The work of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) is significant in situations of (post-)conflict, where human rights abuses can be more widespread and societies divided. Independent, strong and trusted institutions are needed not only to support individuals affected by conflict, but also to promote a culture of rights. NHRIs in situations of (post-)conflict play an essential role in conflict prevention, management and resolution, as well as peace-building and transitional justice. Through our ‘Project on the Role of NHRIs in Situations of Conflict and Post-Conflict’, we facilitate collaboration and support for NHRIs in these contexts around several topics.
NHRI RESPONSES TO THE CONFLICT IN UKRAINE
The ongoing armed attack on Ukraine has displaced over eight million people and forced nearly five million to flee the country. The human rights consequences – particularly for those seeking refuge – have been immense.
Reflecting their crucial role in protecting and promoting human rights in (post-) conflict situations, National Human Rights Institutions have been at the forefront of the response. While continually monitoring and reporting on the situation on the ground, they have developed initiatives such as dedicated hotlines and information campaigns and expressed solidarity in various ways. As the conflict and its impact evolve over time, NHRIs will remain crucial in ensuring ongoing human rights protection for all.
|Visit a dedicated page to discover what NHRIs around Europe are doing in response to the armed attack on Ukraine and the resulting human rights challenges|
HUMAN RIGHTS OF INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
Given the diversity of (post-)conflict environments in Europe, European NHRIs have different experiences of promoting and protecting the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, they face common challenges such as lack of capacity, resources and experience, and scarce support from national authorities in this area of work.
In April 2018, we organised a meeting and a capacity-building workshop, gathering European NHRIs and key international and regional stakeholders to share expertise and exchange practices on how NHRIs can best promote and protect the human rights of IDPs. This included engagement with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, who has made the role of NHRIs in IDP protection a priority area of her mandate.
The statement resulting from the meetings – welcomed by a number of international and regional actors – was recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur as supportive of her multi-stakeholder plan of action on IDPs. Her 2019 report on internal displacement and the role of NHRIs outlines various opportunities and challenges faced by NHRIs in this area.
|Download: Infosheet on the Georgian NHRI’s good practices in promoting and protecting the human rights of IDPs|
Human rights in contexts of (counter-)terrorism
NHRIs are uniquely positioned to address human rights issues arising from terrorism and counter-terrorism, including in situations of (post-)conflict. Terrorist actions carried out by non-state actors are inherently characterised by human rights abuses and require immediate and coordinated responses from state authorities. However, the climate of fear that follows these acts may lead to adoption of counter-terrorist measures that can limit the enjoyment of a wide range of political and civil rights.
To support NHRIs in this context, we organised a capacity-building workshop in September 2018, gathering European NHRIs, key stakeholders and NHRIs from other regions. Participants exchanged on their roles, mandates and functions, as well as engaged with a range of stakeholders, such as Amnesty International, the Council of Europe’s Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme and Northern Ireland national stakeholders.
Prior to this, in October 2016, on the occasion of our General Assembly meeting, we held a seminar on human rights and counter-terrorism, while the NHRI Academy in June 2016 featured a session dedicated to the protection of human rights while countering terrorism. In May 2016, together with the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, we jointly organised a high-level brainstorming meeting to share good practices and expertise in this area, where NHRI representatives explored the role, opportunities and responsibilities of NHRIs in counter-terrorism.
Watch: UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, on the role of NHRIs in (counter-)terrorism contexts
Human Rights in Non-Government-Controlled Areas*
In non-government-controlled, non-recognised and other disputed territories, due attention is often not paid to the human rights of individuals. European NHRIs have often developed strategies to gain access to affected individuals and promote and protect human rights, including through cooperation with civil society actors, international and regional stakeholders, or relevant human rights actors on the “other side” of the conflict line.
The contribution of NHRIs is reflected in the Declaration on the Role of NHRIs in (Post) Conflict agreed upon by NHRIs in 2015 in Kyiv. However, NHRIs face major challenges to work in these circumstances, such as the lack of clarity on their mandate and role, difficulty in accessing non-government-controlled areas and reaching relevant individuals.
Following calls from European NHRIs for peer-exchange opportunities in this area, we organised two meetings on the topic in February and June 2019, bringing together high-level representatives from European NHRIs, international and regional stakeholders, and members of civil society working on the ground.
The meetings were attended by all European NHRIs working in affected states, providing them a platform to share their experiences of engagement in non-government-controlled areas. All invited experts from international civil society and intergovernmental organisations articulated their strong support for efforts to increase the engagement of NHRIs in non-government-controlled areas.
* Including in non-recognised and other disputed territories
Economic and Social Rights in (Post-)Conflict
Violations of economic and social rights are both a cause and a consequence of conflict. Very low standards of living, lack of access to work and education coupled with an ongoing discrimination can lead to public unrest. In this context, NHRIs are well-positioned to influence change in the short- and long-terms.
NHRIs are mandated to address a full range of human rights issues, including economic and social rights. They are equipped to continuously monitor laws, policies and programmes which have an impact on the realisation of economic and social rights, particularly for those most affected by conflict.
To support European NHRIs in this area of work, we organised a capacity-building workshop in March 2019 addressing strategic approaches for NHRIs working with economic and social rights in (post-)conflict contexts. Participants share their challenges and methods of work, highlighting effective practices. This included the example of community-led monitoring by local NGOs in Northern Ireland and Serbia.
|How can NHRIs address economic and social rights in (post-)conflict situations?|
Role of NHRIs in Peacebuilding
The enjoyment of human rights is not possible without peaceful resolution of conflict. The strategic link between respecting human rights and the prevention of violent conflicts and building durable peace has been pointed out by the UN and regional human rights and security bodies, including the Council of Europe, EU and OSCE. Also, in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, NHRIs are recognised as an indicator of SDG 16 (peaceful and just societies) and important actors in conflict prevention, management and resolution.
NHRIs in Europe and around the world have expressed their readiness to engage more in peacebuilding. Given this, in October 2019, we organised a capacity-building workshop bringing together representatives of European NHRIs, civil society and intergovernmental organisations working in the area of human rights and peacebuilding, as well as NHRI colleagues from other parts of the world with experience in these fields.
In 2019, we launched a peer-exchange programme to enhance the capacities of participating NHRIs working in (post-)conflict situations and strengthen their ties with other European NHRIs and encourage solidarity. The programme helps increase understanding of the roles and responsibilities of NHRIs working in (post-)conflict contexts, encourages exchanges of good practices, methodologies and practical tools, and allows for specific human rights concerns to be addressed.
|Learn more about recent NHRI peer-exchange visits|
UNDP Trainer’s Guide on Human Rights Monitoring and Fact-Finding
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has developed a Trainer’s Guide on Human Rights Monitoring and Fact-Finding for NHRIs, a manual and online course for enhancing monitoring capacities of NHRIs in (post-)conflict contexts. Other UNDP Guides are also available on How to Conduct Investigations and How to Handle Complaints.
Cooperating for change: NHRIs and human rights in (post-)conflict
Project on the role of NHRIs in situations of (post-)conflict
These activities are organised within the framework of our Project on the Role of NHRIs in Situations of (Post-)Conflict, funded by the European Union. Running from April 2017 to June 2020, the Project enhances the effectiveness of NHRIs to promote and protect human rights in situations of (post-)conflict in Europe.
- Raise awareness of the role of European NHRIs working in situations of (post-)conflict and build their capacity to promote and protect human rights
- Enhance solidarity and cooperation between European NHRIs, particularly those operating in (post-)conflict
- Support the engagement of European NHRIs with national and international actors, including civil society
- Strengthen ENNHRI to better support European NHRIs
- Organising workshops and high-level meetings with the goal of exchanging on NHRI knowledge and practices, and engaging with relevant stakeholders to address specific human rights issues
- Organising a final conference to present Project outcomes
- Creating a safe and neutral space for cooperation between NHRIs
- Coordinating actions with GANHRI and other regional networks of NHRIs
- Support NHRIs under threat
Engagement with national and international actors
- Supporting meetings between NHRIs and local, national and international stakeholders (including UN, EU, Council of Europe, civil society, research centres) to address specific human rights issues
- Developing an engagement strategy for cooperation between NHRIs and regional and international stakeholders
Strengthening the network
- Organising exchange visits between ENNHRI Secretariat and its members
- Enhancing the visibility of ENNHRI and its members
Our members directly involved in the Project included the NHRIs of: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Kosovo*, Moldova, Northern Ireland, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Participating NHRIs engaged in project activities (e.g. meetings, capacity building activities and peer-exchanges) and shared good practices and expertise on their areas of work.
The Project was also steered by an Advisory Group made up of some participating NHRIs and key international stakeholders, including the Council of Europe Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme Regional Centre for Europe and the CIS, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and civil society organisations.
Publications & Statements
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence