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Supporting human rights institutions in the Asia-Pacific region

May 30th, 2014

Since January 2012, CESR has partnered with the Asia Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions (APF) on a project designed to strengthen its members’ capacity to more effectively monitor development policies from a human rights perspective. In its first phase, the project involved technical cooperation visits with three institutions: the New Zealand human Rights Commission (NZHRC), the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), and the Palestinian Independent Commission on Human Rights (ICHR).

Each visit consisted of a two-day training workshop to introduce the OPERA Framework and the evidence-gathering tools that underpin it; planning sessions with commissioners and staff; and, in the case of NZHRC, consultations with civil society and government stakeholders. Following the visit, each institution conducted a pilot monitoring activity to test how the tools and techniques covered in the training could fit the particular priorities and strategies of the institution. NZHRC looked at how the right to adequate housing had been affected by the government’s earthquake response in Christchurch. SUHAKAM is investigating the degree to which children with learning disabilities enjoy the right to education. ICHR is developing a framework to monitor progress in implementing the Palestinian Authority’s National Development Plan. CESR staff provides guidance and technical advice to the institutions as they carry out their monitoring projects.

Equipping institutions to use the OPERA framework—as well as the techniques and tools that underpin it—will assist them to produce stronger and more methodologically sound reports on governments’ compliance with their economic and social rights obligations. This will strengthen their ability to constructively engage with key decision makers, in order to have a greater impact in debates about development policies and to systemically track reforms that result from their monitoring efforts. The institutions that participated in the project have been tremendously positive about the utility of the OPERA Framework for their work and staff that completed the training workshops reported a significant improvement in their capacity to monitor economic and social rights after the workshops.

In its second phase, the project the training materials will be developed into a comprehensive manual on monitoring economic and social rights offering hands-on guidance on how to apply the tools and techniques that were introduced to in the training workshops in the day-to-day work that NHRIs undertake. The manual will be disseminated across the region, as well as internationally.