for another 2 years and also devolve some work to the regions.

d)ICC Finance Committee Report, Dr. Raúl Plascencia-Villanueva, Chair of the ICC Finance Committee

The Finance Committee developed a report which has section on financial updates and member fees. The Committee declared that it was not possible to collect information for 2012 or the balance or auditor’s report. It was mentioned that only ICC Chair has access to ICC’s account. As much as member’s fees are concerned, it is proposed to keep the fee at the amount of CHF 5000.00 for 2013. Mentions of extension / request for limited payment from ten countries have been made, including Armenia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Serbia, Guatemala, and Greece.

e)Sub-Committee on Accreditation Report,Dr. Ali Bin Smaikh Al Marri, SCA Chair

The SCA Chair reported that during the first SCA meeting of March 2012, the SCA looked at new accreditation process. He emphasised that the selection criteria should be more transparent, consultative and wide scale. He provided the information that at the second meeting in November 2012, the Committee received information on amendment to legislation in Nepal. He concluded by stating that the accreditation process is more stringent than before.