Statement delivered by Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Eritrea, on Human Rights Day 2016Dec 9, 2016
Honorable Ministers, senior PFDJ officials, government officials, ambassadors, heads of missions and international organizations, members of diplomatic corps, UN colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the United Nations in Eritrea, I am honoured to be part of this important event and to say a few words. I am really pleased to note that the theme of today’s photo exhibition is about the role of women and gender mainstreaming.
Human rights are; commonly understood as those inalienable fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being," They are "inherent in all human beings" regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and and all the time and they are being universal. It is an obligation on all persons to respect the human rights of others.
Many of the basic ideas that animated the human rights movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of The Holocaust, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 in Paris. The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of what many people believe to be the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is in this spirit that all counties mark and commemorate the human rights day every year. In Eritrea the EU organises such an event annually and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the EU delegation for this important activity. The UN hope to partner further with the EU in human rights related programs. The UN’s partnership with the Government of Eritrea’s and engagement on human rights has been ongoing for some time as we mainstream human rights in various programs.
In addition, the UN has supported the country to engage with two important global human rights mechanisms.
The first is through the UN Country Team’s support of the GOE on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the second is engagement through the OHCHR on advocacy around protection and promotion of human rights but also through technical assistance in a number of areas.
The OHCHR have made a number of fact-finding missions to Eritrea in the last two years, requested by the GoE, and carried out trainings course on human rights, UPR and introduction to international human rights conventions, treaties and processes. The focus in 2016 has been to strengthen discussions on the substantive areas and to develop greater cooperation between the GoE and OHCHR and the greater UN family in terms of technical assistance on these areas.
I would like to clarify more on what the UPR is about. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process, which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to “peer review” each other and for States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and what they do to overcome challenges impending the enjoyment of human rights of their citizens. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe.
Currently, the UPR is in its second cycle (2012-2016) of reviews and the Working Group on the UPR for Eritrea adopted its report at its 17th meeting on 6 February 2014 detailing some two hundred recommendations for the GoE to implement in order to improve the human rights situation in the country.
The State of Eritrea has participated fully in the process and reiterated their support for the UPR process, they have accepted ninety-two of the reommendations.
The challenge now for the GoE, is to implement the accepted recommendations in a timely manner and to be able to regularly report to the Working Group on its progress. Although the GoE has already begun implementation in certain areas, they requested the cooperation and support of the UNCT in mid-2015 to help speed-up the implementation of the accepted recommendations and we have developed a programme to support the GoE’s efforts.
The programme will have four distinct elements to it.
I. Support in strengthening Eritrean institutions, to engage and implement UPR recommendations in follow up process.
II. Support in mainstreaming human rights to identify and implement specific programmatic initiatives through which the UNCT can work with the GoE to enhance efforts in mainstreaming human rights across GoE’s line ministries.
III. Support on advocacy of human rights specifically in the areas of building the GoE’s capacities in strategic communications on human rights, report writing, research and monitoring and evaluation of human rights implementation across GoE line ministries.
IV. Greater coordination and information sharing between the UNCT and GoE on human rights to ensure mainstreaming efforts remain effective and continuously reviewed through joint events, regular coordination meetings, external forums, roundtables and workshops.
The UNCT hope to partner with the government, the donors to deliver the program. I am glad to announce that the government of Norway, Sweden and Swiss have already committed to support the UN program on human rights and we are in discussions with the EU to find common areas of partnership.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In supporting and strengthening Eritrean human rights institutions, line ministries, non-state actors and national civil associations, we note that they need increased capacities in both technical knowledge and the human capacity in terms of manpower to ensure HR implementation within their respective ministries. Currently, these bodies combine to make the backbone of institutional capacity in the area of human rights in Eritrea and it is through these bodies that all human rights programming is being delivered and UPR recommendations implemented.
Providing support on human rights in the above areas to the GoE is an essential element in supporting a long-term commitment to human rights in Eritrea. In the immediate-short term, the UNCT will provide the necessary support and capacity to successfully carry out implementation of the accepted UPR recommendations.
In the longer term however, UNCT support is aimed at establishing a firm foundation upon which a greater human rights architecture can be developed thereby strengthening Eritrea’s commitment to human rights and ensuring it remains an integral part of Eritrea’s national priorities.
While the opportunities to support the GoE and the work on human rights in country is wide-ranging, we all know there are also significant challenges to be noted and must be addressed. The UN pledges to continue its support to Eritrea to deal with the challenges.
Previously the United Nations has supported organization of side events on human rights, on gender mainstreaming and MDGs. Such events will continue on various topics – especially those related to SDGs and human rights in order to ensure continued advocacy on this important subject.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In conclusion, I would like to say that work around human rights is a processes that evolves. It cannot be accomplished through a single project but it’s a process that takes root over time.
The existence of Eritrea as a nation is based on the quest for human rights therefore the UN and partners will continue to accompany the country and the people of Eritrea as they strengthen and enhance their human rights obligations.