Statement by Robert Piper,
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator
13th June 2012
On the occasion of the 12th Anniversary of the National Human Rights Commission
National Human Rights Commission
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai
Honourable NHRC Chairman Kedar Nath Upadhyay
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
The 12th Anniversary of the founding of the National Human Rights Commission is a welcome opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary importance of this national organization. During this period of transition, of change, and of uncertainty, the Commission’s role is more visible and more vital than ever. The departure of OHCHR over recent months has also placed additional burdens and expectations on the Commission’s shoulders.
It is appropriate therefore that we all - national and international alike - renew our commitment to help build a strong National Human Rights Commission.
To succeed, we need a Commission built on firm foundations. Firm operational foundations. Firm foundations of principle. Today, at a crucial time in Nepal’s transition and with the added burden of OHCHR’s departure, the Commission is operating with barely 35% of its staff in place. These perennial staffing problems of the Commission need to be resolved once and for all. Today, the Commission is operating with only three out of five commissioners. It’s no secret that two Commissioners have not participated in the deliberations of the Commission for more than three years. This too cannot continue.
Expectations that the much anticipated National Human Rights Commission Act would resolve some of these long-standing structural challenges were unfortunately not met. The new legislation has not given the NHRC the independence it needs over funding and staffing to deliver on its onerous responsibilities. I hope the Government will seriously consider strengthening these foundations before the next Anniversary of the Commission, Rt. Honourable Prime Minister. The UN will do its part to support this critical institution. Other development partners are equally committed to making the Commission strong and effective.
These last weeks have also illustrated vividly the heightened risks to the rule of law when political debate moves from the chambers of Parliament and the air waves and columns of the media, to the streets and to the megaphone. We witnessed a sharp deterioration in the Human Rights environment in Nepal in May. Coercively enforced bandhs. The suspension of regular life for millions of citizens. The blocking of emergency vehicles and medicines. The obstruction of UN movement. Attacks on journalists. Excessive use of force by the police. Even Human Rights Defenders threatened as they went about their vital work.
These developments were a wake-up call on the importance of instilling a culture of peace and dialogue. On the importance of protecting the ability of the Human Rights community, to move freely around the country to monitor, to report, to witness.
If anything good can come of the missed May 27 deadline, it is the opportunity now available to think and act preventively to ensure Nepal lands safely and peacefully on the other side of this ambitious transition. To affirm the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of all. To affirm the importance of the rule of law. To recognize that an effective National Human Rights Commission is the bedrock of any conflict prevention strategy. Action on the substantial number of Commission recommendations still awaiting a response from Government, Rt. Honourable Prime Minister, would be a strong and welcome signal in this respect, for the crucial days and weeks ahead.
Individual Human Rights Defenders are the backbone of any countries’ culture of lawfulness and justice. So let me close by expressing our respects to Mrs. Durga Ghimire and Mr. Chandra Kishore Jha, who we honour today. Mrs. Durga Ghimire’s work for women and girls, particular those vulnerable to human trafficking and Mr. Chandra Kishore Jha’s promotion of human rights through the media, is an inspiration to all of us. I would like to congratulate you both on achieving this award and this recognition.
Happy Birthday to the Commission. May this coming year be a year of renewal. Of lawfulness. And of increased effort to strengthen the foundations on which this vital institution rests.