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Unlocking the potential of NHRIs

Graphic: NHRI staff monitoring a public demonstration in Kathmandu

A new APF resource outlines the unique potential of independent national human rights institutions to drive real change and support vulnerable people.


How can national human rights institutions (NHRIs) make a meaningful difference in the lives of vulnerable people? How can they help build strong and inclusive communities?

As the number of NHRIs established continues to grow, a new APF publication outlines their unique characteristics and the factors that contribute to their effectiveness in promoting and protecting human rights.

The Manual on National Human Rights Institutions explains the distinct role that NHRIs play in the national human rights framework, independent from both government and civil society.

Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat, said the manual describes the role of NHRIs to monitor the human rights situation of the country; to receive complaints and investigate allegations of human rights violations; to review laws, policies and practices for compliance with human rights standards; and to draw attention the attention of the international human rights community to pressing human rights challenges.

As a result, he said that NHRIs have the potential to hold governments to account for their obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all people within their borders.

"However, the independence of NHRIs is central to their ability to achieve positive results and foster meaningful change," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

The Manual on National Human Rights Institutions provides a thorough analysis of the Paris Principles - which set out the minimum international standards for NHRIs to be effective and credible - and examines what the concept of independence means in practice for NHRIs.

It also documents the ways in which NHRIs undertake their functions in a wide range of settings, from stable democracies through to countries grappling with conflict and its aftermath.

In addition, the manual explores how NHRIs can advocate for reform at the national level by engaging with different human rights bodies and mechanisms of the United Nations.

The Manual on National Human Rights Institutions was written by Chris Sidoti, Senior Consultant to the APF, who has more than 30 years of professional human rights experience at the national, regional and international levels. He was also Australia's Human Rights Commissioner from 1995 to 2000.

The manual features a range of case studies on the work of NHRIs from all parts of the Asia Pacific region, as well as an overview of key elements of their founding legislation.

It will form the basis of the APF's foundation course for staff who are new to NHRIs.

Date: 15 June 2015


Image credits

  1. NHRI staff monitoring a public demonstration in Kathmandu - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal