Participants of the NHRI Academy 2019 posing for a group photo
12 Jun 2019

NHRI Academy 2019: Representatives of 26 NHRIs take part in economic and social rights training

The 6th edition of the NHRI Academy, co-organised by ENNHRI and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) with the support of the Global Campus for Human Rights, took place from 3 to 7 June 2019 in Venice. The event gathered 26 human rights professionals from National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) across the OSCE region with the aim of enhancing their capacities to implement economic and social rights (ESR).

Over the course of the five days, the Academy provided an open environment for sharing good practices among peers and other supporters and partners, including NGOs, academics and regional human rights organisations. Participants created action plans in order to implement their learning in practice within their NHRIs. They also committed to strengthening their cooperation with each other to enhance the effectiveness of their work.

See what participants had to say:

On the first day, Secretary-General of ENNHRI, Debbie Kohner, and Head of the ODIHR Human Rights Department, Omer Fisher, gave an overview of the work of each organisation in supporting NHRIs in Europe and the OSCE region. Katrien Meuwissen, Senior Human Rights Officer at the ENNHRI Secretariat, facilitated a discussion about mainstreaming the UN Paris Principles in the daily work of NHRIs. This set the scene for the NHRI Academy, establishing the unique position that NHRIs hold in promoting and protecting human rights.

Training topics

The NHRI Academy programme was structured around the following topics. Click on a topic to learn more.

ESR norms and links to the SDGs

In this session, Mihir Mankad from the Center for Economic and Social Rights spoke about ESR norms and their links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He outlined key ESR principles framed around the state’s ‘obligations of conduct’ (i.e. what the state should be doing) and ‘obligations of result’ (i.e. what the outcomes should be).

In particular, he spoke about the AAAQ Framework, which suggests that states should take steps to ensure that relevant infrastructure, goods and services are increasingly availableaccessible to all, acceptable and of adequate quality.

Speaking about the link of ESR norms to the SDGs, he explained that many SDGs are explicitly related to development issues – such as housing, water and sanitation, health, education and poverty – and have a direct bearing on ESR. He suggested that although the SDGs are political commitments, they are anchored in international human rights law and can produce new data for use in human rights monitoring.

Finally, he highlighted the important role of NHRIs in promoting human rights in SDG national implementation plans, advising governments on rights-centred implementation, monitoring and holding governments to account, uncovering patterns of inequality or discrimination, and securing redress for victims of development-related rights violations.

Alison Hosie of the Scottish NHRI (Scottish Human Rights Commission) presented a case study of the institution’s work in harnessing the SDGs to further support human rights in the Scottish context, such as by incorporating SDGs into Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights. She emphasised the high potential of NHRIs in supporting the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, as highlighted in the Mérida Declaration on the role of NHRIs in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in measuring progress.

» Download slides on ESR norms
» Download slides on Scottish NHRI

Monitoring economic and social policies using a human rights lens

In this session, Mihir Mankad introduced the processes of ESR monitoring, which include a range of investigative activities that seek to expose injustices, such as auditing, investigations and fact-finding. He introduced the OPERA Framework, which was developed by the Center for Economic and Social Rights as a ‘flexible, overarching framework to guide economic and social rights monitoring’.

The OPERA Framework offers a clear, four-point structure for building an advocacy argument, bringing together ESR standards and principles. Those points are:

  1. Outcomes: assessing the level of realisation of the right
    From the perspective of rights-holders, what is the problem?
  2. Policy Efforts: assessing the commitment and efforts of the state to realise the right
    How have the government’s actions affected the problem?
  3. Resources: assessing whether the state is devoting adequate resources to the right
    How has the use of resources affected the problem?
  4. Assessment: understanding constraints, before making an overall assessment
    In light of the broader context, is the government responsible for the problem?

» Learn more about the OPERA Framework
» Download slides on OPERA Framework

Strategic use of NHRI functions in ESR monitoring

In this session, Mihir Mankad referenced the array of functions that NHRIs can hold throughout the ‘policy cycle’. These functions include, for example: facilitating public consultations during policy formation; training public servants during policy realisation; and conducting national inquiries and complaints handling during policy assessment.

Different kinds of NHRI interventions were mapped against different audiences that they target – including the public, influencers and decision-makers – and different changes that they are suited for – including changes in awareness, will and action.

In a fictional case study, participants were tasked with proposing a set of activities based on NHRI functions, grounded in an analysis of their institution’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and an exercise of mapping stakeholders based on their degrees of influence and supportiveness/resistance.

» Download slides on NHRI functions

Using indicators and benchmarks in ESR monitoring

In this session, Mihir Mankad explained the importance of indicators and benchmarks in monitoring.

An indicator is a piece of data that tells us ‘how much’, ‘how many’ or ‘to what extent’, often expressed in the form of numbers, ratios or percentages. They can be qualitative or quantitative, and fact-based or opinion-/perception-based.

Human rights indicators should reflect human rights norms and standards and capture states’ obligations of conduct (i.e. what the state should be doing) and obligations of result (i.e. what the outcomes should be). Obligations of conduct are generally measured by policy effort indicators, while obligations of result are generally measured by outcome indicators.

A criteria for judging indicators for their strategic merit was recommended:

  • How closely does the indicator relate to the right being measured?
  • Does the indicator relate to a specific recommendation from an international or national source?
  • Does the indicator tell us something new about how government actions are impacting on the right?
  • What would ordinary people think of the indicator?

benchmark is a reference point against which to judge indicators, or a predetermined standard for comparing performance. There are 2 main considerations about the quality of a human rights benchmark:

  • How well grounded is the benchmark in international human rights standards and how well does it reflect these?
  • What is the strategic value of the benchmark? How will it help us achieve change?
  • How are responsible individuals or organisations likely to respond to it?
  • How much support is likely to be enjoyed from affected communities and others?

The ways in which rights could be analysed were also discussed. These include: aggregate levels of a right’s enjoyment (in comparison to other similar countries); disparities the right’s enjoyment between groups (through the use of disaggregated data); and progress over time.

» Download slides on indicators and benchmarks

Evaluating state resources using a human rights-based approach

The way that a government allocates, generates and spends money has implications in terms of its human rights obligations. Resources are needed to ensure the availability and accessibility of services, as well as to address equality and non-discrimination. The principles of transparency, accountability and participation should guide the process of deciding how resources are allocated, generated and spent.

In this session, Mihir Mankad explained that the third step of the OPERA Framework interrogates the claim that there are inadequate or inefficient resources to implement policies economic and social policies. It determines whether the trade-offs resulting in underfunding are actually caused by a genuine lack of resources or from a failure to allocate, generate and spend resources in line with human rights norms.

There was also discussion of human rights challenges to some common ‘fiscal fallacies’.

Finally, three steps in budget measurement were outlined:

  1. Identify indicators for resource allocation and generation
  2. Make comparisons to other similar countries, national and international targets and commitments, international guidelines, other parts of the budget and other relevant economic indicators
  3. Analyse trends over time

Alison Hosie from the Scottish NHRI (Scottish Human Rights Commission) presented her institution’s Human Rights Budget Work project. The project aims, in the short term, to increase capacity to undertake budget scrutiny and to build an understanding of the ‘minimum core’ and ‘progressive realisation’ obligations relevant for Scotland; in the long term, it aims for the Scottish Government to undertake effective human rights budgeting and to build an understanding of human rights budget work at the local level.

» Download slides on evaluating state resources
» Download slides on Scottish NHRI

Interpreting and communicating findings

In this session, Marc van Gool, ODIHR Human Rights Adviser, explained the importance in reporting work of shifting away from communicating just what happened but also why it happened. He underlined that, in order to achieve impactful reporting, it is important to draw conclusions from data that link the outcomes of the everyday enjoyment of human rights to the State’s commitments and conduct.

Then, he explained a simple framework for devising a strategy to communicate the findings of monitoring work.

  • Goal(s): What do you want to achieve with your communications?
  • Target audience: Who do you want to reach and to take action?
  • Channel(s): What channels/instruments will you use to promote your issue and reach your target audience?
  • Message: What is the core message that you want to communicate? How can you make it resonate with your target audience?

» Download slides on interpreting and communicating findings

Visualising information related to ESR

In this session, Marc van Gool presented key principles of effective visual design and discussed how they could be applied when communicating about ESR. Those principles include considerations of: layout, length, hierarchy, grouping, white space, colour, fonts, and images and graphs.

This was followed by a presentation by Anete Ilves from the Latvian NHRI (Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia) of how the institution has used visual communication in its ESR work. For example, the NHRI has developed infographics to visually represent the impacts of tax reform on families, using ‘humanising’ visuals and visual diagrams and graphs. The institution also used first-hand photos when reporting on the human rights situation in mental health hospitals, explaining the effectiveness of this approach in attracting media attention.

Example of infographic developed by Latvian NHRI

» Download slides on design principles
» Download slides on Latvian NHRI

Communicating and framing ESR

In this session, representatives of the ENNHRI Secretariat presented a summary of secondary research on techniques for effectively communicating human rights, with a focus on ESR. The seven tips presented include:

  • Lead with common values
  • Describe issues of broad public interest
  • Describe what you stand for, not what you are against
  • Create hope, not fear
  • Give the issue a human face
  • Focus on outcomes, not processes
  • Identify responsible actors

» Learn more about these techniques in our guide on effectively communicating ESR

Participants were then tasked with developing their own messages related to the right to housing, and to visually represent their messages through visual and interactive means.

» Download slides on communicating and framing ESR

Alongside the core training sessions, Danilo Ćurčić of Serbian NGO A11 presented about his research on the role of NHRIs in promoting and protecting ESR in times of austerity, and Kati Jaaskelainen from OSCE/ODIHR spoke about her organisation’s work on Roma and Sinti in the OSCE region. ENNHRI and Amnesty International Italy also hosted a roundtable event on the need for an NHRI in Italy in compliance with the UN Paris Principles.


» Learn about the NHRI Academy in previous years
» Learn more about ENNHRI’s work on economic and social rights