Every day is Human Rights Day

BY NORIMASA SHIMOMURA in OPINIONS on 8 DECEMBER 2017

Ever since the Charter of the United Nations was signed in 1945, human rights have constituted one of the three pillars of our work, along with peace and development.

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This year, Human Rights Day kicks off a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The power of the Universal Declaration is the power of principles to change the world. It tells us that human rights are essential and indivisible – 365 days a year. Every day is Human Rights Day: a day on which we work to ensure that all people can live with equality, dignity and freedom.

The commitment to ‘leaving no one behind’ is a key feature of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2016-2030, meaning that the UN Member States commit to ensuring that every individual achieves the full package of rights and opportunities the SDGs promise, by ending extreme poverty, promoting equity, creating a sustainable and inclusive economy, and by protecting the planet, in close partnership among the nations.

Standing behind the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the UN system strives to work on a number of issues:

– We work closely with Kazakhstan’s law enforcement bodies and forensic experts to ensure effective torture investigation in accordance with the principles of Istanbul Protocol on Effective Investigation and Documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

– We pay special attention to the gender-based violence focusing on overcoming stereotypes and gender barriers and building a violence-free environment for women, children and persons with disabilities. In particular, we provide expertise on protecting victims’ rights and avoidance of secondary victimisation;

– We support the efforts of the Supreme Court to improve the justice system for children and protect their rights.

– We also promote broader access to justice by supporting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms with application of out-of-court decisions, including mediation and conciliation.

– We help strengthen Kazakhstan’s judiciary by modernising training of judges and the courts’ administration staff.

As currently Kazakhstan is preparing its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN is ready to support the initiatives of the Commission on Human Rights under the President of Kazakhstan and the Kazakh Government in this area.  Further to our earlier support to the development of the new Concept on Family and Gender Policy signed by the President, we will continue our support in relation to the programme of Family without Violence, of the National Commission and the Prosecutor-General’s Office.

Kazakhstan ratified almost all core human rights documents, and I take this opportunity to call on the Government to join in the others. The country has actively engaged with the UN human rights mechanisms, including the recent visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The constant test for the Government is to implement recommendations given by the UN human rights mechanisms. This is an on-going process that should guide not only the country’s legislative and policy developments but also programmes and measures at all levels, and in the law-enforcement practice.

The UN entities present in the country stand ready to partner with Kazakh authorities and civil society in meeting all the human rights obligations and advancing sustainable human development in Kazakhstan and beyond.

The author is UN Resident Coordinator for Kazakhstan.