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  5. Institutionalizing Human Rights

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FOCUS September 1996 Volume 5

Institutionalizing Human Rights


Human rights is practiced. It forms an essential part of people's behavior in society. It is also made part of the societal infrastructure as an ideology and a facility for maintaining human dignity.

Promoting, protecting and realizing human rights require personal endeavor as well as societal support. Mechanisms that promote, protect and realize human rights are therefore necessary. States are obligated to create such mechanisms pursuant to international declarations and agreements on human rights.

The establishment of a national human rights institution is a concrete example of a mechanism for human rights. In the Asia-Pacific region, it is mainly in the form of national commissions.

National commissions existing in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, India and the Philippines (with the latest one to be set up in Sri Lanka soon) do provide contrasting experiences on how such mechanisms work on varying issues and contexts. The diverse experiences, however, do point out common elements deemed crucial in developing effective, independent and credible institution.

The prospect of having six more national human rights institutions for Nepal, Bangladesh, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan in the near future requires exchange of information and experiences with those countries having national human rights institutions. It further requires a critical review of the experiences in order to see what should be avoided and what should be adopted.

The first ever regional workshop among the national human rights institutions in the region held in early July this year in Australia supports the need for a forum for close collaboration among countries in the region having, or planning to have, national human rights institutions.

This regional initiative can support national mechanisms in maintaining their role as the premier instrumentality of the State in upholding human rights. May this happen as envisioned.

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