Human Rights Day 2012: Countries push each other to protect human rights
For the last four years, countries around the globe have been reviewing each other’s human rights records. This process is known as the universal periodic review, which started in 2008.
It is the only global human rights mechanism based on peer review and full national ownership.
During the Review, countries are invited to ask questions, seek clarifications, praise or criticize human rights policies of the country under review, and make recommendations to improve their human rights situation. Governments then follow up on agreed upon recommendations.
UNDP is working with national partners in the region as they follow up on recommendations made by other countries to improve human rights in their respective countries.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, UNDP is helping to bring together governments, civil society organizations and experts to strengthen their cooperation, and make it easier for them to discuss and address recommendations.
"This year saw steps to protect people living with HIV/AIDS, and empower those with intellectual disabilities," said UN Resident Coordinator in Moldova Nicola Harrington-Buhay.
"The Government adopted an action plan to better include Roma people in all spheres of life. We witnessed a vibrant partnership among politicians, public officials, civil society and communities to combat violence against women."
Civil society organizations are encouraged to get involved in monitoring and reporting on how countries follow up on their human rights recommendations.
Georgia is focusing on issues related to criminal justice, and judicial discretion and independence, and is currently discussing effective mechanisms for monitoring human rights in Georgian prisons.
"We are determined to establish a system of prisons where human rights abuse can never happen again," said Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, Mr. Sozar Subari. "Public oversight is one of the best ways to achieve that."
Kazakhstan is promoting access to information. UNDP supported a legal study on the country’s draft law on access to information, and developed a distance learning course for judges.
In Serbia, over 3,000 people have rated their rights (in Serbian) on a new crowdsourcing website hosted on B92, a popular news site. The site is the brainchild of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and is supported by UNDP. (See: Update: Citizens rate their rights in Serbia)
The site poses a list of questions related to human rights issues identified during the universal period review.
National partners in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are looking for ways to increase employment for people with disabilities to further include them in society and address their higher than average rates of poverty. UNDP is supporting with recommendations for public policy measures that may improve job prospects for people with disabilities, based on successful experiences and practices in other countries.
To raise public awareness of the universal periodic review and human rights issues, students in Ukraine participated in a mock Review, and journalists participated in a seminar on how to best cover human rights issues.
In Ukraine, citizen engagement in the universal periodic review has increased tenfold since 2008 - the country's first Review. This triggered positive developments in the Government, which established a working group to prepare the a national report on human rights in the country. The Government also engaged in wider consultations with civil society compared to the first Review in 2008.
In Europe and Central Asia, all countries have already taken part in the first cycle of the review between 2008 and 2012. The follow-up is the most critical phase of the process because it focuses on the “improvement of the human rights situation on the ground."
10 December is International Human Rights Day, and marks the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
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