26 Mar 2021

NHRIs advocate for sustainable recovery based on human rights at UNECE Regional Forum 2021

At the intergovernmental Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region, ENNHRI and NHRIs called on European states to ensure that COVID-19 recovery is based on human rights and builds on Agenda 2030. European NHRIs’ work during COVID-19 underscored their readiness to join forces with all partners and build better and more equal societies for all.

Held as a hybrid event from 10-17 March, the 2021 Regional Forum focused on sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, specific attention was dedicated to SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (No Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Protection) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).  

Being part of the debate

Despite the fact that NHRIs do not enjoy the same participation rights as in other UN fora, Erinda Ballanca, People’s Advocate of Albania and ENNHRI Board member, took the floor during the UNECE hybrid plenary session. Alison Hosie, from the Scottish Human Rights Commission, spoke at the peer-exchange roundtable on SDGs and COVID-19.

In the plenary session, Erinda Ballanca underlined that NHRIs in compliance with the UN Paris Principles are an indicator of peaceful, just and inclusive societies under SDG 16 and are internationally recognised as human rights defenders. She encouraged all UN SDG Regional and Global mechanisms and processes to enhance the independent participation of NHRIs compliant with the Paris Principles in their fora.

Erinda Ballanca also shed light on the importance of recovery being guided by human rights, equality and SDGs. This can be only achieved by meaningful participation of civil society and rights- holders and by cooperation among all stakeholders. Her message on NHRIs’ crucial role in this regard was echoed by Odeta Barbullushi, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Albania. Ms Barbullushi’s participation showed the government recognition of NHRIs as key advisers on human rights and their links with Agenda 2030.

Human Rights-Based Approach to Data as a central focus of building back better

Alison Hosie spoke on behalf of ENNHRI at the UNECE Peer-learning Roundtable on SDGs and COVID-19: how can data and statistics help building back better? She underlined that a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to data supports a grounded understanding of lived experience and helps to promote human rights and equality as the central focus of recovery.

NHRIs’ work during COVID-19 focused mostly on advice on the conformity of emergency measures with human rights standards (related to SDG 16) and the right to health (SDG 3). NHRIs’ recommendations on HRBA to COVID-19 measures showed their impactful role as partners in upholding human rights. Alison Hosie concluded that NHRIs can help governments to collect disaggregated data in order to determine who is left behind, thus informing the recovery and vaccination efforts.

Joining forces with key human rights actors

At the side-lines of the forum, ENNHRI, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, governments from Denmark and Portugal, the UN Agencies such as OHCHR, UNDP, UNFPA and the EU FRA teamed up to organise a side eventto showcase how sustainable and resilient recovery can deliver on both human rights and the 2030 Agenda.

Speakers emphasized that the pandemic did not change a state’s obligation to implement human rights; on the contrary, it made it even more urgent. In order to really achieve a human rights-based sustainable recovery in Europe, we need an ecosystem of data built on strong partnerships including NHRIs and civil society. This data helps us understand the challenges of the most vulnerable and enables us to adequately inform policy-makers. Human rights actors can then advocate for policies responding to the real needs of people while contributing to the SDGs and human rights commitments.

NHRIs’ readiness to support sustainable recovery

ENNHRI’s participation in the Forum sent a clear message: a sustainable recovery based on human rights is possible and ENNHRI and European NHRIs are ready to be part of it. This comes in a crucial moment when European states are developing national recovery plans to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

European NHRIs stand ready to ensure that the recovery plans are anchored in human rights standards. ENNHRI harvested all members’ input at the UNECE Forum and published an ENNHRI Written Submission to influence the UNECE report to the High-Level Political Forum. Our Submission will drive international, regional and national agendas towards a more sustainable and human rights-based recovery.

» Read ENNHRI Written Statement to the UNECE