'As per the decision of CHRI's International Advisory Commission on 28.11.2017, the Strategic Initiative Programme (SIP) of CHRI has been re-named as the International Advocacy and Programming (IAP) unit. The IAP unit has been expanded to include representatives from CHRI offices in London and Accra.'
IAP monitors Commonwealth states’ compliance with civil, political and human rights obligations, and advocates for their strengthening. It strategically engages with regional and global mechanisms, including the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The unit regularly advocates for reform within the Commonwealth and stronger response mechanisms to stem human rights violations. IAP reviews Commonwealth members’ human rights commitments at UN forums; monitors the performance of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the Commonwealth while advocating for their strengthening. It presses for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, RTI activists and civil society space. As a trusted partner, CHRI has acted as a resource for several UN agencies and has conducted fact finding missions in Nigeria, Zambia, Fiji, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Fiji and the Maldives.
IAP’s strategic initiatives:
CHRI’s work in Geneva
CHRI was one of the key organisations of the Global South to monitor and evaluate member states’ behaviour at the UN Human Rights Council through its ‘Easier Said Than Done’ reports. IAP has expanded its focus on the Council with targeted advocacy and regular submissions to its several mechanisms including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies. IAP reviews the performance of Commonwealth countries at the Council, makes submissions before country reviews at the UPR, builds civil society capacity to examine, report on and international perspectives back to their countries and presses the Commonwealth to strengthen its institutional commitment to human rights. CHRI is an active member of premier civil society coalitions working towards structural reform in the HRC and joint advocacy on thematic and country concerns.
IAP advocates for capacity building and greater integration of Commonwealth Small states in the HRC and promoting CSO partnerships within these countries. It works with these states to facilitate their participation in the international human rights system and bring focus on their human rights concerns and challenges. IAP provides technical support, training and orientation to diplomats and the civil society from Small States for meaningful engagement with the UPR mechanism, other procedures at the Council and international forums.
Sustainable Development Goals
Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, IAP has advocated for Goal 16 on access to justice, access to information, transparency, accountability, participation, human rights and good governance. It has consistently engaged with national, regional and global mechanisms for SDG follow-up and review. It has contributed to policy discussions on Goal 16 implementation and advocated with CSOs, networks and coalitions for SDG accountability.
IAP is working towards achieving SDG 8.7 in the Commonwealth. 8.7 calls for the eradication of forced labour, ending modern slavery and human trafficking and securing the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour. Our work is aimed at building smart coalitions while fostering partnership and collective action in the Commonwealth.
IAP is CHRI’s international interface with UN organisations, processes, CW secretariat, foreign governments and international CSOs. The programme monitors Commonwealth member states’ compliance with human rights obligations, and advocates around human rights exigencies where such obligations are breached.
Since 2017, as part of a decisive effort to ‘re-internationalise’ CHRI’s work, the IAP has intensified CHRI’s focus on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), where it is monitoring and analysing the performance of Commonwealth members and pressing for greater accountability and engagement. IAP is also developing work on SDG 16 and supporting the London Office on developing SDG 8.7 work. Since 2018, CHRI has also focused on the human rights concerns in small island developing states (SIDS), to bring them under greater international scrutiny and aid.
CHRI has been working towards building the capacity of civil society organizations in these countries and promote their engagement with international mechanisms.
Our research is aimed at providing, among other things, simpler data on compliance of international human rights commitments by Commonwealth countries, their performance at international fora and gaps between international standards and ground level human rights condition at home. Our research output is relevant for both local civil society and governments, as well as researchers, policy makers and academicians. CHRI has been represented at the HRC by Mr. Yashasvi Nain, IAP Programme Lead, and Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director.
Research since August 2018:
IAP advocates for and connects issues addressed by the A2J and A2I teams to the international level. It has a broad spectrum of focus and strategically chooses topical, current and critical issues that are linked with CHRI’s work such as human rights defenders, freedom of expression, torture, arbitrary detention, peaceful assembly and civil society space.
IAP organised regular events to further its advocacy and strengthen civil society partnerships. These activities seek to build CHRI’s international profile, and get participation from civil society leaders, human rights experts, Commonwealth member states, Commonwealth secretariat and senior UN staff. These events have looked to make CHRI a familiar name in international human rights network and showcase its research and programmatic output to a larger audience. Events organised in the reporting period include:
Representatives from Maldivian civil society, including journalists, lawyers, ex-police officers and human rights defenders addressed Indian media, civil society and foreign policy groups about alarming human rights developments in Maldives and risk to democracy in the upcoming elections. The programme also focused in India’s role and policy.
CHRI co-organized and moderated the panel discussion on the situation in Cameroon and Nicaragua at a side event during the 39th session of the Human Rights Council. The discussion was held between Joseph Desire Zebaze of Cameroon Network of Human Rights Organizations, Nkongho Felix Agbor of the Centre for Human rights and Democracy in Africa, and Leila Swan of Human Rights Watch. The panelists discussed the challenges in the implementation of prevention of human rights violations as an integral part of the Council’s mandate in the light of the HRC Resolution 38/18. The event was attended by many civil society organizations, media and diplomats.
CHRI organized this side event during the 39th session of the Council, along with the Commonwealth Secretariat and in partnership with the governments of Australia, The Bahamas and Fiji. The speakers for the panel discussion included H.E. Ms. Nazhat Shameem Khan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Fiji to the UN in Geneva; Ms. Elizabeth Wilde, Deputy Head of the Permanent Mission of Australia to the UN in Geneva; and Mr Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The Representative of The Bahamas also addressed the attendees. This event also had an interactive question and answer session after the speaker presentations.
CHRI published the edition of the Easier Said Than Done (ESTD) based on the performance of seven Commonwealth States in the 38th session of the HRC at this side event. The ambassadors and permanent representatives of United Kingdom and Australia and diplomats of Rwanda and Pakistan, actively participated in the discussion, along with Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika, and Mr. Yashasvi Nain, the author of the report, who highlighted key concerns in the study. The representatives of the concerned states welcomed and appreciated the CHRI review and supported the civil society scrutiny of their human rights records.
CHRI, along with the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), People’s Watch, Quill Foundation, the International Commission of Jurists and Project 39 A from the National Law University, Delhi, conducted the conference “On Strengthening Legal Protection Against Torture in India” with nearly 80 experts, lawyers, academics, journalists, and activists.
CHRI organized this panel discussion at the 40th session of the HRC in collaboration with CIVICUS, Amnesty International, FORUM-ASIA, Franciscans International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Commission of Jurists, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism and International Service for Human Rights. Human rights defenders from Sri Lanka: Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu from the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Ms. Shyamala Gomez from the Centre for Equality and Justice (CEJ) and Mr. Senaka Perera from the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, described the progress and challenges in implementing HRC resolution 30/1. The event also heard testimonies about some ongoing cases in the country.