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13th international conference: NHRIs have a dual challenge to overcome, defend their margin of freedom and other human rights defenders freedom of action

The proceedings of the 13th international conference of national human rights institutions were launched on Wednesday 11 October 2011 in Marrakech. Mr. Driss El Yazami, Chairperson of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council (CNDH), Mahjoub El Hiba, Interministrial Delegate for Human Rights, Ms. Beate Rudolf, President of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) and Ahmed Akhchichine, President of the Regional Council of Marrakech- Safi took part in this event.

The first day of this conference provided an opportunity to explore the role of NHRIs and their contributions in expanding civic space and promoting human rights defenders, with special focus on women human rights defenders (WHRDs). Participants in this conference exchanged and shared experiences, lessons learned and practices implemented by NHRIs in different regions of the globe.

In this regard, Mr. El Yazami indicated, in his opening statement, that NHRIs have a dual challenge to overcome. Firstly, they should defend their margin of freedom and resist when public authorities try to limit their actions because they are worried about their reports and their human rights situation monitoring. Secondly, NHRIs should defend the freedom of action of all other human rights defenders, individuals or groups, NGOs, trade unions, journalists, professional associations, and all those who wish to bring one of the principles of international human rights law to life. Despite all these challenges, several NHRIs became a real actor of change and a real actor for reform in their countries, through their reports, their legal opinions, and their relationships with parliaments and with civil society, said Mr. El Yazami.

To face the shrinking of space and the increasing of pressure and attacks against human rights defenders, NHRIs need to be stronger to defend human rights, stressed Mrs. Beate Rudolf, president of GANHRI. Given the multiplicity and diversity of challenges, NHRIs and their partners ‘responses should be adapted to the specific situation of the country, she added.

Mr. Mahjoub El Hiba, Interministerial Delegate for Human Rights, said that Morocco’s choice to host this international event is not fortuitous. It reflects the progress of Morocco in protecting human rights and the enormous work done by the CNDH which was created almost 25 years ago. He also added that “the CNDH has a great national and international reputation and plays an active role in several national and international forums, in UN system and in regional and international networks defending human rights.”

The coming days, participants will discuss how NHRIs use their mandate and powers to monitor, promote and protect human rights defenders. They will also look in how NHRIs can work effectively to maintain structural framework to respect human rights in their respective countries.

Indeed, different themes will be discussed throughout the three days of the conference including:   “Monitoring civic space, and threats to it”; “Communicating on human rights and promoting positive narratives”; “Promoting participation in public life and voice of people being heard” and “strengthening cooperation and partnerships".

Around 300 stakeholders including presidents and representatives of NHRIs from the four NHRIs networks, partners, UN experts such as Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, NGOs, human rights defenders, representatives of national, regional and international organizations are taking part in this three day event.

The work of this conference will be culminated in the adoption of the Marrakech Declaration, which will outline a roadmap for NHRIs to promote and protect human rights defenders in the future.

This International Conference of NHRIs is placed under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI. It is co-hosted by the CNDH and the GANHRI, in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “Expanding the civic space and promoting and protecting human rights defenders, with a specific focus on women: the role of national human rights institutions” is the theme addressed in this international event.