United Nations

A/50/452


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

20 September 1995

ORIGINAL:
FRENCH


Fiftieth session
Item 114 (b) of the provisional
  agenda*


            HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS:  HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS, INCLUDING
            ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES FOR IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVE ENJOYMENT
OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS

National institutions for the promotion
and protection of human rights

Report of the Secretary-General


I.  INTRODUCTION

1.   This report has  been prepared pursuant  to paragraph  13 of resolution
48/134  of  20  December  1993,  entitled  "National  institutions  for  the
promotion  and protection of  human rights",  by which  the General Assembly
requested the  Secretary-General to report to it at its  fiftieth session on
the implementation of the resolution.

2.  In the  same resolution, the General  Assembly reaffirmed the importance
of developing, in  accordance with national legislation, effective  national
institutions  for  the promotion  and  protection  of  human  rights and  of
ensuring  the  pluralism of  their  membership  and their  independence, and
encouraged   Member  States   to  establish   or  to   strengthen   national
institutions and toincorporate those elements in national developmentplans.

3.  The General  Assembly requested the Centre  for Human Rights to continue
its efforts to enhance cooperation between  the United Nations and  national
institutions, particularly in  the field of advisory services and  technical
assistance  and of information and education, including within the framework
of  the  World  Public  Information  Campaign  for Human  Rights.    It also
requested  the Centre to  establish, upon  the request  of States concerned,
United Nations
________________________

  *  A/50/150.

95-28528 (E)   121095  171095/...
*9528528*
centres for  human rights  documentation and training  and to do  so on  the
basis of  established procedures for the  use of  available resources within

the  United  Nations Voluntary  Fund  for  Advisory Services  and  Technical
Assistance in the Field of Human Rights.

4.   Pursuant to  General Assembly resolution  48/134 of  20 December  1993,
this report  contains information  on the various  activities undertaken  by
the  Centre   for  Human   Rights  to  establish  and   strengthen  national
institutions and on the measures taken by Governments in these areas.


         II.  ACTIVITIES OF THE CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS WITH A VIEW TO THE
              ESTABLISHMENT AND STRENGTHENING OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

A.  International workshops

1.  The Second International Workshop, held in Tunis

5.    In  accordance  with resolution  1992/54  of the  Commission  on Human
Rights, the  Centre  for Human  Rights,  in  cooperation with  the  Tunisian
Higher  Committee on  Human Rights  and Fundamental Freedoms,  organized the
second International  Workshop on  National Institutions  for the  Promotion
and Protection  of  Human Rights,  which was  held in  Tunis from  13 to  17
December 1993.  This  workshop followed on the first Workshop, held in Paris
in October 1991, the conclusions of which were adopted by the Commission  on
Human Rights  (resolution 1992/54) and endorsed  by the  Economic and Social
Council (decision 1992/233).  It also corresponded to  the wish expressed at
the   World   Conference   on   Human   Rights,   which   recommended   that
"representatives of  national institutions should  convene periodic meetings
under the auspices of the Centre for Human Rights to examine  ways and means
of improving their mechanisms and sharing experiences" (A/CONF.157/24  (Part
I), chap. III, sect. II, para. 86).

6.  The topics taken up during the Workshop included:

  (a)   Cooperation between  the State  and national institutions.   On this
topic it was noted that, while each  State should choose a context suited to
its  national needs, the establishment of a national  institution must be in
keeping with  the Paris  Principles, which  served as  a basis.   That would
avoid  the danger  of  the establishment  of "alibi"  national institutions.
Moreover,   whether  they  were  consultative  or  jurisdictional,  national
institutions  must be based  on the  highest possible  legal standard, which
assured their legitimacy, so  that they would be able to ensure the  synergy
between  the State and  civil society.   In  addition, national institutions
must  be   forums  for   constructive  dialogue   and  mediation,   limiting
controversy   and  confrontation,   without  thereby   concealing   possible
substantive disagreements;

  (b)   Relations between  national institutions  and similar  bodies.   The
discussions were concerned with the complementarity  of the work of national
institutions (commissions,  committees, councils, etc.)  and ombudsmen.   It
was stressed  that national  institutions and  ombudsmen were  complementary
and did  not compete with each  other.  It was  thus envisaged that, on  the
basis of  the Paris  Principles, cooperation  should be  established between
the  two types  of  institutions,  which  both  had  as  their  purpose  the
strengthening of democracy and the protection of human rights;

  (c)  The strengthening of relations  between national institutions and the
Centre  for  Human  Rights.    On   this  topic,  proposals  were  submitted
concerning new  directions in the  policy of the  United Nations  Centre for
Human  Rights with  regard to  national  institutions  in the  coming years.
Those  new  directions  were  designed  to  help  national  institutions  to
contribute  more  effectively to  the  ratification  and  implementation  of
international  human rights  instruments;  to train  officials  of  national
institutions  in  the  preparation  of  the   reports  to  be  submitted  by
Governments;  to teach methods of investigating human rights violations; and
to devise methods of settling disputes;

  (d)  Cooperation between national institutions.   This topic was concerned
with  strengthening  relations   between  national  institutions  and   non-
governmental organizations  (NGOs), the complementarity  of whose roles  was
reaffirmed.   It was felt  that NGOs which  spoke for  those unable to speak
for themselves must be helped and  encouraged by the national  institutions.
It was  therefore recommended that national institutions should maintain or,
when that was not  yet the case, establish  close cooperation with NGOs, not
only nationally  but also  by continuing to  invite them to  take an  active
part in their International Workshops.

7.   At  the conclusion  of  their  deliberations, the  participants adopted
recommendations for consideration by the Commission  on Human Rights, at its
fiftieth  session, including  a recommendation  that it  should  establish a
coordination committee for national institutions (see  sect. c).  The report
of  the  second Workshop,  held  in  Tunis,  including  the conclusions  and
recommendations, was  submitted to  the Commission  on Human  Rights at  its
fiftieth session in 1994 (E/CN.14/1994/45 and Add.1).


2.  The third International Workshop, held in Manila

8.   Following the recommendations of  the Tunis Workshop, the Commission on
Human  Rights, in its  resolution 1993/55,  authorized the  convening of the
third International  Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights,  which was held at  Manila, at the invitation of
the Government of  the Philippines, from  18 to 21  April 1995.   As in  the
case  of  the  Tunis Workshop,  several  topics  were taken  up  during  the
Workshop, including:

  (a)  Evaluation  of the implementation of  the Principles relating  to the
status of  national institutions.   This  involved reviewing  the extent  to
which  national legislation  regulating  the structure  and  functioning  of
national  institutions   accorded  with  the   Paris  Principles.    It  was
reaffirmed that the mandate  of a national  institution must be as broad  as
possible and must  be established by  the Constitution  or by a  legislative
instrument.   It was recognized  that a national  institution must  have the
power to carry out  investigations, on its own  initiative or at the request
of the  authorities,  into all  human  rights  violations committed  in  the
country concerned  and to receive and  hear individual  complaints lodged in
this  respect.  The  national institution  must have  the responsibility for
promoting human  rights and must  be free to meet on a  regular basis and as
often  as  necessary  and  to  circulate  and  publish  its  conclusions and
recommendations;

  (b)   The establishment and strengthening  of national  institutions.  The
discussions  were  concerned with  the implementation  of  the programme  of
action for technical  cooperation with national  institutions.  (Section III
of this report mentions all the aspects considered under this item);

  (c)    National institutions  and  efforts  to  combat  racism and  racial
discrimination.   The  discussion of  this  topic  gave the  participants an
opportunity to learn about the results of  the European Workshop on national
institutions  on  the  topic  of  efforts   to  combat  racism  and   racial
discrimination, held at Strasbourg  from 7 to 9  November 1994.   This topic
will be dealt with in section III;

  (d)    The contribution  of  national  institutions  to  the Fourth  World
Conference on  Women.   In the  context of  the Fourth  World Conference  on
Women,  the   participants  drew   up  a  number   of  recommendations   for
consideration  by the  Conference, including  a recommendation  that  States
should consider  the establishment  of national  institutions in  accordance
with the Paris Principles  with the main task of ensuring the protection  of
women and  girls against  discrimination, and a  recommendation that  States
should appoint an equal  number of women and men to decision-making posts in
national  institutions.   In  that  connection,  all  national  institutions
should draw up plans  and programmes to recruit as  many women as men at all

levels within the institution.

9.   Furthermore, national institutions  should adopt  measures in principle
and  implement a  programme for  the  advancement  of indigenous  women both
within  such institutions and  at the national level;  they should take into
account  the  particular  needs  of  women  and  girls  belonging  to ethnic
minorities,   migrant  workers   and  the   disabled.     Lastly,   national
institutions  should pay  particular attention  to violence  against  women,
adopt a specific plan  of action in accordance  with the Declaration  on the
Elimination of Violence against Women, and report to the fourth Workshop  on
the measures taken to eliminate such violence.

10.  The  detailed report of  the third  International Workshop on  National
Institutions  for the  Promotion and  Protection  of  Human Rights,  held at
Manila, will be submitted  to the Commission on  Human Rights at  its fifty-
second  session (E/CN.4/1996/8).  In  addition to an analysis of the debates
which  took  place  at  that  Workshop,  the  report  contains  conclusions,
recommendations and a Final Declaration.


B.  The programme of advisory services and technical
assistance for national institutions       

11.  It should  be noted that,  in accordance with the mandate set  forth by
the Economic and Social  Council, the main aim  of the programme of advisory
services and  technical assistance  is to  strengthen the  role of  national
institutions in  the protection and promotion  of human  rights.  Assistance
to national institutions under the programme assumes a number of forms:
    (a)   Services  to Governments  of Member  States which  are planning to
establish a national institution for the  promotion and protection of  human
rights.   Assistance  in  such  cases may  be financial  or may  involve the
provision  of the  services of  an expert  to advise  public authorities  on
suitable models  and to  transmit technical  information and  advise on  the
drafting of legislation governing the status of national institutions;

  (b)  Technical assistance to enhance  staff skills and strengthen capacity
for action when the national institution has already been established.

12.   The  Centre for  Human Rights  has prepared a  programme of  action to
serve  as a  reference for  the  preparation and  execution of  all projects
aimed at assisting national institutions.  It has four main objectives:   to
promote  the  concept  of  a  national  institution,  to  contribute  to the
emergence of  effective institutions,  to assist  in strengthening  existing
institutions,  and to  promote cooperation  among institutions.    Resources
have been  made  available  for  the achievement  of  each objective.    For
example, the objective of establishing effective national institutions  will
be achieved through the provision of experts to  assist States which express
a need to set up such institutions.

13.   The concept  of national  institutions is  promoted through activities
which are not necessarily designed for  a particular country or  institution
but  which focus  on  the  usefulness of  a national  institution as  a body
working for the defence of human rights.   With that end in view, the Centre
for  Human  Rights  has produced  documentary  information  and  prepared  a
practical manual for those involved in  the establishment and management  of
national institutions.  The manual is in the process of being published.

14.  This objective  is also served through  the organization of  workshops.
The Centre has therefore  organized a number of seminars and workshops  (for
example,  in Seoul in 1994) to familiarize officials with the structures and
functioning of  national institutions.   These  workshops have  served as  a
forum for  the exchange of information  and experience  on the establishment
and functioning of national institutions.

15.    Lastly, it  should be  noted that  the  Centre offers  advice on  the
application of international instruments in domestic law; provides  training

in  techniques of investigation into human rights violations and information
thereon; provides  training in  methods of  conflict resolution  and in  the
management  of  resources  which  help   to  forge  cooperative  links  with
competent   partners;  and  assists  in  the  preparation   of  studies  and
evaluations  and  in the  award  of grants  for  further training  in  human
rights.


C.  Meetings of the Coordination Committee
for national institutions        

16.   Pursuant to  a recommendation  by the International  Workshops held in
Tunis, the Commission on Human Rights,  in resolution 1993/55, endorsed  the
decision  to set up a Coordination Committee for  national institutions.  By
virtue of  its geopolitical composition,  this Committee constitutes a major
international network  of bodies  responsible for  promoting and  protecting
human  rights  throughout  the  world.     The  Committee  is  composed   of
representatives  of the  national  institutions of  Australia,  Canada,  New
Zealand,  France,   Sweden,  India,  Cameroon,   Tunisia,  Mexico  and   the
Philippines.   Its establishment  was the  culmination of  a lengthy process
that had begun in Paris in 1991 with a workshop on national institutions.

17.   The  Committee has  set as  its main  objective the  promotion of  the
establishment and strengthening of national human  rights mechanisms.  A key
component of  its work is to  see to it  that national  institutions play an
effective  role in  the promotion  and  protection of  human rights  at  the
national level and forge close links  with international bodies pursuing the
same goal.

18.   The Committee  held its  first session  from 21  to 23  February 1994,
during which it considered  the current situation  of national  institutions
and expressed  its views  on the conformity  of the status  of new  national
institutions with  the "Paris Principles", with  a view  to their acceptance
as  national  institutions. It  was  agreed  that  the  Committee should  be
flexible  and simply take  note of  the existence  of national institutions,
irrespective  of the political  or ideological  regime under  which they had
been  established, bearing  in mind  that they  could be  improved and  that
technical assistance could  be provided to that end.   The Centre for  Human
Rights takes note of  the existence of a  national institution as  such when
it has been duly informed  by the Government concerned  of the establishment
of   such  an   institution  and   when   the  statutory,   legislative   or
constitutional instrument  concerning the status of the institution has been
officially transmitted to the Centre.

19.  Another matter discussed during the session  was the Voluntary Fund for
Advisory  Services and Technical  Assistance in  the Field  of Human Rights.
The  Committee expressed the hope that more resources  would be allocated to
the activities of national institutions so that the Centre for Human  Rights
could carry out the mandates entrusted to it in that area.

20.   The members of  the Committee expressed  broad agreement  on the draft
programme  of  technical  assistance  for  national  institutions  submitted
during the session  and suggested that  the Centre for  Human Rights  should
ascertain the  difficulties facing  national institutions  and assess  their
specific   needs,  with  a   view  to  adjusting  the  technical  assistance
programme, if necessary.

21.    The  second  session  of  the  Coordination  Committee  for  national
institutions was  held in  Geneva  from 22  to 23  February  1995.   In  his
opening  address at that session,  Mr. Jose Ayala Lasso, United Nations High
Commissioner  for  Human   Rights,  stressed  the  importance  of   national
institutions, their  activities,  their expansion  and their  strengthening.
The  establishment of  new national  institutions and  the strengthening  of
existing institutions  are among  the High  Commissioner's priorities  under
his programme of action for the second year of his mandate.

22.    According  to  the  High  Commissioner,  a policy  of  promoting  the
establishment   and  strengthening   of  national   institutions  is   being
formulated  through   constructive  interaction   between  the  Coordination
Committee and the Centre  for Human Rights.   The three major components  of
the policy are:

   (a)  To  promote the concept of  the national institution  as a  means of
reducing  existing  regional   disparities  in  the  distribution  of   such
institutions;

  (b)    To  contribute  to  the  emergence  of  independent  and  effective
institutions conforming to the Principles  concerning the status of national
institutions adopted by the General Assembly in December 1993;

  (c)   To promote cooperation  and coordination among national institutions
at the regional and subregional levels.

23.   During  the session,  the  Coordinator  of national  institutions, Mr.
Maxwell  Yalden, and  other members of the  Coordination Committee submitted
their reports on activities carried out during the previous year (1994).

24.   According  to  the Coordinator's  report,  these  activities consisted
essentially   in  encouraging   national  institutions   to  implement   the
Principles  concerning   the  status  of   national  institutions  and   the
recommendations of  the  World Conference  on  Human  Rights and  the  Tunis
Workshop, especially with  regard to women and  the disabled.  Emphasis  was
placed on strengthening  the Coordination Committee's links with the  United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Centre for Human Rights.


III.  ACTION AT THE NATIONAL AND REGIONAL
  LEVELS BY NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

25.  Concurrently with  the activities of the  Centre for Human Rights aimed
at  establishing  and strengthening  national  institutions,  some  national
institutions have taken action at the regional level.  From 7 to 9  November
1994,  for instance,  the first  European Workshop on  National Institutions
for the  Promotion and Protection of  Human Rights was  held to discuss  the
topic,  "The  international dimension  of  the  struggle against  racism and
xenophobia:   priorities  and  ways of  achieving  European  harmonization".
This Workshop  was organized  by the Commission  nationale consultative  des
droits de l'homme in France, in cooperation with the  Subcommission of Human
Rights of  the Parliamentary  Assembly of  the Council  of Europe.   Some 20
national institutions from all over Europe participated.

26.  The Workshop provided an  opportunity for the official  inauguration of
a new kind  of inter-institutional cooperation  at the "Pan-European" level,
and for  the discussion of  a subject  of high  priority for the  Council of
Europe as  it was  preparing to  launch, on  10 December 1994,  the European
Youth Campaign against  manifestations of racism,  xenophobia, anti-semitism
and intolerance.

27.   In short, the European  Workshop pointed the  way to a triple approach
to the question of racism and xenophobia:

  (a)  As  precise as possible an analysis  of the manifestations of  racism
in  the 17  European countries  attending  the  meetings, by  drawing up  an
inventory  of the specific  forms racism  takes, by  identifying the victims
and racist circles and studying the reactions of the public;

   (b)   A  study  of national  measures to  combat  racism, xenophobia  and
intolerance, by evaluating  the preventive action (for instance,  education)
and making a survey of the anti-racist legislation  in force in each country
and of the measures taken by the various Governments;

  (c)   The proposed strengthening of  cooperation within Europe, that is to

say,  between  the  leaders  of  the  struggle  against  racism  and between
Governments,  both as  to the  harmonization of  anti-racist legislation and
the coordination of measures to combat racism. 7/

28.   Moving on from  mere talk to  action, the European  bodies decided  to
establish,  within  the  Council of  Europe, an  advisory  committee against
racism and  xenophobia (at  the Corfu  summit, June  1994) and  to launch  a
Council  of  Europe Plan  of  Action  to  combat  racism, xenophobia,  anti-
semitism and intolerance, to be implemented  in conjunction with the efforts
of  the United Nations  Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in
connection with the United Nations Year  for Tolerance, 1995, proclaimed  by
the General Assembly.

29.  It should also be  noted that the topic discussed at the first European
Workshop was placed in the context of the very foundation of democracy.

30.  As far as the African continent  is concerned, a regional conference of
national African institutions will take place  in November 1995 in  Yaounde.
This meeting,  which is  in the  final stages  of preparation, will  help to
strengthen cooperation  between national institutions  on the continent  and
enable them to coordinate their  activities more closely  with international
activities  for  the  promotion  and  protection   of  human  rights.    The
Secretary-General will report on  the results of the  conference in his next
report to the General Assembly.


IV.  MEASURES TAKEN BY GOVERNMENTS TO PROMOTE NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

31.   The  Centre for  Human Rights  has endeavoured  to work  with  certain
States  as they  undergo a  process of  internal  change,  the aim  being to
strengthen democracy and protect human rights in the light  of the evolution
of the human rights situation in those countries in recent years.

32.  The Centre  has received many requests  from Governments announcing the
establishment  of  new   national  institutions  and  requesting   technical
assistance  in  making  them  effective.    Thus,  the  Centre  has provided
technical assistance to the following countries:

  (a)    Georgia:   A draft  law on  the establishment  of a  national human
rights institution to replace the present  Human Rights and Ethnic Relations
Committee  was submitted  to the  Centre  for  comment and  received careful
scrutiny.  In  February, the  Centre sent a mission  to assess the needs  in
Georgia with a view to completing the process of assistance;

  (b)  Papua  New Guinea:   Following the  request for  assistance from  the
Government of Papua  New Guinea, the Centre  sent a mission  in May  1995 to
assess the  country's needs in the area of human rights.  The mission's task
was  to  gather all  available  information  and  seek  views regarding  the
technical assistance  needs in the area  of human rights.   On the basis  of
the information  received, the Centre is  supporting the  establishment of a
national human rights commission;

  (c)   Latvia:    The  Centre,  in  cooperation  with  the  United  Nations
Development  Programme (UNDP),  has worked  with the  Latvian Government  in
drafting  a  law  establishing  a  National  Human  Rights  Council.    This
institution  will be  responsible for  overseeing the  implementation of the
national programme  for the  protection of  human  rights in  Latvia.   With
UNDP, the Centre is  currently working on the  preparation of a  large-scale
four-year  programme to  provide  technical  and material  support  for  the
establishment and development of the National Human Rights Council.

33.  It should be  noted that, in addition to the three countries  mentioned
above, other countries  have also requested help  from the Centre  for Human
Rights  in  establishing new  national institutions.    These countries  are
Nigeria, Indonesia,  Panama, Kuwait, Pakistan, Slovenia  and Sri  Lanka.  In
these  cases,  the  Centre has  already  supplied copies  of  the Manual  on

National  Institutions and  has informed  the countries about  the resources
available  under the  technical  assistance programme  to help  support such
initiatives.

34.   In order to improve  its assistance to Member  States, the Centre  for
Human  Rights will set  up a  comparative database  on national legislation.
The  national  institutions  have  been  invited  to  send their  countries'
relevant legislation to  the Advisory Service  and Technical  Assistance and
Information Branch  for inclusion in the database.  The  Centre also expects
to  establish  a similar  database  on  the  qualifications  of the  various
experts in  the national  institutions field who  might be called  upon when
technical cooperation projects are being implemented.


         V.  STATUS OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS WITHIN UNITED NATIONS BODIES
             RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

35.    In  accordance  with  paragraph  13  of  resolution  1995/50  of  the
Commission  on Human Rights,  the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale
dated 16  May 1995  to Member States  seeking the views  of Governments  and
national  institutions  concerning   possible  forms  of  participation   by
national institutions in United Nations meetings dealing  with human rights.
In  the  same   context,  Mr.  Maxwell  Yalden,  Coordinator  for   National
Institutions for the Promotion and Protection  of Human Rights, addressed  a
letter to the Secretary-General  informing him of the  wish of the  national
institutions to  be granted  the kind of  status that would  enable them  to
participate  in meetings of United  Nations human rights bodies, as had been
the case at the World Conference on Human Rights.

36.   According  to the  Coordination  Committee for  national institutions,
national institutions should be granted the  same status as the  specialized
agencies,  and  space  should be  made  available  to  them  so  that  their
representatives could express their views as representatives of  independent
bodies.  The Coordination  Committee also asked that  it should be consulted
by the Centre for Human Rights  about which national institutions  should be
entitled to participate in meetings of United Nations human rights bodies.

37.    In  his reply  to  the  Coordinator for  National  Institutions,  the
SecretaryGeneral  said  he believed  that  the  question  of  the status  of
national institutions at meetings of United  Nations human rights bodies was
a matter  for the  Commission on Human  Rights and the  Economic and  Social
Council to  decide  and  that he  expected  them  to  reach  an  appropriate
decision.  The Secretary-General would submit a report to the Commission  on
Human Rights  at its fifty-second  session, and the Commission  would take a
decision on  the  status of  national  institutions  in relation  to  United
Nations human rights bodies.


VI.  CONCLUSION

38.  The report has  focused on the main activities of the Centre for  Human
Rights in cooperation with national institutions  with a view to  continuing
the process of  their establishment and  strengthening.  It  has also  shown
the  different   contributions  to   the  process  made   by  the   national
institutions themselves,  through their  regional activities.   Lastly,  the
report has highlighted the  need for a  clearer definition of the  framework
for cooperation between  national institutions and the international  bodies
responsible for the promotion and protection  of human rights, by  assigning
a specific status to the national institutions in relation to those bodies.


-----  


 

This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last posted: 18 December 1999 16:30:10
Comments and suggestions: esa@un.org