10 December 2007
On 10 December, the world commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in Paris. Since that time, human rights have found a central place in the work of the UN and of the UN Democracy Fund.
In the 2005 World Summit Final Outcome, world leaders not only renewed their commitment to promote human rights, but went further by stressing “that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing”. Simultaneously, they acknowledged the establishment of UNDEF (United Nations Democracy Fund), the first UN mechanism dedicated to advancing the United Nations democracy agenda. “Today, the UN’s efforts to promote democracy are inseparable from our broader work for security, development and human rights.” Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon told the UNDEF Advisory Board, on 10 April 2007.
The enhancement of “human rights and fundamental freedoms” is one of UNDEF’s themes. Ensuring that people are able to exercise their democratic rights also flows from UNDEF activities such as the support for constitutional processes, civil society empowerment, strengthening of the rule of law, the increase of popular participation and the development of pluralistic media.
The following selection of projects illustrates UNDEF’s support
for human rights.
In Malawi, “CARER”, a local NGO championing the concept of legal worker in Malawi, is developing, with a grant from UNDEF, a project which seeks to empower some of the weakest people in Malawi to enforce their rights through mediation and if mediation fails, by referring matters to litigation and the appropriate legal bodies. This is done through supporting teams of community legal workers at the district level who will train community and village based volunteers in the basic laws pertaining human rights.
In Sierra Leone, as the media community has been slowly rebuilding itself since the end of the war in 2002, UNDEF supports, in partnership with the international NGO “Journalists for Human Rights”, an initiative aimed at building the capacity of the local media to report accurately on human rights and democracy issues.
Also on a regional level, UNDEF funds a project, in francophone Africa, developed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, aiming to improve the role of parliaments in the implementation of UN human rights treaties. The knowledge and expertise of parliamentarians about human rights treaties will be increased. Their capacity to participate in cooperation with governments in the national reporting process to the UN treaty bodies and to regional human rights mechanisms will be improved. Furthermore, they will encourage ratification of international and regional human rights treaties.
Democracy requires that women, vulnerable individuals and marginalized groups be able to exercise their rights. The following activities funded by UNDEF in Asia underline that inclusiveness and gender sensitivity are key aspects of democratization.
In Afghanistan, UNDEF supports an initiative implemented by the international NGO “Equal Access”, which facilitates, in the context of Islam, the promotion of human rights, with a special focus on the rights of women. Production of radio programmes which are broadcast by community radio stations are the starting point of discussions on gender within communities. In addition, training workshops are organized in villages to educate both men and women on issues relating to human rights.
In Thailand, UNDEF supports efforts carried out by “IMPECT”, a local NGO promoting human rights and protecting highland ethnic minorities and other indigenous peoples living in Thailand. The project aims at improving the access of ethnic minorities from the Northern provinces to natural resources and land ownership through capacity building training sessions, networking activities and other protection mechanisms.
The “Asia Pacific Reform Forum”, a regional network of higher judicial actors, has received UNDEF’s support to advance judicial reform in this region, in accordance with international human rights standards through the collective development of a judicial reform handbook.
UNDEF is also active in Central America and in South-Eastern Europe.
In the Balkans, UNDEF provides support to “Global Rights”
an international NGO, to develop an initiative to improve democratic processes
and strengthen effective NGO advocacy at the national and regional levels.
Focusing on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, this initiative aims
at reinforcing the promotion of non-discrimination as a major component
of the human rights culture. Activities center on capacity building of
local civil society groups as they struggle for the adoption and effective
implementation of anti-discrimination laws.
In Morocco, UNDEF supports an initiative aimed at strengthening the
democratic transition process underway by supporting the Consultative
Council on Human Rights, a public entity mandated to draft recommendations
for institutional and legal reforms within the reconciliation process.
The project pilots the integration of a gender perspective into community
development enterprises led by civil society actors. Furthermore, it develops
a model on gender and transitional justice issues based on the Moroccan