Interview with UNDP Human Rights Expert

by

Irina Liczek, UNDP Human Rights Expert

UNDP: You worked in Turkmenistan on human rights for many years, could you please reflect on your experience of supporting the process of establishment of the Interdepartmental Commission for provision of international obligations of Turkmenistan in human rights and international humanitarian law.

Ms. Liczek: The establishment of the Interdepartmental Commission was a result of advocacy and constructive dialogue conducted by the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office and the United Nations Development Programme in Turkmenistan as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The process was accelerated by the visit of Ms. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at that time that took place in May 2007.

The establishment of the Interdepartmental Commission was a huge breakthrough because for the first time in Turkmenistan, attention was paid towards interagency coordination and monitoring of human rights promotion at a high level. The Interdepartmental Commission constituted a body comprised of deputy ministers as well as heads of relevant agencies and organizations. Soon the Interdepartmental Commission designed a plan on reporting to the UN treaty bodies.

At that time, I was a lead advisor on human rights in the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Turkmenistan and also managed a joint UNDP-OHCHR project "Building of reporting capacities in Turkmenistan," that provided the necessary capacity building support to the members of the Interdepartmental Commission on the content of the core human rights conventions as well as implications of ratification and reporting.  

These efforts were sustained through a new EU-UNDP-OHCHR joint initiative "Strengthening the capacity of Turkmenistan to promote and protect human rights," that helped to deepen knowledge and supported the process of reporting to the UN treaty bodies.

Besides capacity building on treaty body reporting and the Universal Periodic Review of the duty bearers, accent was also made on human rights education of the rights holders and advocacy for setting up an Ombudsperson Institution in line with the Paris Principles.

UNDP: You have recently conducted assessment of the first National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) in Turkmenistan. What would you highlight from the conducted assessment?

Ms. Liczek: The first National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) of Turkmenistan 2016-2020 was focused on addressing a number of recommendations received from UN Human Rights Council and treaty bodies with a strong focus on improving the national legislation, aligning it with international standards, setting up the Ombudsperson Institution and building capacity of the duty bearers.  Bolstering the practical implementation of these achievements in an incremental and accelerated manner would be a vital task for the next NHRAP for 2021-2025.

UNDP: From your experience, what kind of plans ensure better relevance and coverage of human rights, rights-specific or as in case of Turkmenistan a comprehensive plan covering different types of rights and freedoms? What are other key factors ensure success of a national human rights plan of action?

Ms. Liczek: I think that both approaches are good as long as there is a clear effort to invest in both the process and the outcome when developing a human rights action plan.  A participatory process for developing a human rights action plan is a recipe for success as it creates a platform for discussion of the human rights priorities in a country and allows for dialogue among many vested stakeholders. Such process builds credibility and trust that the outcome, namely the Plan, is relevant for that particular context because it was developed democratically. Once the priorities have been identified it is important to develop a results-oriented Plan that can deliver actual outcomes for the rights’ holders. 

It is also important to give adequate attention to monitoring and evaluation of the Plan's implementation, ideally by using various dialogue platforms among duty bearers and rights’ holders, and allocate adequate resources, both human and financial.

Political will is also crucial in addressing UPR and UN treaty body recommendations that were either not yet implemented or were omitted in the current NHRAP. 

UNDP: Alignment of the national legislation with international standards is a very important process, what other procedures and mechanisms should be put in place to ensure the implementation of the human rights legislation?

Ms. Liczek: Yes, indeed, alignment of national legislation with international standards is a very important first step for protection and promotion of the human rights. This should be followed by creating adequate conditions for fulfilment and enjoyment of human rights by all, because improvement of legislation without enforcement is a meaningless effort.

I think that everybody, both duty bearers and rights’ holders should become aware of these legislative improvements and of course of the fact that international standards trump national ones when it comes to human rights. This is already enshrined in the Constitution in many countries. To be clear, awareness raising is a never-ending process so continuous efforts will yield the best results.

In parallel, an analysis of the law enforcement practice and compliance with international law provisions in the area of human rights would allow to identify clear, practical and time bound actions for its implementation. For example, instances when the core human rights instruments ratified by a country are invoked in the court of law would be indicative of effectiveness of their practical use to protect the rights of individuals. 

UNDP: What would be your recommendations for the development of the second National Human Rights Action Plan?

Ms. Liczek: The development of a National Human Rights Action Plan is a worthwhile effort if people-centered and results-oriented. From the perspective of international best practice, I would highly recommend to first conduct an all-encompassing analysis of human rights situation to date, to engage the rights’ holders when determining the priorities of the new Plan, to ensure practical implementation of all its activities, to show added value. Continuous monitoring of the Plan and providing adequate financial and human resources can greatly contribute to its timely and successful implementation. To support these processes, I think that partnership with the UN agencies and particularly UNDP and OHCHR remain of great importance and value, to ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to enjoying his/her human rights in Turkmenistan. 

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