Commission at United Nations in Geneva

Staff and the Chair of the Commission attended the 25th annual meeting of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at the United Nations in Geneva from 19 - 22 March 2012. This meeting overlapped with the 19th regular session of the Human Rights Council (a round up of the resolutions of the HRC see here).

Several high level workshops, presentations and seminars took place as part of the conference which brought together over eighty human rights institutions from all over the world.

The Commission made contributions to several sessions, and a summary of these are below.

ICC Bureau

As a member of ICC Bureau, the Commission is one of sixteen NHRIs responsible for the administration of the ICC (see here for background on the structure of the ICC). The Commission attended the ICC Bureau meeting and discussed a number of issues, including amendments to the ICC statute and debates on the best way to ensure that NHRIs remain independent and effective in the protection and promotion of human rights.

The Commission, which currently chairs the European Group of NHRIs, held a series of meetings with the other regional chairs and coordinators to share best practice and coordinate the work of the NHRIs across the world.

With a drafting committee composed of the Commission and NHRIs from Australia and Uganda, the Commonwealth Forum of NHRIs drafted a statement on the situation of human rights defenders in Malawi, amended to include reference to the arrest of Commissioner John Kapito. The Chair of the Australian Human Rights Commission presented the statement at the Human Rights Council.

Read the statement in Word format.

Meeting of the European Group

The Commission chaired a meeting of the European Group of NHRIs. The meeting was attended by around 50 people, representing NHRIs in over 20 countries across Europe, and covered a wide range of issues. The meeting included high level engagement with regional partners such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Equinet (European network of equality bodies) and the Fundamental Rights Agency. There were thematic discussions on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights and on Human Rights in Times of Austerity. The Group agreed on the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the group with the support of OHCHR and to create two new working groups on Human Rights Education and on Accreditation Support for NHRIs.

Universal Periodic Review

At a joint event with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, our staff organised a briefing meeting for State representatives on the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Kingdom. The UK’s human rights record is currently being reviewed as part of the UPR process and the event brought together around 40 delegates from different States, including Austria, Canada, Philippines, UK, United States and Sri Lanka. A number of Geneva-based NGOs also attended, and there was a warm welcome for the initiative. Each Commission presented on their recommendations to UPR, and took part in a Q&A session, which included discussion on current developments in the UK around human rights legislation, the practical experience and approach which the Scottish Human Rights Commission has taken to promoting an human rights based approach in practice, human rights impact assessment, and conditions of detention. The Commissions also held a series of bilateral meetings on the UK’s UPR with representatives of the United States of America, Mexico (which holds the Chair of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Ireland.

Climate Justice

Our policy officer Diego Quiroz delivered a presentation to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and NHRIs from around the world highlighting Scotland’s approach to climate change as an excellent model which combines a just and equitable share of responsibilities with economic development and respect for all human rights. The presentation was an opportunity for the Commission to share the outcome of the recent debate at the Scottish Parliament on climate justice (read more here) and the commitment of the Scottish Government to ensuring respect for human rights as part of efforts to tackle climate change in Scotland and internationally

While in Geneva the Commission also welcomed the decision of the 19th regular session of the Human Rights Council to establish an Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment. More than 80 States co-sponsored the resolution which demonstrates the international consensus to tackle climate change and raise the issue of climate justice on the international stage (text of the resolution is here).

The Chair and staff from the Commission, in a joint meeting with the Deputy Director of the German Institute of Human Rights, met with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to discuss climate justice, climate change and human rights. The discussion included how NHRIs can influence the outcomes of Rio+20 taking place later in 2012, and the COP18 (Doha) meetings to promote the inclusion of human rights. A number of next steps were agreed.

A report on the activities of the Commission in the working group on climate change and human rights was also given to the Commonwealth Forum of NHRIs. Read the report here.

ICC Thematic Interventions

Our Outreach Coordinatior Jemma Neville made an oral intervention in the thematic session on the UN Disability Convention on outreach initiatives, including updating on our work with innovative methods of reaching harder to reach groups in Scotland, for example our online seminars.

Bilateral meetings

Commission staff held a series of bilateral meetings with representatives and officers of human rights commissions and orgnisations from the United States, Mexico (which holds the Chair of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States of NHRIs), Ireland, Australia, Germany, Norway, Kosovo, Romania, Slovakia, France, Denmark and New Zealand. Bilateral meetings also took place with a number of NGO’s during the week, including with the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the United Nations Representative of Amnesty International and the Quaker United Nations Office.

Bilateral Meetings with UN Special Procedures

The Commission also held a bilateral meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights to discuss the impacts of the economic climate on human rights and to further explain the Commission’s work on human rights impact assessment.