A woman crocheting on the side of the Peace and Peaceful Coexistence Festival in Darfur, Sudan. UNDP supported the establishment of three new branches of the Sudan National Human Rights Commission in North Darfur and Eastern Sudan. - © UN Photo/Mohamad Almahady

Human Rights Systems

Human rights constitute an important and objective tool to understand and address the inherent power issues underlying most contemporary development challenges. The establishment of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can have a significant impact on the reduction of human rights violations, especially in some of the most grievous incidences. UNDP engages with NHRIs as key actors for human rights promotion and protection. NHRIs are independent state institutions that advise the government, the judiciary, parliament as well as security and law enforcement on human rights, and play a crucial role in bridging accountability gaps where other justice oversight and complain systems fail. UNDP applies a human rights-based approach to development and crisis-related programming, and together with our partners UNDP supports country-level implementation of Universal Periodic Review and Treaty Body recommendations, by mainstreaming recommendations throughout development planning processes.

Support to National Human Rights Systems

Providing support to strengthen national human rights systems on a global scale, including the integration of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and treaty body recommendations into national development plans is an integral part of the Global Programme’s work.

Through our Tri-Partite Partnership (TPP) to support NHRIs, together with our key strategic partners in the UN Human Rights Office and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, UNDP continued to strengthen the capacities of NHRIs. The TPP leverages the respective mandates, expertise, and operations of its partners – and their regional networks – to support NHRIs around the world, and since its establishment in 2011 has helped to strengthen and promote coherence in international support for NHRIs, thereby enhancing the impact and sustainability of our efforts. 2019 was a significant year and saw the TPP being operationalized programmatically in Africa. This was achieved through joint initiatives to support the NHRIs of Mali and The Gambia to fulfil their mandate in areas such as strategic planning, improving response capacity to human rights violations, reporting to human rights mechanisms, and civil society engagement. 

Within the Sustainable Development Goals indicator system, fully accredited NHRI’s are recognized as an indicator of progress and their existence accelerates progress across the Agenda. In 2019, with the partnership of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), the NHRIs of Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, and Mauritania received support to navigate the internationally recognized accreditation process for NHRIs, a process which is based on the Paris Principles. The TPP also provided support to the African Union - NANHRI Policy Forum on the State of African NHRIs, specifically on their contribution to durable solutions for forced displacements in the region. This provided an opportunity for 42 NHRIs to share experiences and lessons learned and to engage with AU Permanent Representative Committee members and other international bodies. A joint AU - NANHRI Action Plan was adopted on the role of NHRIs in durable solutions for displacement in Africa, which includes recommendations on data gathering and analysis, developing national laws and policies and human rights monitoring. 

In 2020, NHRIs have become a critical part of the societal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including through the monitoring of rights restrictions imposed by emergency measures, and engagement in policy formulation to ensure rights-based responses. The TPP is adapting its support to these new and urgent needs, including by enhancing the remote functionality of NHRIs and sharing best practices.