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ANNI: Statement on NHRIs and the Right to Development

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1st Biennial Conference of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions

7‐8 September 2011, Bangkok, Thailand

We, human rights defenders from across the Asia-Pacific region, gathered at the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) Regional Conference on Engagement with the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) on 5-6 September 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand, in parallel to the 1st Biennial Conference of the APF,

1. Reaffirmed in the 25th anniversary year of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, that development is a human right for all, and that national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have a role in its realization;

2. Reiterated that “development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals” and  that, “all human rights and fundamental freedoms are indivisible and interdependent and that, in order to promote development, equal attention and urgent consideration should be given to the implementation,promotion and protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and that, accordingly, the promotion of, respect for and enjoyment of certain human rights and fundamental freedoms cannot justify the denial of other human rights and fundamental freedoms.”;

3. Reaffirmed that in a world characterized by extremes of wealth and poverty; over-consumption and scarcity; power and vulnerability, the key human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination; active,free and meaningful participation; transparency; and accountability, must be at the core of the process of development if all people and persons are to enjoy the fair distribution of benefits therefrom;

4. Recalled the UN Human Rights Council resolution on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/RES/17/9), which recognized and reaffirmed the importance of NHRIs in the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level as enshrined in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, particularly in their advisory capacity to the competent authorities and their role in preventing and remedying human rights violations, in disseminating information on human rights and in education on human rights;

5. Reaffirmed that NHRIs should proactively exercise their mandate to monitor the State’s human rights obligations at the national level, and to undertake all necessary measures within the ambit of their mandates to ensure the promotion and protection of the right to development, inter alia, through equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing,employment and the fair distribution of income;

6. Resolved that NHRIs should advocate specific measures to ensure that women, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized groups are active participants and beneficiaries of development;

7. Resolved that NHRIs should speak and act against the militarization of development, by scrutinizing the increased role of the security sector in State and non-State economic activities; and express their solidarity in words and deeds with human rights defenders and others who exercise their right to peaceful protest and dissent against these practices;

8. Reaffirmed that NHRIs should support the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights; extend their protection mandate to include those rights; and advocate the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

9. Resolved that NHRIs should monitor regional and multilateral organizations to ensure that their policies and practices on trade and technology transfer, capital flows and investment, development assistance and debt, agriculture and industry, intellectual property rights and access to medicines, climate change and institutional reform, are in compliance with human rights obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of the people, and foster cooperation towards an international order in which the right to development may be realized, and the right of the people to exercise full and complete sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources is safeguarded;

10. Recalled the Edinburgh Declaration adopted at the 10th International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC-NHRIs) conference on business and human rights (2010), noting that national or transnational business activities can generate harm to human rights; and therefore emphasizing the important role of NHRIs in addressing corporate‐related human rights challenges at the national, regional, and international level;

11. Recognized the commitment by NHRIs as enshrined in the Edinburgh Declaration to interpret their mandates or wherever possible to strengthen their mandates, in order to promote and protect rights as they relate to business, including, among others: to monitor transnational corporations and other business enterprises compliance with human rights standards, for example, through design and supervision of indicators and guidelines in due diligence processes; conducting fact-finding missions and human rights impact assessments that are accessible to, and involve the free and meaningful participation of, affected groups; intervention in judicial mechanisms and facilitating non-judicial grievance mechanisms, consistent with international human rights principles, to redress the business impacts of human rights;

12. Reiterated that NHRIs should assist in the operationalisation of the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework at national-level which was developed by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights, transnational corporations and other business enterprises as well as introduce business and human rights into their human rights education programs and enhance cooperation between NHRIs on cross-border or transnational harm and human rights violations by business enterprises.;

13. Recalled the references of the Advisory Council of Jurists on corporate accountability (2008), and on human rights and the environment (2007), and reiterated that NHRIs should take forward their recommendations in consultation with human rights defenders and civil society organizations, in the course of the promotion and protection of the right to development;

14. Reiterated that NHRIs in the Asia-Pacific region should engage with the ICC-NHRIs Working Group on Business and Human Rights established in 2009, and fully participate in the forthcoming APF  regional conference on Business and Human Rights in Seoul between 11 and 13 October 2011, in order to strengthen the capacity of national human rights institutions to monitor the business impacts on human rights and to support the victims of corporate abuses;

15. Resolved that NHRIs should be seized of the threats and reprisals against human rights defenders –including criminalization of their legitimate work – when they resist the ‘violence of development’, that is,harmful and unjust practices of local, national, regional and global actors and agencies such as forced evictions, development‐induced displacement, privatization of public services (including through public private partnerships), land-grabbing for resource-extraction and corporate agriculture, and so on, and monitor the state’s obligation to protect them;

16. Reiterated that if the human person is to be at the center of development, and the process of development is to be human rights centered, then NHRIs must protect freedom of expression and opinion, advocate the right to information, and defend the rights of human rights defenders;

17. Recognized that at least one Asian NHRI has made a submission on the implementation of the right to development to the UN Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development; and encouraging other Asia-Pacific NHRIs to similarly engage with the Working Group ahead of its forthcoming 12th session in Geneva on 14-18 November 2011, and moreover to consult widely, including with human rights defenders, in the preparation of their submissions;

18. Resolved that NHRIs and the APF should commit themselves to the evolution of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development into an international legal standard of a binding nature, and towards the realization of the right to development as a human right for all.