Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Chief of Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, recalled that at the CEB fall 2011 session, Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the issue of human rights in development cooperation and emphasized the need for a principled, norm-based engagement by the UN system with Member States on human rights issues, as well as strengthened policy coherence across the UN system. The Board had thanked Ms. Pillay for her important statement and leadership and requested HLCP to help advance the relevant issues of policy coherence on human rights in the UN system, under the leadership of OHCHR. Mr. Mokhiber introduced a short note outlining a way forward to advance policy coherence on human rights within the context of HLCP.
He noted that the UN Charter established three pillars as the core of the organization’s work, namely, peace and security, economic and social progress and development, and human rights. The 2005 World Summit and all major conferences since had reaffirmed the inter-linkages among these three pillars and supported further integration of human rights in the work of the UN system.
He added that human rights had been considered as a cross-cutting issue in the work of all four Executive Committees of the UN Secretariat established at that time (EC-ESA, ECPS, ECHA and UNDG). While good progress had been achieved, there was a perceived need for more regular, policy-level discussions on human rights to further strengthen policy coherence and integrity across the UN system, based on the norms and standards of the Organization.
Mr. Mokhiber underscored that, given its mandate, HLCP would be a natural forum to further pursue human rights-based policy coherence in these fields. The OHCHR note proposed to include human rights and policy coherence as a standing agenda item of the HLCP in order to keep the Committee members informed and engaged on relevant developments on the ground in the UN human rights system. In addition the note suggested that HLCP could develop a rolling agenda for more in-depth discussion on selected thematic issues where strengthening of policy coherence was particularly important from human rights perspectives. The note also proposed the additional option of a small ad-hoc task team, led by OHCHR, which could be formed among interested HLCP member organizations in order to prepare for the discussion. Finally, it proposed the integration of human rights in joint CEB advocacy on development issues.
Members expressed overwhelming support for the inclusion of human rights concerns in the work of HLCP and CEB, in particular as an opportunity to deliver consistent advice to Member States. They noted the timeliness of the issue and supported coherence of the work of the UN system in this area. Some members suggested that consideration of human rights issues by HLCP should go beyond policy coherence and discuss emerging and difficult issues as well as the need to approach events beyond a strictly “enforcement” lens. Participants also fully endorsed the integration of human rights in joint CEB advocacy.
While noting that human rights issues were relevant to organizations of the UN system, participants cautioned against the creation of additional ad-hoc mechanisms to undertake such work. This was particularly important given consideration of human rights issues and concerns in other mechanisms and processes such as the quadrennial comprehensive policy review and the UNDG Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism. Some cautioned against placing a standing item on the Committee’s agenda and suggested that issues be taken up as and when warranted.
The importance of taking account of the particularities of operational, humanitarian organizations working in very difficult political environments was stressed. Some participants expressed the view that, in tabling agenda items relevant to human rights, the Committee would need to to respect the limitations inherent in the institutional mandates of some members. Others suggested the need to take into account concerns and sensitivities by Member States, such as those relating to conditionalities.
The Committee took note of the overwhelming support for the inclusion of human rights issues in the agenda of HLCP. It therefore agreed to include human rights policy coherence as a regular HLCP agenda item, as and when required, to discuss relevant human rights themes. In preparation of such discussions, it asked OHCHR to consult the membership when proposing themes. The Committee also agreed to more systematically integrate human rights in joint CEB advocacy statements and system-wide messages.