Promoting Human Rights Mechanisms in Sudan

 The workshop brought together various participants from the Ministry of Justice, National Human Rights Commission, human rights activist groups and civil society organizations. Photo credit - UNDP Sudan 2014

According to the report by the Independent Expert to Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Sudan (presented at the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 26 September, 2014) the general human rights situation in the Sudan has remained unstable, especially in conflict-affected areas like Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Nevertheless, the Government of Sudan continues to make progress in legislative and institutional developments aiming at improving the human rights situation in the country. Cognizant of its role in developing institutions and processes that are more responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with Sudan National Human Rights Commission and the Office for High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized a five-day training workshop on Human Rights Mechanisms 1 – 5 November, 2014.

The workshop’s main focus was to establish an effective human rights mechanism in Sudan in addition to enhancing civil society organizations’ skills in reporting as well as address challenges faced by human rights based approach.

Participants discussed the present status, realities, and emerging issues of human rights protection in Sudan, proposing solutions for better promotion and future monitoring in Sudan.

The workshop further examined national studies: constitutional rights and Sudan’s legal system; the role of international institutions and mechanisms in supporting national efforts and  human rights mechanisms; roles,  functions and strengths of national mechanisms.

During the workshop participants discussed a number of challenges facing Sudan in the promotion, protection and monitoring of human rights namely i) lack of economic, technical, institutional and human resources and the capacity to pursue human rights at the national and regional levels; ii) obstacles presented by the country’s longstanding isolation vis-à-vis international institutions; iii) the difficulty experienced by the government institutions in accessing international assistance and so forth.

Participants also deliberated on the reporting mechanisms for human rights highlighting the importance of shadow reporting from the CSOs’ point of view on the situation of human rights in a country like Sudan. Discussions also focused on the fact that human rights are the responsibility of both duty bearers and right holders. In this respect, participants were introduced to the effective mechanisms and technical content of human rights reports that could be leveraged nationally. The orientation included step-by-step guidance to collecting evidence, filing cases, writing a report, and following up through the official channels.

Inshirah Mohammed Khalil Abdelrahman, from the Riyada Centre for Voluntary Work and Capacity Building, noted the importance of the engagement of civil society, government and human rights defenders in sharing experiences and best practices through this kind of events in the region. She highlighted the need for greater communication, coordination, and synergy among all sectors, as well as the need to increase the level of understanding of businesses and the general public on NHRIs by broadening participation in Human rights activities.

The 5-day workshop is part of a longer-term UNDP project to support the Sudan National Human Rights Commission since its establishment in 2012 through the capacity development project. The main objective of the Project is to support the Commission in the development of its operational, technical and legal capacities to become a cornerstone within Sudan’s national human rights protection system in line with the Paris Principles. In other words, UNDP aims to strengthen the governance, functioning and effectiveness of the Commission and support the development of an independent strong national human rights institution.

The Commission is currently composed by 15 Commissioners and a few administrative support staff and is in the process of recruiting staff according to the recently approved organizational structure, which foresees the creation of four departments, including Research and Information, International Relations, Complaints and Monitoring, and Corporate Services (Finance, ICT, HR, and Admin). As the first national Human Rights Commission in Sudan, it is unlikely that the Commissioners and staff will come to their new jobs fully equipped from previous job experiences. Therefore, a more systematic and organized training programme is required that addresses the specific learning needs of staff based on their job descriptions within the Commission and not only generic human rights training. To carry out this key area of the Strategic Plan, UNDP recruited an international consultant, Ms. Francesco Dele Mese (UK) to develop a comprehensive vocational training plan, curriculum and training materials to be delivered over a three year period for NHRC. Following Ms. Dele Mese’s findings, she noted that the Commission may reconsider its multiple committee structures to determine the set-up which could best serve their mandate in monitoring, education and complaints as set out in the Act.

In the Independent Expert’s report on the human rights situation in Sudan, the positive collaboration between the Government of Sudan and UNDP in the State of South Kordofan for the practical realization of human rights through development projects is recognized. It highlights UNDP’s role and work in supporting key institutions such as the police, the justice sector, the legislature, the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, as well as civil society organizations in different parts of Sudan. Further, it urges the international community to assist UNDP with the necessary funds to enable it to continue supporting the Government in strengthening its human rights mechanisms and work.

Finally, the report describes UNDP’s overall support as “indispensable for sustaining the implementation plan of the review recommendations by the Government”; it “urges the international community to assist UNDP with the necessary funds to enable it to continue supporting the Government in such regard”.

Following the findings and recommendations presented for the curriculum and comprehensive capacity development programme for the Commission, UNDP is currently looking for additional partners to support the project Phase II (2015 – 2016).