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New publication maps parliaments’ role in realising human rights

5 November 2018

The Commonwealth has launched a publication that emphasises 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 showcases and assesses Commonwealth contributions in this area, providing a template for best practice and knowledge sharing.

The Global Human Rights Implementation Agenda: the role of national parliaments was authored by the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Universal Rights Group.

Speaking at the launch, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland described parliaments as catalysts that help people claim human rights domestically,and said: “Parliamentarians have a central part to play in the promotion and protection of human rights. This role fulfils an integral and most valuable function within the global human rights discourse, and with which the Commonwealth has long been prominently and deeply engaged.”

“The Commonwealth has been closely and actively involved in strengthening the role of parliaments in the work of the Human Rights Council. As one of the branches of government, and as a representative institution, parliament is best placed to give practical effect to human rights,” she added.

The report outlines the central role of parliaments as natural ‘guardians’ of universal human rights in line with their legislative powers, their role as debating chambers and their oversight function. It charts a way forward for their more constructive engagement in this movement of translating universal commitment to national practice.

Akbar Khan, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association also spoke at the launch. He said: “Parliaments are the cornerstone of a national protection system and they play a critical role in ensuring a state’s compliance with their international human rights obligations while critically sharing responsibility with the other two branches of government to protect, respect and fulfil their human rights obligations.”

“It is very important for parliament, as encouraged in this publication, to step up and take part in the oversight and the preparation of the universal periodic reporting cycle and reporting under treaty bodies,” he added.

Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group, who co-authored the report, stated: “The Commonwealth has been in the forefront of promoting the role of parliamentarians in human rights promotion and protection”, noting that the Declarations from the Commonwealth’s regional parliamentary seminars are “historic first efforts to define the role of Parliaments vis-à-vis the human rights implementation agenda”.

 The Global Human Rights Implementation Agenda: the role of national parliaments publication