ISHR project contributes to human rights progress in Mano River Union countries

10.03.2014

(Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire) - The UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process can be an important catalyst for coordination between States, national human rights institutions and human rights defenders and can contribute to concrete human rights change on the ground, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

(Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire) - The UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process can be an important catalyst for coordination between States, national human rights institutions and human rights defenders and can contribute to concrete human rights change on the ground, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

ISHR has recently completed a three-year Irish Aid-funded project in the Mano River Union countries of Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The purpose of the project was to bring together key human rights stakeholders from each of the countries - including government representatives, civil society actors and national human rights institutions - with a view to preparing for the Universal Periodic Review and collaborating on the implementation of recommendations. 

The project had a particular focus on promoting the participation of women in the UPR process and ensuring the effective implementation of recommendations relating to women's rights and the protection of women human rights defenders.

In our assessment this ISHR project contributed directly and indirectly to at least ten positive human rights developments in the sub-region:

  1. Strengthening national human rights institutions:  Spurred on by participation in the ISHR UPR project, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone convened two key national consultations with State and civil society representatives. The NHRI has taken ownership of its role, encouraging monitoring and implementation of UPR recommendations. In addition, as the only ‘A’ status national human rights institution in the Mano River Union region, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone is now working with other participants at the workshops to provide advice, assistance and support to establish and strengthen other NHRIs in the region.
  2. Promoting communication and coordination between key human rights actors:  Discussions and coordination meetings between State, NHRI and NGOs that were encouraged and initiated at the workshops have continued and, in some cases, have been formalized. These opportunities for debate and exchange have also provided input for and momentum to the production of UPR reports. For example:
  • Members of the Cote d’Ivoire NGO ‘Committee for the Follow up to the UPR’ convened a workshop to assess the implementation of recommendations from the 1st cycle, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Public Freedoms. Following this, the Committee drafted and submitted its report for the UPR 2nd Cycle. 
  • The Cote d’Ivoire Directorate for the Promotion of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights convened a discussion with civil society to inform the content of their UPR 2nd Cycle report.
  • In Liberia the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD) held a three day workshop in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian National Human Rights Institution to group UPR recommendations thematically and then identify relevant State agencies responsible for their implementation.
  1. Strengthening human rights monitoring and reporting:  With the boost given through participation in the ISHR project, the Sierra Leone NHRI has significantly contributed to the development of the Sierra Leone UPR mid-term report on the implementation of recommendations. Engagement in the UPR has also been shown, in some cases, to have a positive impact on reporting to other human rights mechanisms. For example, the UPR process, allied with active civil society follow up, has been a catalyst for Liberia submitting its first ever report to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on the implementation of its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  2. Development of National Human Rights Action Plans, incorporating UPR recommendations:  As discussed and recommended at the workshops associated with this project, National Human Rights Action Plans have been developed to incorporate UPR recommendations in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In the case of Liberia, human rights defender participants in the ISHR UPR project consider their role in the process of the elaboration of the Liberian National Human Rights Action Plan as a key success.
  3. Establishment of UPR follow up committees:  The Cote d’Ivoire NGO ‘Committee for the Follow up to the UPR’ was established as a result of this project and is now a key and acknowledged civil society actor by State and NHRI representatives. During the Colloquium the Cote d’Ivoire Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Public Freedoms responded to calls and announced the establishment of a multi-stakeholder committee for the follow up of UPR recommendations. 
  4. Strengthening advocacy efforts by human rights defenders:  Human rights defenders have learnt to use UPR recommendations as fillips for change on specific human rights issues. For example, the Liberian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD) has been working with State agencies to review the law on the prevention of domestic violence.
  5. Strengthening civil society engagement with diplomatic missions:  Human rights defenders in Cote d’Ivoire noted that engaging with diplomatic missions in the framework of the UPR has led to greater indications of diplomatic support to the promotion of human rights in the country and to the work of human rights defenders.
  6. Greater engagement of women human rights defenders in the UPR:  Since engaging in this project the Sierra Leone ‘Human Rights Defenders Secretariat’ has actively sought to recruit women defenders to join their human rights defenders network. The project has encouraged all participants to better appreciate the importance of women’s meaningful involvement in human rights defender groupings, as well as in specific human rights processes such as the UPR. 
  7. Greater commitment of the Mano River Union as a means to better protect rights:  A senior staff member of the Mano River Union Secretariat expressed his interest in greater institutional commitment to support Union member states with the implementation of their international obligations on human rights. The Colloquium underlined the value in greater identification as members of the Mano River Union, and the sharing of good practice, as a means to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in the sub-region and more widely. 
  8. Overcoming language barriers to collaboration on human rights:  The ISHR project has enabled communication between francophone and anglophone participants who are so frequently divided by language. In the exchanges of emails following the colloquium in Abidjan, a couple of participants have tried their hand in the language foreign to them, as an indication of their interest in encouraging better communication across the Mano River Union! 

ISHR is persuaded that sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders concerned with the UPR results in very concrete, positive outcomes. These relate to defining, monitoring and pushing for the implementation of human rights recommendations. Participants from all stakeholder groups at the Colloquium consistently spoke of their interest in ongoing joint work around the UPR and other human rights processes. 

Contacts: Eleanor Openshaw and Clement Voule on e.openshaw@ishr.ch and c.voule@ishr.ch

Category:

Region
  • Africa
Mechanism
  • Universal Periodic Review
Country
  • Guinea
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Sierra Leone