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Small States officials benefit from human rights briefing in New York

15 October 2018

Senior officials from Commonwealth small states have benefited from a roundtable human rights briefing, aimed at improving their ability to constructively engage with the international human rights system.

The briefing informed officials about the technical assistance on human rights that the Commonwealth provides to its member countries. It focused on key areas of support: complying with the Universal Periodic Review process, treaty-body reporting and establishing or strengthening National Human Rights Institutions in member countries.

It was the first such briefing delivered by the Commonwealth in New York. Officials from small states explored ways in which the Commonwealth could help them take a more active role in the UN Third Committee in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The discussion was particularly important to the Commonwealth small states without a presence in Geneva. 

For small states, the main impediment to maintaining a mission in Geneva is their limited financial and human resources, which limits their ability to engage on key UN resolutions and consultations. 

Ambassador Julian Braithwaite, the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, chaired the briefing session. He pledged the UK’s continued support to small states that want to have a presence in Geneva through the Commonwealth Small States Office.

He said, “We are considering new ways to exchange information and work together across the multilateral system that would allow the voice of the Commonwealth and its member countries to be heard.”

Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, appreciated the Commonwealth’s longstanding support for small states.

“The Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva has provided an invaluable support to small states, particularly in providing useful historical perspectives and analysis on climate change and human rights. The CSSO in New York should be able to play a similar role,” she said.

Officials concluded the roundtable by calling on the Commonwealth to provide human rights briefings ahead of the UN Third Committee and Human Rights Council sessions. 

Following the meeting, Karen McKenzie, Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth said, “Traditionally, we have provided briefings and technical support to small states through our office in Geneva. Through this first briefing in New York, member countries have noted that there needs to be better synergy between Geneva and New York. Going forward, we aim to deliver on that.”