Human Rights Defenders and Journalists from Ten Countries Gathered in Kyiv to Discuss Cooperation in Human Rights Protection
21-22 March 2013, Kyiv – The International Conference BUILDING BRIDGES: COLLABORATIVE NETWORKS AND INTERNATIONAL MECHANISMS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION brought to Kyiv over 140 human rights defenders, journalists, representatives of human rights commissioners, and public officials from 10 countries. Despite having a regional focus on the CIS countries – represented by the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan – delegates from Poland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark, and Great Britain also joined the event. The Forum is organized by the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine and supported by the British Embassy in Kyiv and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Helsinki Human Rights Union became the human rights partners, Human Rights Information Center acted as an informational partner, and the Ukrainian Association of Press Publishers was the media partner.
One and a half day-long event did not only target urgent issues in human rights area pertinent to the Region, but also tried to explore mechanisms for a closer cooperation between human rights activists and media specialists. While the role of CSOs in the promotion and protection of human rights has long been recognized, the significance of the journalists community as a system of “checks and balances” for human rights observance has been less acknowledged.
Free independent and pluralistic media are a core element of any functioning democracy. In addition to disseminating information, the media educate and shape opinions, and in order to fulfill these roles effectively, networks are necessary both within the human rights – oriented journalist community and between the civil society, and the media. Such interaction modes were specifically targeted during the Day 1 of the Conference.
The second event day was focusing on the use of international mechanisms in the area of human rights protection. In recent years, a new UN mechanism – the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – has been established to allow for a review of human rights issues between states. This instrument enables to receive critical feedback on human right issues from other states, and to review and adopt some of the good practices that other countries have tried for themselves.
The Ambassador of Great Britain to Ukraine Mr. Simon Smith: “Due to such mechanism as the Universal Periodic Review, we are able to overcome a lot of obstacles that existed in the past. Now, UN Member States may assess the situation with human rights and issue recommendations to their peers. Countries are to listen to each other and accept criticism”.
While being primarily a peer review instrument involving states, the opportunities the UPR offers to advance human rights protection can only be realized to their full extent through the involvement and mobilization of national human rights institutions, local grass-root organizations, and the media community. These issues were targeted during the Day 2 of the Conference.
In her key note address Ms. RicardaRieger, UNDP Country Director, stressed that Ukraine’s experience in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review is drastically different from that of the first cycle. The number of CSOs that participated in the UPR Stakeholders Reports submissions as well as national UPR consultations grew tenfold. The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, in their turn, initiated and organized wide public consultations, while UNDP became a catalyst in facilitating the process of effective dialogue among various stakeholders. “Human rights is a prize which may be obtained as a result of sustainable development. It is a necessary prerequisite that makes sustainable development impossible without accounting for them”, maintained Ms. Rieger.
For more information, please contact Eugene Zelenko, UNDP Communications Officer via Yevgeniy.Zelenko@undp.org or by calling +38044 254-0035.