5-6 June 2012, New York, United States— The UNITAR New York Office and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized the fourth annual Orientation Programme for Diplomats on Human Rights at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa in New York. The course gathered over thirty diplomats with the aim of enhancing their understanding of the United Nations human rights protection system. It covered the historical evolution of human rights and their normative framework. It analyzed the intergovernmental mechanisms for human rights protection, specifically the roles of the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the Security Council on human rights issues. The programme also highlighted the international human rights treaty bodies, notably the specific mechanisms of protection and their current challenges. It finally insisted on human rights mainstreaming in the United Nations system. Presenting the OHCHR mandate, Maarit Kohonen (Deputy Head of Office, OHCHR) reminded the OHCHR commitment to human rights promotion and recalled the delegates that her Office was at their disposal to provide information and answer questions related to this field.

Human Rights TrainingThe principles of equality and non-discrimination are cross-cutting principles in international human rights law. The course particularly emphasized that human rights are universal and inalienable, as well as indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. James Turpin (Human Rights Officer, OHCHR) remarked that all human rights treaties should be seen as part of a single and whole system, which is able to adapt to any given circumstance and at any given time.

 Notwithstanding this, the present international human rights treaty body system needs to be improved. A speaker stressed that the current reporting system, fragmented into different treaty bodies, creates a workload that is too heavy for the States parties, which, in the end, discourages them to present annual reports. To this end, the General Assembly adopted, on 23 February 2012, the Resolution 66/254, which aims to strengthen and enhance the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system.

Likewise, the United Nations is working on mainstreaming human rights issues in its everyday development strategies. By doing so, as Nouhoum Sangare (Human Rights Officer, OHCHR) pointed out, we could finally see a shift from charity to a rights’ perspective. This approach, based on the idea of the protection of human dignity, identifies the States (and the international community as a whole) as the duty-bearers and fosters accountability, thus promoting the realization of human rights.

In this regard, Mr. Ivan Simonovic (Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights) concluded the programme by highlighting the need of incorporating more rigorous criteria on human rights within the UN system, especially in peacekeeping operations.