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Commonwealth to host a series of human rights events in Geneva

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit will be holding three events in Geneva this week to promote the role of parliamentarians, parliaments and civil society organisations in advancing human rights within the Commonwealth.

They will be based on the Commonwealth Charter’s recognition of civil society as a key partner in achieving development goals. This was echoed at the most recent meeting of Commonwealth leaders in April 2018, which “acknowledged the role of civil society organisations, including women’s rights organisations’” as essential for democracy and sustainable development.

The first event will be the Geneva launch of the publication 'The Global Implementation Agenda: the role of national parliaments’ in partnership with Universal Rights Group, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Inter-Parliamentary Union and the British Institute Of International and Comparative Law.  It will be held on 21 November 2018 at the Commonwealth Small States Office and will emphasise the role of parliamentarians in implementing the human rights commitments that their countries have made.

The publication analyses parliamentary engagement with the universal human rights system, including national implementation of international obligations. It also showcases and assesses Commonwealth contributions in this area, providing a template for best practice and knowledge sharing.

Directly following the publication launch, the Commonwealth Secretariat, Universal Rights Group and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative will host a roundtable discussion on ‘Civil Society Space in the Commonwealth: Engendering a strong relationship between Parliamentarians and Civil Society’. This is the second in a series of discussions on the importance of civil society organisations within the Commonwealth, which the Commonwealth Secretariat began in September this year.  

The series aims to:

  • highlight the frameworks and international obligations pertinent to this issue;
  • share case studies from civil society and member states;
  • commemorate the anniversaries of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • share country-level best and good practices;
  • and shed light on the need to continue to promote and protect space for civil society and human rights defenders.

The final event will be a roundtable on 'The positive outcomes and impacts of a strengthened relationship between parliaments and national human rights institutions – a Commonwealth perspective' and will be hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat's Human Rights Unit, in partnership with the governments of Australia and Fiji. It will take place on 23 November in the margins of the United Nations Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.

This side-event seeks to bring together Commonwealth parliamentary human rights champions and NHRIs to share outcomes and challenges relating to the strengthened relationship between parliaments and ‘A’ rated accredited NHRIs in Kenya.

The roundtable will facilitate a constructive dialogue on the existing model of cooperation under the Belgrade Principles - which aim to improve cooperation between NHRIs and parliaments. It will also identify practical strategies to deal with issues arising from the absence of NHRIs.