International Advocacy and Programming
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, and 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:
- Engagement with the HRC and its mechanisms, including advocacy and human rights capacity building for Commonwealth Small States
- Research and advocacy on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 16 and 8.7
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 Target 8.7 in the Commonwealth. Target 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’ our 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 organisations in these countries and promoting their engagement with international mechanisms.
UN Advocacy: Recent submissions done at the Human Rights Council or General Assembly sessions / Special Procedures:
- 27 March 2023: Side event at the UNECE Regional Forum for Sustainable Development. CHRI, along with Action for Sustainable Development, organised a side event at the UNECE Regional Forum for Sustainable Development Monday 27 March 2023 to explore innovative partnerships and case studies of effective engagement to deliver the promise of the 2030 Agenda
- 15 February 2023: UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Joint submission on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change
- 31 October 2022: OHCHR: Joint submission on the adverse impact of forced marriage on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by women and girls
- 15 September 2022: Regional Advocacy: Joint statement on the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery on his mission to Sri Lanka
- 9 March 2023: Global Supply Chains & Covid-19: Exposing Exploitation In The Personal Protective Equipment Sector In Malaysia And Australia: This report examines the exploitative working conditions amongst businesses involved in PPE production in Malaysia, and highlights the inadequate state and private sector responses to detect and remedy abuses or prosecute crimes related to labour exploitation and slavery-like practices. It also examines the anti-slavery safeguards under the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018, and finds that despite its provisions, some Australian businesses continued to trade with suppliers widely reported to be in breach of human rights standards in Malaysia. The report also provides a number of recommendations, to address the challenges of eradicating forced labour and slavery-like practices in supply chains.
- 20 December 2022: Children, Not Workers: Community Based Responses To Child Labour In The Wake Of The Covid-19 Pandemic: This report showcases efforts by a range of stakeholders, including governments, civil society organisations, and communities, to address the risks and increase of child labour caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in three Commonwealth countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, and Sri Lanka. The three cases studies in the report show how governments, businesses, unions, civil society organisations, young people’s associations, and community leaders can work together to tackle child labour - an aim that is integral to setting the Commonwealth on the path to sustainable development.
- 15 March 2023: Rwanda: Questionable Trial After Journalist’s Death - CHRI joined Civil Society Organisations around the world to urge the Rwandan authorities to allow an independent, impartial and effective investigation into the death of the Rwandan journalist John Williams Ntwali. The first appeal was issued in January 2023, while a call reiterating the same after a questionable trial was issued in March 2023.
- 13 March 2023: Commonwealth Day: The three offices of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative issued a joint statement urging Member States to take stock of their commitments on human rights, good governance and the rule of law, and work together to ensure the realisation of human rights across the Commonwealth.
- 8 March 2023: International Women’s Day The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Commonwealth 8.7 Network issued a joint statement calling upon Commonwealth Member States to bridge the digital gender gap and ensure that women across the Commonwealth are able to reap the benefits of digital technologies.
- 10 December 2022: Human RIghts Day : CHRI issued a statement calling on Commonwealth leaders to take strong steps to demonstrate their commitment to international peace, security, democracy, rule of law, and the human rights of all people.
- 2 November 2023: International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists: The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) calls on Commonwealth leaders to take strong steps to ensure the safety of journalists, end impunity for crimes against them, and work together to preserve the freedom of the press.
PAST RESEARCH AND EVENTS
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 conditions at home. Our research output is relevant for both local civil society and governments, as well as researchers, policy makers and academicians.
Research since August 2018:
- CHRI published an edition of the Easier Said Than Done (ESTD) series in September 2018 based on the 38th session of the HRC. This edition scrutinised the performance of 7 Commonwealth members (Australia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa and the United Kingdom) by evaluating their engagement with the Council and analysing if their voting behaviour in support of resolutions was consistent with their voluntary pledges and commitments to the HRC.
- Under the ‘HRC Monitor’ launched to provide weekly updates, CHRI disseminated three newsletters during the 39th session of the HRC, from 10th - 28th September, providing information and updates on the activities of the Commonwealth members at the session. The CHRI also disseminated a newsletter on the Commonwealth activity at UPR 31 from 5th - 15th November.
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.
- Human Rights Council, Geneva: CHRI actively participated in the 39th (September 2018) and 40th (Feb-March 2019) HRC sessions and utilised its mechanisms: UPR and Special Procedures for advocacy.
- 39th HRC session: CHRI addressed emerging human rights tensions in the Commonwealth and made oral and written submissions concerning the crackdown of political opponents and critics, and shrinking civil society space in Bangladesh; the ongoing Anglophone crisis causing alarming instability in Cameroon; and Australia’s offshore processing and detention policies, and its treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. CHRI called upon the Council to take immediate notice of the situation, urged both Bangladesh and Cameroon governments to uphold the rule of law; to take measures to protect human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in particular; and to take measures for immediate implementation of the recommendations accepted at their UPR.
- UN Special Procedures: CHRI engaged with UN Special Procedures on specific country concerns which the headquarters and regional offices are working on. Regarding the case of Bangladeshi journalist, Shahidul Alam, CHRI made urgent action appeals to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and urged them to take urgent action and ensure his release and to ensure that he is not subjected to any kind of torture or ill-treatment, has regular access to his family, legal aid, and adequate medical care. These experts issued a statement on the matter 3 days after CHRI’s submission.
- Commonwealth: CHRI regularly raises critical human rights issues in the Commonwealth with the Commonwealth Secretariat, Secretary General’s office and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). CHRI sent letters to the SG concerning the Rohingya crisis, freedom of opinion in Bangladesh, and Small State concerns in Geneva. CHRI closely monitored human rights developments in Cameroon, and continues advocacy with relevant UN bodies and Cameroon Network of Human Rights Organisations (CNHRO). In September, CHRI, along with 27 leading civil society organizations, submitted a joint letter to the CMAG bringing attention to indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, detention without recourse to justice and torture in Cameroon and urged them to add Cameroon to their formal agenda to discuss these persistent violations of the shared principles by Cameroon.
- Joint Letters and Appeals: CHRI actively monitors the human rights situations in the Commonwealth and makes submissions and appeals to the concerned international bodies.
- In September 2018, CHRI and partner organizations sent a joint appeal to the UN member states urging them to refrain from voting for candidates that are unfit for the membership of the HRC in accordance with the standards outlined in the UNGA resolution 60/251.
- In November 2018, CHRI sent a joint letter to Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on deteriorating human rights situation in Bangladesh calling for the attention of the OHCHR and other UN human rights bodies and to conduct a visit to the country.
- In February 2019, CHRI along with 54 other international human rights groups sent a joint letter to the UN member states to explicitly demand the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders and to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country, as a result of which Iceland delivered its first-ever joint statement on Saudi Arabia, signed by 36 States, calling for the release of the defenders (by name) and condemning Khashoggi killing. CHRI was a part of the group addressing this issue, despite Saudi Arabia not being a Commonwealth Country because it believes that this issue requires cross-regional support from international NGOs.
- Maldives: CHRI supported a delegation of human rights advocates and journalists from Maldives in Delhi to raise concerns about ongoing developments in Maldives and their advocacy with the media and Delhi based embassies. CHRI facilitated their meetings with the EU, Australia and the Canadian missions, and the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA). CHRI also organised a roundtable discussion on developments in the Maldives with media and civil society.
- Anti-torture Advocacy: CHRI has continued anti-torture advocacy in India by actively engaging with governmental institutions as well as the civil society.
- Anti-torture Conference, October 2018: CHRI co-organized the conference which aimed at mobilizing the civil society and advocating for a stronger legal framework against torture in India.
- NHRC Consultation, November 2018: CHRI also participated in National Human Rights Commission’s consultation, where it discussed concerns regarding the existing anti-torture legislation.
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:
- Roundtable Discussion on Human Rights in Maldives - August 2018, Delhi
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.
- Panel discussion on “Applying the Council's Prevention Mandate: Crises in Cameroon and Nicaragua’ - September 2018, Geneva
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.
- Discussion on “Civil Society Space in the Commonwealth – a series of discussions to share good practices and identify challenges” - September 2018, Geneva
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.
- Discussion on “Commonwealth at the HRC: Promoting Accountability and Human Rights” – September 2018, Geneva
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.
- Anti-Torture Conference, New Delhi - October 2018
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.
- Discussion on “Role of Parliament on Sri Lanka in Protecting Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law”, Geneva - November 2018
- Discussion on "Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka", Geneva - February 2019
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.