By Hatem Mohamed - Ahmed Shawki
ABU DHABI-GENEVA, 26th January 2022 (WAM) -- The United Nations Human Rights Office said that national human rights institutions play "a crucial role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level."
Commenting on the recent establishment of the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in the UAE as an independent entity in line with the Paris Principles, the Geneva-based Office told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) in a written statement that it supports the "establishment and strengthening of such institutions in countries around the world. We support them in the implementation of their broad mandates to promote and protect human rights."
For such institutions to be effective, the statement continues, "the key is to ensure they are able to discharge their important roles with independence."
President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan August 2021 issued Federal Law No. 12 of 2021 pertaining to the NHRI. The law stipulates that the institution shall be an independent legal entity, which has financial and administrative autonomy in the exercise of its functions, activities and competencies.
According to the law, the NHRI aims to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms following the provisions of the UAE Constitution, laws and legislation in force in the UAE, as well as relevant international conventions.
The Vice-President of the European Commission for promoting our European Way of Life in October 2021 hailed the UAE’s efforts to strengthen human rights and freedoms in exclusive statements to WAM.
The UAE’s recent election to the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the third time reflects the country’s "increasing international presence," Margaritis Schinas said.
The recent establishment of the NHRI continues to resonate high globally and is seen with "an optimistic and enthusiastic eye" by researchers and activists, according to an academic.
Dr Baptiste Brodard, a PhD Researcher and consultant in social sciences based in Geneva, told WAM that "Although human rights have been emphasised for several decades as a primordial objective to achieve, the daily news shows that a huge effort still needs to be made in order to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted more than 70 years ago."
"In this context, the development of new human rights organisations is more than welcome, and the establishment of the National Human Rights Institution in the United Arab Emirates appears, therefore, as a new promising step towards the improvement of the situation in the MENA region," he added.
Brodard dismissed Western "meddling" in human rights worldwide as a pretext for geopolitical and strategic interests, stressing that human rights advocacies should stem from the "socio-political environments in which they operate."
"Effective human rights advocacy must involve a local and contextualised approach. For a long time, we have seen Western meddling in the defence and promotion of human rights worldwide through humanitarian and even military operations," he continued.
"This trend has presented two major problems: first, human rights have often been used as a pretext for geopolitical and strategic interests; second, this Western-centric approach has neglected the cultural specificities of the areas involved in the name of a sometimes questionable universalism.
"In response, it is necessary that human rights be promised by institutions of diverse cultural tendencies, locally anchored in the socio-political environments in which they operate"
One of the NHRI objectives, Dr Brodard said, "aims to improve the workers’ rights in the UAE. In the public and private sector, it is indeed crucial to enhance workers’ conditions by assuring them better rights, as they must be protected both in terms of their physical working conditions and their administrative rights."
"To undertake such a mission, independent organisations established and acting locally is essential. In this regard, we can observe the launch of NHRI with an optimistic and enthusiastic eye," he went on to say.
"In short, the NHRI is expected to become a major actor in the promotion of human values in the UAE and beyond, which will support the Emirates’ role at the UN Human Rights Council from 2022 to 2024. In this respect, creative solutions to actual issues and shortcomings affecting our societies are highly expected."
Dr Abdel Jalil Al Dhaheri, a Tunisian academic and human rights activist, based in Switzerland, described the UAE’s decision to establish the NHRI as a bold step that corroborates the "serious endeavours made by the political leadership in the UAE to develop institutional life on the basis of respect for the international law and in support for freedom, legality, and the rule of law."
Al Dhaheri added in statements to WAM that the establishment of the NHRI comes at a time when the UAE is witnessing significant political, economic and social developments.
"The consolidation of human rights and justice delivery for enhanced voice and participation and the rule of law reaffirms the prudent direction chosen by the UAE leadership to engage with the world and work to achieve a more stable, peaceful and prosperous life for its people as an active member of the global community," he explained.
He noted that the establishment of NHRI is compelling evidence of the UAE's consistent approach to enshrining the rights of its citizens and everyone living in the country.
Al Dhaheri hailed the gender parity in forming the membership of the NHRI as indicative that women in the UAE enjoy the right to participate in political processes that affect them, their families and society.