February 12 , 2018
A number of Commonwealth Small States have participated in the first-ever training programme on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the premier human rights body consisting of 47 member states responsible for promoting human rights in Geneva. The programme was organized by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
CHRI organized the training programme ahead of the 37th Session of the HRC, where Commonwealth Small States including Bahamas, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Swaziland and Malta participated. CHRI Program Officer, Yashasvi Nain who organized and conducted the two day training program said, that the training would help Small States to be better equipped and informed in the HRC. Small States face multiple challenges in the Council due to lack of technical understanding of the process and financial, human resources.
The two day event was attended by senior diplomats. The training covered various aspects of UN Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review, Special Procedures of UN and an interactive session on the role and importance of the civil society at the HRC. CHRI’s module called the ‘Handbook on HRC’ was shared with the participants.
Eric Tistounet, Chief of the Human Rights Council Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) opened the programme and congratulated CHRI for taking a lead. He added that, “this will empower Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island States (SIDS), and they will be able to bring issues from their regions which otherwise remain neglected”. Ms. Yvette Stevens, the Ambassador of Sierra Leone shared her experience of how with a staff of one person, she was still able to play a constructive role at the HRC.
Other resource persons included Human rights experts from civil society and officers from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including Adrien-Claude Zoller, President Geneva for Human Rights - Global Training, UPR Info, CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA.
A recent report by CHRI highlighted that only four out 52 Commonwealth countries managed to secure a seat at the HRC since it was set up in 2006.