The 2020 Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform addressed the connectivity between regional and global human rights mechanisms.
In plenary panels and dedicated working-groups participants – experts, practitioners, diplomats, civil society representatives, members of global and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as the staff of international organizations – notably discussed the overall effectiveness of these interactions, including in a number of specific policy areas like climate change, the fight against corruption or the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Addressing the question of connectivity between the global and regional levels – and ways to improve it – is key to ensure that the overall human rights framework continues to function as a whole and provides protection to victims’ says Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.
‘As pointed by Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in his opening remarks, this issue is not new but it hasn’t’ received the attention it deserves. This conference not only served to have a dialogue between the global, regional and national levels but also to point to things that work and to those that need improvement. We have now plenty of material to go forward’ he adds.
Participants highlighted a growing practice of mutual inspiration in norm development – notably in the area of soft-law via UN General Comments – as UN treaty bodies draw inspiration from regional jurisprudence, which in specific areas is further developed than in global treaties.
The discussion notably pointed to the recent joint statements issued by regional Courts and Commissions on their intentions to cooperate in general, as well as on particular issues, such as the impact COVID and related measures on human rights in Africa. It also referred to official cooperation and new MoUs between the Commissions and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
‘These constitute a promising framework for enhanced cooperation. Regional and global mechanisms as well as other stakeholders – like the Geneva Human Rights Platform – must now fill these with practical activities and substance’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier.
The discussion also highlighted concrete areas for improvement, including enhanced coherence in the jurisprudence of the various mechanisms and stronger connections at the inter-personal level via staff exchanges and joint meetings.
Exchanges also pointed to areas needing further exploration, including the cooperation and mutual reinforcement of the mechanisms in relation to the national implementation of international obligations, as well as the linking of jurisprudence databases and sharing of information of national implementation records.
‘Our platform has a strong record of accomplishment in these areas, and we will upscale our activities to address these issues in 2021’ explains Felix Kirchmeier
The panel on environmental law offered a fascinating reflection on the engagement between the different national, regional and international courts and tribunals on environmental protection and human rights, as well as on specific topical issues such as the recognition of the right to a healthy environment, states’ obligations to regulate the private sector, and issues of standing, causation and scientific evidence.
‘Although important steps are being taken, the ‘old structure’ of human rights organs is not very well fitted to capture the challenges raised by environmental issues in terms of proof and evidence, attribution, causal nexus, etc. In light of this, regular exchanges between the different regional and global human rights mechanisms, as well as with scholars and civil society, are all the more relevant’ explains Domenico Zipoli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
The conference’s panels and working-groups have been organized with a wide range of partners, including civil society organizations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Un-Habitat and academic institutions.
‘It is important for us to work with a broad range of partner institutions who bring their knowledge, experts and network around specific topics. I am very grateful to all our partners for their involvement and for making this conference a success’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier.
With more than 400 registered participants – both online and in Geneva – the conference brought all the relevant stakeholders in the discussions around connectivity of human rights mechanisms.
‘The situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic offered us the opportunity to hold this important event both online and in Geneva. While we regret not having all our panelists with us in the room, this also gave us the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience beyond Geneva’ says Felix Kirchmeier.
For those who want to watch or re-watch specific discussions of the conference, the videos of the opening, plenaries and working-groups will be published on the Geneva Human Rights Platform’s website, as well as on the Geneva Academy’s social media channels.
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