Colleagues and friends,
It is a great pleasure to be here among you today and talk about human rights.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Elmira Suleymanova for organising the XVI Baku International Conference of Ombudspersons, specifically devoted to the roles of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) in achieving peace and Sustainable Development Goals.
This is an exciting moment for those of us, who are committed to enabling the realisation of human rights, to discuss new opportunities, as well as challenges in promoting and protecting human rights through the implementation of the SDGs.
The topic of today’s conference is important and timely. As stated in the preamble of “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the SDGs “seek to realize the human rights of all”.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly references human rights throughout its text, and the 17 SDGs and related 169 targets and provides reflection of human rights standards.
The goals are designed to “leave no one behind” in pursuit of sustainable development.
And the Agenda integrates crosscutting human rights principles, such as participation, accountability and non-discrimination. In other words, the 2030 Agenda and human rights are inevitably tied together.
As the national focal points for promotion and protection of human rights, NHRIs have a unique role in the promotion and protection of Human rights and are the driving force for monitoring of the crosscutting human rights principles, which are emphasized throughout the 2030 Agenda. They can also play an important role in translating the SDGs into reality on the ground.
In 2015, just few weeks after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, NHRIs from all world regions adopted the Mérida Declaration, which outlines how the NHRIs can apply their broad human rights mandate and functions for achieving the SDGs and ensuring that no one is left behind.
These functions and activities include but are not limited to advising national/local governments; raising awareness and promoting dialogue and participation; developing and sustaining partnerships for implementation; shaping national indicators; monitoring and reporting on progress; holding duty-bearers accountable; investigating rights violations and providing access to justice for all.
NHRIs are uniquely placed to play a bridging role between different types of stakeholders; government, civil society, development partners, business, UN agencies and others.
This role is particularly important in the context of the 2030 Agenda, since collaboration between a variety of actors and sectors will be absolutely essential for effective and equitable implementation.
The independent nature of NHRIs and the international human rights system, and their experience and expertise in monitoring and reporting on the implementation of human rights standards places them at the heart of what has been called the SDG “web of accountability”.
As independent State institutions mandated to support national compliance with international human rights commitments, NHRIs are crucial elements of the institutional accountability architecture necessary for ensuring peaceful and inclusive societies with access to justice for all.
An independent NHRI is an indicator of sustainable development. Given the importance of NHRIs for the 2030 Agenda, the ‘existence of independent National Human Rights Institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles’ was adopted as the global indicator for the achievement of SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.
The selection of the existence of an independent NHRI as a global indicator reaffirms that NHRIs constitute an essential element of the institutional framework for sustainable development and sustainable development itself cannot be achieved without a strong and independent NHRI.
One of the practical functions, which the Mérida Declaration identifies for NHRIs as fundamental in their contribution to a Human Rights-Based Approach to the 2030 Agenda revolves around the potential for NHRIs to be involved in the measurement of progress towards national implementation of the SDGs.
NHRI monitoring of human rights is immediately relevant for specific goals and targets, such as Goal 16 on peace, justice and sustainable institutions; target 4.7 on human rights education, and; targets 5.c, 10.3 and 16.b on elimination of discriminatory legislation. NHRIs can monitor progress in the implementation of the Agenda at the local, national, regional and international levels, to disclose inequality and discrimination in this regard, including through innovative approaches to data-collection and partnerships with rights-holders, vulnerable and marginalized groups for participatory and inclusive monitoring, and by identifying obstacles as well as actions for accelerated progress.
National Action Plans for Human Rights (NAPs) constitute another mechanism that NHRIs can make use of, when contributing to monitoring of national progress towards the SDGs. Many of the objectives of such NAPs are related to the SDGs. Making those connections explicit could help national governments to better understand the role of human rights in the SDGs as well as support their monitoring of progress towards the SDGs. Further, NHRIs can use recommendations and findings adopted under the international and regional human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, Special Procedures, the Universal Periodic Review, and treaty bodies, to assess and guide SDG implementation.
Given their focus on the range of human rights that underpin the SDGs, NHRIs have a significant potential for serving as credible data providers that can provide context-specific analysis and advice, as well as information about vulnerable groups and sensitive issues that are hard to capture through common statistical data.
Further, NHRIs can assist in the shaping of national indicators and sound data collection systems, including by providing advice and expertise on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Data.
Last but not least, the mutually reinforcing nature of human rights and the SDGs implies that NHRIs can directly contribute to assessment of progress of the SDGs, and provide guidance to direct and accelerate implementation, including to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind.
From 2015-2018, a total of 109 Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports were submitted to the High-Level Political Forum, with the aim of reporting on progress and challenges, enable mutual learning across countries and mobilise necessary support and partnerships. In its VNR report, Azerbaijan mentioned that its NHRI is represented in several working groups to further sustainable development under the National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development.
Successful implementation of the SDGs will underpin the solution to many challenges that NHRIs and people around the world face.