INCHR Begins Nationwide Awareness, Urges Stakeholders to Spread the Message

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INCHR acting chairperson, Bartholomew B. Colley: "We must all improve the country's human rights record at all times."

In the wake of the United Nations (UN) appeal for US$278.3 million in voluntary contributions to monitor human rights abuses worldwide and help prevent violence, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) in Liberia yesterday commenced a nationwide awareness on the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) of the country and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

While the U.N. Human Rights Office warns of a global push-back on human rights, saying this is all too visible in the slowing commitment by governments to uphold human rights values in conflict prone communities, INCHR acting chairperson, Bartholomew B. Colley, said the project, titled: “Support to the Government of Liberia through the NHRAP Secretariat in implementing key recommendations of the UPR and NHRAP,” will highlight the importance of fighting rights abuses.

Colley then urged stakeholders at yesterday’s high-level seminar to remain focused so as to spread the messages across the country.

The awareness, held at a resort in Monrovia, is being carried out in three phases, beginning  with discussions among representatives of ministries, agencies, commissions, civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from seven of the 15 counties that include Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bong, Lofa, River Cess and Sinoe.

According to Colley, the Monrovia discussion with heads of ministries and agencies will later include interactions with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Colley: “The purpose of these interactions is to popularize the NHRAP, clarify and explain the roles and responsibilities of the different actors involved, gather reports on progresses and challenges in the implementation of the NHRAP as well as explain the UPR process.”

The awareness is funded by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) with the INCHR, through its Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law, leading the initiative with support from the secretariat of the NHRAP for the next five years.

The activities, which began on Monday, February 26, are expected to end today, March 1, thereby closing the first five years (2013-2018) of the NHRAP, which is to be reviewed and cast for the next five years (2019-2023) later this year.

UN Rights Office Appeal

The U.N. Human Rights Office is appealing for $278.3 million in voluntary contributions to monitor human rights abuses worldwide and help prevent violence, the VOA has reported. According to the VOA, the U.N. Human Rights Office warns of a global push back on human rights.

It says this is all too visible in the slowing commitment by governments to uphold human rights values in crisis prone countries, among them are Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Myanmar.

UN spokeswoman Liz Throssell says this lack of commitment translates into lack of support from the international community to provide the funds necessary to carry out the agency’s important work.

She tells VOA that the agency’s achievements often go unrecognized. For example, she says the help offered to victims of torture or other abuse usually occurs away from the blinding light of the media.

“Through the voluntary funds that we have, 45,000 victims of torture were helped to be rehabilitated,” she said.

“Our colleagues who work in our 60 plus offices or field presences around the world monitored 567 trials…There is lots of training that goes on around the world and maybe that is quite hard to sell as something sexy. But, it is really important and fundamental,” Throssell told the VOA.

She says these training courses teach governments and civil society how to monitor human rights abuses, how to access justice, and how to set anti-discrimination standards.

Currently, only 63 countries are making voluntary contributions to the Human Rights Office. Throssell says this list of donor countries needs to expand, because Norway and other Scandinavian countries are pledging to increase their contributions.

However, she says the word is still out on the United States, which traditionally has been the agency’s biggest donor.

The U.S. Congress is in the process of discussing the issue and will make a decision toward the end of March.

Last year, the U.S.’ voluntary contribution was just over US$20 million, while this year there are questions of how much Washington will contribute after the Trump Administration in December announced a US$285 million cut in overall U.S. contributions to the United Nations – a move the U.S. Administration blames on inefficiency and overspending at the organization.

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