National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) play a key role as authoritative human rights bodies organized by governments to function at the national level.
In the attached remarks, delivered at a UN Development Program (UNDP) seminar, JBI Director Felice Gaer illuminates the past and present of NHRIs. She concludes that many problems arise when NHRIs lack the political and operational independence essential to conduct unbiased human rights reporting.
Gaer discusses how participating governments treated NHRIs at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, and explores aspects of their current status. The Paris principles, which require NHRIs to be independent from government financial and political control, were cited favorably at the Vienna Conference. These principles remain the basis for assessing national human rights organizations.
Gaer explains that in spite of the Paris principles, not all NHRIs meet these conditions. Monitoring member states’ compliance with international human rights treaties has made many NHRIs indispensable to some UN procedures. However, concerns remain about how to evaluate whether NHRIs are truly pluralistic and independent. Moreover, media censorship and inadequate funding threaten the ability of NHRIs to monitor human rights effectively. Gaer notes that some have begun to question whether NHRIs detract from the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs); others have called for NHRIs themselves to be monitored.
Gaer’s full analysis of NHRIs and the challenges they face can be found here.