Before We Need OHCHR Help

Before OHCHR Two years ago, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations agency to protect, defend, and promote our human rights, published ”How To Follow Up On United Nations Human Rights Recommendations”. It is intended for civil society organizations (CSO), specifically the larger national and international ones. This sixty-page “Practical Guide” has both useful information on OHCHR procedures and mechanisms, and offers many short case studies and insights into how different CSOs have used the UN system to advance human rights.

The OHCHR system of ‘follow up’ is well-intentioned, although it is extremely slow, bureaucratic, and not accessible to those without resources — who are perhaps those most in need of having their rights defended. Although this OHCHR guide is good at what it aims to do, it doesn’t take into account the needs of individual rights-holders or small rights-seeking organizations in communities around the world. Poor people from marginalized communities need to be able to address, simply, cheaply and without fear, the failures of their governments or local authorities to implement UN human rights recommendations – failures that can be fatal for them or their families.

For example, there are billions of poor marginalized people currently being denied access to medicines and adequate care, water, or food, all of which are the legal obligation of Governments to provide. They also have little or no access to free legal aid, which means that this system of ‘follow-up’ is often a non-starter — it leaves behind those most in need.

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All Aboard Now On Fast Track

All Aboard Fast TrackAll Aboard is on the Fast Track!  For the last few months, members of the IMAXI Cooperative and over a dozen comrades and colleagues have been collaborating, as volunteers, on an innovative research and development project that we call ‘All Aboard’. It brings together a diverse group of activists, academics and experts to focus on the meaningful participation of marginalised communities and their civil society organisations in the decision-making processes within global health. We want to learn how to  arrange a ‘seat at the table’ for those that are excluded today.

The All Aboard research team is conducting a comprehensive study to assess the state of community participation in the governance of key institutions in global health, including the United Nations agencies (WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women) and two major foundations, the Global Fund and Gates. Together, we plan to produce a high quality paper for publication in the prestigious peer-review scholarly journal, Global Health Governance, and towards this, our abstract has been accepted.

Although a little late out of the station, All Aboard is now moving on the fast track. The literature and document reviews are well underway, the (community-made) civil society survey and outreach will be ready to roll next week, and invitations for interviews with the ‘key actors’ in global health are now going out. The time-line is tight, and we’ve a challenge ahead of us during the next seven weeks with the deadline of 1st of June for submitting the paper. We hope that when successfully completed, this evidenced-based research can contribute to advancing, in all of the global health institutions, the right to meaningful participation and accountable representation of those most at risk of “being left behind”.

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