“Sometimes it is almost unfathomable how mankind has come so far and has achieved so much, and yet, at the same time, is unable to expunge and overcome the primitive and inhumane character that still exists within certain fragments of the human population…it goes without saying that national human rights institutions have a tremendous responsibility.”
Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, was addressing participants at the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI), which is taking place ahead of the Commonwealth leaders’ summit. He opened the session by acknowledging recent events that have shaken the world, bringing the role of national institutions to promote and protect human rights into sharp focus.
The CFNHRI meeting, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, is taking place in Malta from 23 to 25 November. Participants from around 20 countries will address priorities and review progress on areas of work, such as preventing and ending child marriage.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Josephine Ojiambo, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General underscored the essential work these institutions carry out to improve human rights standards and reinforced the Commonwealth’s role to support them.
She said: “We clearly see the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions as giving profound expression to our shared values of freedom and respect for human rights. We will continue to be involved in a range of initiatives with these institutions.”
Participants discussed the magnitude of challenges ahead in light of escalating attacks carried out by violent extremist groups, deepening conflict and the worsening migration crisis.
The meeting provided an opportunity to exchange experiences of promoting and protecting human rights in existing and emerging areas of concern in the Commonwealth, including freedom of expression, association and assembly, and child marriage in efforts to take forward the Kigali Declaration.
They also discussed institutional challenges such as funding cuts for National Human Rights Commissions.
Over the course of three days, participants will agree on a set of priorities to take forward their mandate. They will submit their outcomes, including a declaration on climate justice, to Commonwealth leaders when they gather for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting from 27 to 29 November.
The CFNHRI is an informal and inclusive body of Commonwealth Institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights and other national accountability mechanisms with a human rights mandate. These institutions play an important role in ensuring that internationally accepted human rights standards result in improved human rights on the ground in their respective countries.
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