Remarks by Musinga T. Bandora- UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative at the training workshop on the international human rights system and reporting to the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies
On behalf of the United Nations in Namibia, allow me to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Justice for organizing this workshop to enhance the capacity of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Human Rights with respect to International Human Rights System and Reporting to the Human Rights Treaty Bodies.
The work of the UN is anchored in human rights. Human rights are the object and purpose of the United Nations. As we work across varied mandates, the community of agencies within the UN system finds common reference in promoting human development as defined in terms of human rights. We cooperate with governments and provide technical support to strengthen national human rights protection and promotion systems in the context of national development. We do so, in partnership with national Governments, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and other development partners.
In Namibia we have done so within the framework of successive cooperation frameworks since independence. Over the period, Namibia has made commendable progress towards institutionalising good governance, democracy and the rule of law. Many institutions have been established and policy and legal frameworks developed to promote and protect human rights. Namibia has ratified all the core international agreements related to protecting human rights
Notwithstanding this significant progress, the Namibia Universal Periodical Review report showed that challenges around the enactment of new legislation and accession to outstanding treaties, as well as strengthening human and social development systems remain obstacles to the full realisation of human rights in the country.
The Special Rapporteurs on the Human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, on Extreme Poverty, as well as on Indigenous Peoples who visited Namibia respectively during 2011and 2012 made similar observations. They commended the government for adopting a robust legal framework for the protection of human rights-across the board.
They all underlined however that challenges, including the absence of time-bound benchmarks, lack of effective accountability and monitoring mechanisms, as well as the substantial skills gap in service provision have resulted in inefficient government spending, in limited implementation of development programmes-which in turn constrained the enjoyment by the majority citizens of rights such as education, health, housing, land and social protection.
It is therefore commendable that the Government-through the Office of the Ombudsman, is working towards developing the National Human Rights Action Plan that will address these implementation gaps and identify comprehensive and measurable steps that the country needs to undertake- to improve, promote and protect human rights.
In this respect, the convening of this workshop is timely. As a newly elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Namibia is responding to its voluntary commitment and pledge to strengthen its national protection systems for the promotion and protection of human rights including through strengthening the treaty body system. Let me reiterate our congratulations to the government of Namibia for this well deserved election.
Ladies and gentlemen, this workshop provides a good opportunity for all stakeholders to increase knowledge on the operations of the international human rights system, and to improve skills for the preparations of periodic reports to the human rights treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review. It is important to emphasize that human rights reporting is not simply a treaty obligation. It provides an opportunity to countries to take stock of achievements in the field of human rights, and identify implementation gaps and challenges-upon which to build strategies to address them. It also serves to properly benchmark efforts and achievements and report them. Quite often countries are ranked low in their implementation of human rights instruments-not on the basis of actual poor performance-but simply on account of non-reporting. And the role of the UN is to provide expert support to States to do that.
Here in Namibia, our commitment to this supportive role, finds expression in the new Namibia-UN Partnership Framework- 2014-2018, which was signed and launched last year. This framework will be a catalyst for targeted programmatic responses at national level by the United Nations and other national and international actors in addressing among others, human rights. In the area of human rights, the framework commits us, working with government and other partners among others issues to ensure that:
1. Policies and legislative frameworks that promote and transparency, accountability and effective oversight over the management of public affairs are in place and being implemented,
2. That government and partners promote and protect human rights effectively,
3. That functional monitoring and evaluation and statistical analysis systems are in place to monitor and report on progress in human rights,
4. That Namibia complies with international treaties’ including meeting its accession and ratification, monitoring as well as reporting obligations
5. That implementation of human rights policies and programmes that improve learning outcomes at all levels is being realised in the country,
This workshop therefore, falls squarely within this mandate-of supporting Namibia build capacity for reporting on implementation of human rights treaties and conventions.
In this respect, I welcome the colleagues from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, both from Headquarters and the Regional Office in South Africa. I thank them for readily responding to the government request to provide technical support to this workshop. I also welcome the participation of other stakeholders such as civil society and United Nations staff. All of us have a role to play in promoting human rights in this country and helping Namibia fulfil its reporting responsibility to international human rights mechanisms.
I wish you successful deliberations and training.