03.1 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at CSW

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NHRIs are currently not recognised in their own right (as they are at the UN Human Rights Council based in Geneva) and therefore need to register as either an NGO or be part of a government delegation to attend CSW. This situation is inconsistent with their recognised independent status and limits the ability of NHRIs to effectively contribute to CSW on women’s human rights and gender equality.

NHRIs, established in accordance with the Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions (referred to as the Paris Principles)  which were adopted by the Commission on Human Rights (1992/54) and General Assembly in 1993 (48/134), contribute to advancing the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and are a part of national institutional frameworks and accountability mechanisms for the advancement of women. Paris Principle-compliant (A-status) NHRIs are recognised by the UN as independent bodies established by national law and/or constitutions to promote and protect human rights. However, modalities to ensure the independent participation of NHRIs in New York-based UN mechanisms have not yet been established.

Since 2009, NHRIs have been advocating to have their independent status recognised by CSW and the campaign has now been extended to include the General Assembly. The campaign is led by the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) and the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions. The Australian Human Rights Commission is a member of the APF and is an active participant in this campaign. The Australian Government fully supports the independent recognition of NHRIs.  Paris Principle-compliant NHRIs at CSW have made Country Statements to CSW  to this effect. The Australian Government has also hosted informal meetings and, in 2011, co-hosted a Side Event at CSW on the issue of NHRIs with Armenia.

In June 2012 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a Resolution on NHRIs (sponsored by Australia and co-sponsored by 130 States) that stated the following in Paragraph 15:

‘Further welcomes the recognition by the Secretary-General of the contributions that national human rights institutions compliant with the Paris Principles have made to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, and supports and welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General to encourage national human rights institutions to continue to interact with and advocate for independent participation in all relevant United Nations mechanisms in accordance with their respective mandates’.

Since the campaign began in 2009, the CSW has now referenced NHRIs in several of its Agreed Conclusions. However, the independent recognition of Paris Principle-compliant NHRIs that will enable them to enjoy independent registration, allocated seating and the ability to submit written information and make oral interventions, is yet to be achieved.