NEW HUMAN RIGHTS AND EQUALITY COMMISSION: CONSULTATION PROCESS
The Working Group on the establishment of the new, enhanced Human Rights and Equality Commission is seeking input and ideas from civil society, members of the public and those interested in the future of human rights and equality in Ireland, on key questions arising from their Terms of Reference (below). This consultation process will help to inform the Working Group’s consideration of the functions, features and priorities of the new Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The key questions we want to hear from you on are:
- What do you want the new body to do?
- What features and functions does it need to do these things?
- How should it be structured and what working methods should it use to achieve the above?
It is intended that the new Commission will be in place by the end of February 2012. As the Working Group has such a short timeframe for their work, the closing date for submissions is Wednesday, 23 November 2011 at 5.30pm.
Contributions should not exceed 1,500 words and may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information can be obtained from the Working Group’s Secretariat, Department of Justice and Equality, Floor 2, Bishop’s Square, Redmond’s Hill, Dublin 2. Tel. 01 4790225.
Details of the membership of the Working Group and its Terms of Reference are as follows:
Irish Human Rights Commission
Irish Human Rights Commission
Irish Human Rights Commission
Lia O Hegarty
Irish Human Rights Commission
Betty O Leary
Department of Justice & Equality
Special Adviser to Minister Shatter
Terms of Reference for the Working Group on the new Human Rights and Equality Commission (HREC)
The Government has decided that setting up a new, integrated and independent Human Rights and Equality Commission (HREC) is the most effective way of achieving the shared aim of bringing about a culture of respect for human rights and equality. The HREC will retain the statutory powers and duties of the existing bodies, for example, the power to examine legislative proposals.
The purpose of this group is:
1. To identify best practice in each organisation and the structure and process through which the HREC can ensure respect for human rights, equality, diversity and the freedom and dignity of the individual and the practices in each organisation, if any, that require change and the recommended changes.
2. To identify the functions and areas of work of the existing bodies to be merged; what new functions should be added and the functions, if any, that should cease.
3. To outline how the existing bodies consult with service users; the actions, if any, to be taken to broaden the base of service users; how such processes have fed into the work planning of each organisation and to recommend how these arrangements can be improved for the purposes of the HREC.
4. To advise on what new methods the HREC might employ in carrying out its functions of providing information, education and so forth in the light of the experience gained by both organisations, bearing in mind the overall economic position and the costs of campaigns run to date.
5. To examine the existing internal structures of both bodies and identify what changes are necessary in the HREC.
6. To recommend the best location for the HREC.
7. To advise on the best staffing arrangements bearing in mind:
· the Paris Principles;
· the need to ensure continuity of staff service;
· the need to ensure that the skills available to the Commission are appropriate and sufficiently flexible for the Commission to respond to new challenges while at the same time providing career development opportunities for staff.
· the overall current economic position and the limited resources of Government.
8. To advise on what would be the best practice for the HREC in devising specific objectives and what performance indicators should be used to measure the attainment of the objectives.
9. To advise on the best approaches or means to achieving change - for example making greater use of codes of practice or of strategic cases to achieve changes. Is there a view on which might achieve the greater outcome. Court cases tend to involve the State in one way or another. Would greater use of codes of practice be effective in wider society?
10. To advise on the best form of enquiry powers, and, in particular, to consider whether adopting the model used for Cloyne might be more effective than the current enquiry power.
Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council
Information for Ireland’s Review on 6 October 2011
What is the Universal Periodic Review mechanism?
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is one of the major innovations of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (established in 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights), whereby the domestic human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years. 48 countries are reviewed each year, starting in 2008, with 16 reviews taking place in each of the thrice yearly UPR Working Group sessions. Ireland will be one of the last 16 States to be reviewed. Ireland’s first review under UPR will take place on 6 October 2011.
This will be the first time that Ireland’s human rights record is reviewed by other UN Member States, rather than expert groups such as the UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies, for example, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Review will take place in a political/diplomatic context rather than on the basis of an expert examination based on international legal obligations, as in CERD for example. The reviews are conducted by the UPR Working Group, which consists of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council. However, any UN Member State, whether elected to the Council or not, can take part in the interactive dialogue (i.e. the actual examination of the State under review – in Ireland’s case 6 October 2011) and submit written questions in advance of the interactive dialogue. Each State’s review is facilitated by groups of three States from the UPR Working Group, known as the “troika”, who serve as rapporteurs. The selection of the troikas for each State review is done through a drawing of lots prior to each Working Group session. It is expected that Ireland will be represented at ministerial level at the Review, which will be held in the UN Office in Geneva, at the Palais des Nations.
The ultimate aim of the UPR mechanism is to improve the human rights situation on the ground in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.
What is the Government of Ireland required to do?
The Government will need to submit a National Report on its domestic human rights situation, to be used as a basis for the Review (max 20 pages) by 4 July 2011. The Human Rights Council has agreed general guidelines for States in the preparation of material for UPR, which suggest a broad outline and structure for the elaboration of national reports (these guidelines are annexed to this note). The National Report should recognise challenges and constraints and should outline commitments to overcome such challenges and constraints. As well as outlining existing legislation and international obligations, the report should also include voluntary commitments and pledges relating to the promotion and protection of human rights in Ireland.
The Government is required to hold a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders in preparation of the National Report. NGO consultation will play an important role in the preparation of our National Report. Our national consultation process will provide a formal opportunity for civil society to input to Ireland’s preparations and follow-up to UPR. As a first step in the public consultation process, the annual Department of Foreign Affairs NGO Forum on Human Rights, which took place on Friday 10th December 2010, had as its theme: “Ireland’s examination under the UPR mechanism on 6 October 2011”. For further information, please see www.dfa.ie/index.aspx/id=317.
What is the Review based on?
The Review is based on Ireland’s human rights obligations under UN human rights and other instruments (including the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, relevant UN human rights instruments to which Ireland is a party, applicable international humanitarian law, the Constitution, domestic laws, and any voluntary pledges and commitments made by Ireland).
The Review will be on the basis of three documents:
(i) a National Report (as mentioned above);
(ii) a compilation report prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups (known as the Special Procedures), human rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies and other UN entities; and
(iii) a report compiled by the OHCHR based on additional information provided by other stakeholders - NGOs, civil society and the Irish Human Rights Commission. This information is due by 21 March 2011.
Examples of the reports submitted by States already reviewed and other relevant documentation can be accessed via the following link: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRmain.aspx
What is the role of civil society? Can non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participate in the UPR process?
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights prepares a summary of information provided by relevant stakeholders (max 10 pages), one of the three documents on which the Review is based. NGOs can make submissions which can influence the stakeholders report. In the case of Ireland’s Review, this information is due on 21 March 2011, more than three months before the deadline for the submission of Ireland’s National Report. Any of the States taking part in the interactive dialogue during the review at the Working Group meeting can refer to information provided by NGOs. NGOs can also attend, but not speak at, the interactive dialogues, and make statements at the regular session of the Human Rights Council when the outcome of the State reviews are considered. A set of "technical guidelines for the submission of stakeholders” has been published by OHCHR.
The UPR process requires Ireland to consult with relevant stakeholders in the compilation of our National Report.
What is the role of the Irish Human Rights Commission?
The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is what is known as a “national human rights institution (NHRI)” and it has a role in the preparations for Ireland’s Review, envisaged under the agreed modalities of the UPR process. The IHRC’s role as a NHRI is distinct to that of NGOs. The IHRC will submit its own report in March 2011 for inclusion in the compilation of stakeholder information.
How will Ireland’s Review be conducted?
A three-hour interactive dialogue with Ireland will take place in Geneva on 6 October 2011 during the 12th UPR Working Group session. States are usually represented during this interactive dialogue by a Government Minister, supported by officials from a variety of Departments. As part of the review process, other UN Member States are given an opportunity to put written questions (to be submitted at least ten days in advance of the interactive dialogue) and oral questions and recommendations (during the interactive dialogue) to Ireland.
Although there are guidelines for the compilation of national reports (see para 3 above), these guidelines do not include a list of headings or themes for national reports. However the following list may be of help:
A. Cooperation with human rights mechanisms
B. Implementation of international human rights obligations
1. Equality and non-discrimination
2. Right to life liberty and security of the person
3. Administration of justice and the rule of law
4. Right to freedom of religion and belief
5. Right to practice in public and political life
6. Right to privacy, marriage and family life
7. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
8. Right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work
9. Right to social security and to an adequate standard of living
10. Right to health
11. Right to housing
12. Rights of the Child
13. Women’s Rights
15. Sexual rights
16. Human rights and counter-terrorism
17. Right to education
19. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
20. International cooperation
21. Situations particular to Ireland
Experience of other States to date suggests that 50-55 UN Member States will ask questions and will make more than 100 recommendations. The result of the Review will be reflected in an “Outcome Report”, prepared by the OHCHR, which will provide a summary of the discussion, including the questions, comments and recommendations made to Ireland, along with indications of those recommendations that Ireland has accepted at the interactive dialogue. Two days after the interactive dialogue, the HRC meets for half an hour to adopt the Outcome Report. The State under review has the opportunity to make preliminary comments on the recommendations, choosing to either accept or reject them. Both accepted and refused recommendations are included in the Report. After the Report has been adopted, editorial modifications can be made to the report by States on their own statements within two weeks.
The Report is finally and formally adopted at a plenary session of the Human Rights Council (in Ireland’s case, this is likely to take place at the 19th session of the Council in March 2012). During the plenary session, the State under review can reply to questions and issues that were not sufficiently addressed during the UPR Working Group and respond to recommendations that were raised by other States during the Review. Time is also allotted to member and observer States who may wish to express their opinion on the outcome of the Review and for NGOs and other stakeholders to make general comments. Only those NGOs recognised by the UN will be able to intervene in the final plenary session on Ireland’s performance at the UPR.
What steps are taken during the four years between reviews?
Primary responsibility for implementing the recommendations contained in the final outcome rests with the State. When a State’s second review takes place it must provide information on how it has been attempting to implement the recommendations made during its first review four years earlier.
Ireland is a State Party to the following human rights instruments:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm)
- International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cerd.htm)
- International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm)
- International Convention on the Rights of the Child (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm)
- International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment(http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html)
- UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/genocide.htm)
- Optional Protocol to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/pdf/ccpr-one.pdf)
- Optional Protocol 2 to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr-death.htm)
- Optional Protocol to International Convention on the Rights of the Child (Armed Conflict) (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-conflict.htm)
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/protocol/text.htm)
Ireland’s UPR – Key Dates
|Ireland’s UPR – Key Dates
|21 March 2011
||Deadline for Submission of Stakeholder Input
|4 July 2011
||Deadline for Submission of Ireland’s National Report
|6 October 2011
||Ireland’s Review in Geneva
|10 October 2011
||Adoption of the Outcome Report by the UPR Working Group
|March 2012 (TBC)
||Adoption of the Outcome Report by the Human Rights Council
Human Rights Council
Decision 6/102. Follow-up to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1
At its 20th meeting, on 27 September 2007, the Human Rights Council decided to adopt, without a vote:
“I. GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR THE PREPARATION OF INFORMATION UNDER THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
“Reaffirming the relevant provisions, related to the universal periodic review, of General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 and of Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007 containing the institution-building package, the Council adopts the following General Guidelines:
- Description of the methodology and the broad consultation process followed for the preparation of information provided under the universal periodic review;
- Background of the country under review and framework, particularly normative and institutional framework, for the promotion and protection of human rights: constitution, legislation, policy measures, national jurisprudence, human rights infrastructure including national human rights institutions and scope of international obligations identified in the “basis of review” in resolution 5/1, annex, section IA;
- Promotion and protection of human rights on the ground: implementation of international human rights obligations identified in the “basis of review” in resolution 5/1, annex, section IA, national legislation and voluntary commitments, national human rights institutions activities, public awareness of human rights, cooperation with human rights mechanisms …;
- Identification of achievements, best practices, challenges and constraints;
- Key national priorities, initiatives and commitments that the State concerned intends to undertake to overcome those challenges and constraints and improve human rights situations on the ground;
- Expectations of the State concerned in terms of capacity-building and requests, if any, for technical assistance;
- Presentation by the State concerned of the follow-up to the previous review.
The 2010 DFA NGO Forum on Human Rights took place in The Convention Centre Dublin on Friday, 10 December 2010. This year’s theme was: ‘Ireland’s examination under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 6 October 2011’.
The Report of the forum is available here (PDF 616kb)
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