Human Rights Council Resolution 28/14 established a Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law. Further to that effort the UN announced its first Forum to be held in Geneva 21-22 November 2016 in Room XVII Palais des Nations. The Forum targets academics, non governmental organizations and experts. The purpose of the Forum is to "provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to the relationship between these areas" as well as to identify best practices, challenges and opportunities for states seeking some framework for engaging in the securing of the ideals of human rights, democracy and rule of law.The United States, in particular, has welcomed this effort.
Item 3: Resolution Entitled “Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law,” A/HRC/28/L.24 General Comment by the Delegation of the United States of AmericaAssociated with that Forum is a consultation that is also open to academics and experts. The theme for the first session of the Forum is Widening the Democratic Space: The Role of Youth in Public Decision Making. This may be of interest to some readers.
Human Rights Council 28th Session
Geneva, March 26, 2015
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States is again proud to co-sponsor this resolution on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law at the Human Rights Council. We would like to thank Romania and the other core group members – Morocco, Norway, Peru, the Republic of Korea, and Tunisia – for the open and transparent negotiations they facilitated.
Democracy promotion and rule of law are fundamental to the purpose of the Council. The forum this resolution establishes will make great strides in mainstreaming democracy and rule of law into the UN and Council’s work. It will also serve as a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to the relationship between these topics and affecting societies across the globe.
We look forward to the first forum in 2016 on the theme of “Widening the democratic space: the role of youth in public decision-making,” and to the other forum meetings to come.
The United States will vote proudly in favor of this resolution.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Call for consultation, Resolution 28/4, and preliminary information about this new effort to promote democracy human rights and rule of law through the U.N. follows, as does the U.N.'s current web site (with links) on the issue of democracy.
Consultation - Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law - Deadline 4 July 2016
Human Rights Council
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development
Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council
28/14. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law
The Human Rights Council,
Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,
Reaffirming also the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments,
Recalling the Millennium Declaration and all General Assembly resolutions on democracy and
the rule of law,
Reaffirming its resolution 19/36 of 23 March 2012 on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and relevant resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights,
Taking note of the study of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of 2012 1 and the outcome of the panel discussion,2 held on 11 June 2013 during the twenty-third session of the Human Rights Council, both on the theme of common challenges facing States in their efforts to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective,
Reaffirming that democracy is based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives,
Reaffirming also that, while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region, and reaffirming further the necessity of due respect for sovereignty and the right to self-determination,
Bearing in mind that challenges to democracy arise in all democratic societies,
Acknowledging the fundamental importance of education and training for human rights and democracy in contributing to the promotion, protection and effective realization of all human rights,
Underlining that while States have the primary responsibility for safeguarding and strengthening democracy and the rule of law, the United Nations has a critical role in providing assistance and coordinating international efforts to support States, on their request, in their democratization processes,
Urging States to acknowledge the important contribution of civil society and human rights defenders to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and to create a safe and enabling environment for their work,
Recognizing the value of a Human Rights Council forum for exchange, dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation on issues related to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, in accordance with the principles and purposes of the Charter, and acknowledging the importance of existing regional formats,
Stressing that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and in this regard taking note with interest of the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities,3 in which the Secretary-General addressed the ways and means of developing further the linkages between the rule of law and the three main pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights and development,
1. Decides to establish a forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to the relationship between these areas; the Forum shall identify and analyse best practices, challenges and opportunities for States in their efforts to secure respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law;
2. Expresses its expectation that the Forum will contribute to the efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve cooperation among United Nations mechanisms, bodies and specialized agencies, funds and programmes on activities related to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including at the regional level;
3. Decides that the Forum shall be open to the participation of States, United Nations mechanisms, bodies and specialized agencies, funds and programmes, intergovernmental organizations, regional organizations and mechanisms in the field of human rights, national human rights institutions and other relevant national bodies, academics and experts and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council; the Forum shall also be open to other non-governmental organizations whose aims and purposes are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, based on arrangements, including Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 of 25 July 1996, and practices observed by the Human Rights Council through an open and transparent accreditation procedure in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Council, which will provide for timely information on the participation of and consultations with the States concerned;
4. Also decides that the Forum shall meet every two years for two working days allocated to thematic discussions;
5. Requests the President of the Human Rights Council to appoint for each session, on the basis of regional rotation, and in consultation with regional groups, a chairperson of the Forum from candidates nominated by members and observers of the Council; the chairperson, serving in his or her personal capacity, shall be responsible for the preparation of a summary of the discussions of the Forum, to be made available to all its participants;
6. Requests the High Commissioner to provide all the necessary support to facilitate the convening of the Forum and the participation of relevant stakeholders from every region in its meetings, paying particular attention to ensuring the broadest possible and most equitable participation, with due regard to gender balance;
7. Requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide the Forum with all the services and facilities necessary to fulfil its mandate;
8. Decides that the theme of the first session of the Forum, to be held in 2016, will be “Widening the democratic space: the role of youth in public decision-making”.
26 March 2015
[Adopted by a recorded vote of 35 to 0, with 12 abstentions. The voting was as follows:
In favour: Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America
Abstaining: Algeria,* Bolivia (Plurinational State of), China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Viet-Nam]
2 See A/HRC/24/54.
Democracy is one of the universal core values and principles of the United Nations. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies.
The rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and subsequent human rights instruments covering group rights (e.g. indigenous peoples, minorities, persons with disabilities), are equally essential for democracy as they ensure an equitable distribution of wealth, and equality and equity in respect of access to civil and political rights.
The Rule of Law and Democracy Section stands as OHCHR focal point for democracy activities. The Section works to develop concepts and operational strategies to enhance democracy and provide guidance and support to democratic institutions through technical cooperation activities and partnership with the relevant parts of the UN, notably the UN Democracy Fund, the Department of Political Affairs and the UN Working Group on Democracy. Legal and expert advice are provided as required to OHCHR field operations and headquarters on relevant issues such as respect for participatory rights in the context of free and fair elections, draft legislation and training activities.
Democracy and the rule of law at the Human Rights Council
The former Commission on Human Rights adopted several landmark resolutions regarding democracy. In 2000, the Commission recommended a host of legislative, institutional and practical measures to consolidate democracy (resolution 2000/47). In 2002, the Commission defined the essential elements of democracy in resolution 2002/46.
Since its establishment in 2006, the Human Rights Council (successor to the former Commission on Human Rights) has adopted a number of resolutions highlighting the interdependent and mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy and human rights. Recent examples include resolution 19/36 on “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law”. Further to this resolution, OHCHR, in consultation with States, national human rights institutions, civil society, relevant intergovernmental bodies and international organizations, published a study on challenges, lessons learned and best practices in securing democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective. Based on the study, in June 2013 OHCHR organized a panel discussion on these issues, with the participation of international experts.
In March 2015, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 28/14, which established a forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to these areas. This forum will be held for the first time in 2016.
Cooperation with Parliaments
The primary focus of the Section’s work with Parliaments is placed on empowering the legislatures to exercise their legislative and oversight responsibilities in a manner conducive to an effective enjoyment and protection of all human rights and freedoms.
In cooperation with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Section is in the process of updating a Human Rights Handbook for Parliamentarians: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/training13en.pdf
Cooperation with the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF)
As a member of UNDEF Programme Consultative Group (PCG), OHCHR provides expert advice and support to UNDEF’s Advisory Board and Secretariat on project proposals and funding criteria. Since 2006, and with the involvement of OHCHR staff in Geneva, New York and the field, OHCHR has participated in the review of national, regional and global project proposals from all regions.
For information on how to apply for an UNDEF project grant, please click here.
OHCHR contributed to the drafting of the Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Democracy, adopted in 2009.
At the inter-agency level, OHCHR is a member of the Working Group on Democracy and of the Inter-agency Consultative Meeting on Electoral Assistance, which meet regularly.
OHCHR also ensures the follow-up to the General Assembly resolutions on the “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self‑determination”; and regular input to relevant Secretary-General reports to the General Assembly on democracy related subjects:
A/66/353 - Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies
A/64/372 - Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies
A/62/296 - Support by the United Nations System of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies
A/60/556 - Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies
A/58/392 - Support by the United Nations System of the Efforts of Governments to Promote and Consolidate New or Restored Democracies
The International Day of Democracy
On 8 November 2007, the General Assembly proclaimed 15 September as the International Day of Democracy, inviting Member States, the United Nations system and other regional, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to commemorate the Day. OHCHR contributed to the Info-Kit produced by DPI for public distribution to commemorate the first International Day of Democracy and marks the day through press releases, social media, and other special activities.
Further guidance on the various dimensions of the interrelation between democracy and human rights can be obtained in General Comment 25, and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 2000/47 and 2002/46.
The theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy is "Space for Civil Society." It is a reminder to Governments everywhere that the hallmark of successful and stable democracies is the presence of a strong and freely operating civil society -- in which Government and civil society work together for common goals for a better future, and at the same time, civil society helps keep Government accountable. You can watch the Secretary-General's message for International Day of Democracy 2015 [here]. For more information on International Day of Democracy, please visit http://www.un.org/en/events/democracyday/index.shtml.Compilation of documents or texts adopted and used by various intergovernmental, international, regional and subregional organizations aimed at promoting and consolidating democracy
The human rights normative frameworkThe values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies.The link between democracy and human rights is captured in article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”A voter casts her ballot in Timore-Leste’sparliamentary elections in July 2012. (UN Photo)The rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and subsequent human rights instruments covering the rights of certain groups (e.g. indigenous peoples, women, minorities, people with disabilities, migrant workers and members of their families) are equally essential for democracy as they ensure inclusivity for all groups, including equality and equity in respect of access to civil and political rights.For several years, the UN General Assembly and the former Commission on Human Rights endeavored to draw on international human rights instruments to promote a common understanding of the principles, norms, standards and values that are the basis of democracy, with a view to guiding Member States in developing domestic democratic traditions and institutions; and in meeting their commitments to human rights, democracy and development.This led to the articulation of several landmark resolutions of the former Commission on Human Rights.In 2000, the Commission recommended a series of important legislative, institutional and practical measures to consolidate democracy (resolution 2000/47); and in 2002, the Commission declared the following as essential elements of democracy:Supporters of South West Africa People'sOrganization demanding UN- supervised electionsat a rally in Windhoek, Namibia, 1978. (UN Photo)Respect for human rights and fundamental freedomsFreedom of associationFreedom of expression and opinionAccess to power and its exercise in accordance with the rule of lawThe holding of periodic free and fair elections by universal suffrage and by secret ballot as the expression of the will of the peopleA pluralistic system of political parties and organizationsThe separation of powersThe independence of the judiciaryTransparency and accountability in public administrationFree, independent and pluralistic mediaSince its establishment in 2006, the Human Rights Council (successor to the Commission) has adopted a number of resolutions highlighting the interdependent and mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy and human rights. Recent examples include resolutions 19/36 and 28/14 on “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.Addressing democracy deficitsDemocracy deficits, weak institutions and poor governance are among the main challenges to the effective realization of human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) seek to address these challenges through their advisory services and programmes, which focus on strengthening the legal framework for human rights protection and promotion (institutional and legal reform); capacity building for stronger national human rights systems; implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations, promoting human rights-based approaches, including empowering vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of the society to claim their rights; advocacy, awareness raising and human rights education.In transitional democracies and countries emerging from conflicts, OHCHR collaborates with national governments and actors to build a strong and independent judiciary, a representative, efficient and accountable parliament, an independent and effective national human rights institution, and a vibrant civil society. In fragile contexts UNDP particularly focuses on human rights through its Rule of Law, Justice, Security and Human Rights programming, for example with National Human Rights Institutions in more than 80 countries; including through the Global Focal Point arrangement on Justice, Police and Corrections and the partnership between UNDP, DPKO, OHCHR, UNODC, UN Women and others.Promoting democratic governanceDemocratic governance, as supported by the United Nations emphasizes the role of individuals and peoples — all of them, without any exclusion — in shaping their human growth and the human development of societies. But individuals can only make such contributions when their individual potential is unleashed through the enjoyment of human rights.In 2011, UNDP helped more than 130 countries and devoted US$1.5 billion in resources to democratic governance, making UNDP the world's largest provider of democratic governance assistance. UNDP supports one in three parliaments in the developing world and an election every two weeks. In 2014, UNDP programmes strengthened electoral processes around the world and helped register 18 million new voters. UNDP also works to foster partnerships and share ways to promote participation, accountability and effectiveness at all levels, aiming to build effective and capable states that are accountable and transparent, inclusive and responsive — from elections to participation of women and the poor.OHCHR promotes democratic governance by providing sustained support to democratic institutions, including national actors and institutions involved in the administration of justice; enhancing the capacity of parliamentarians to engage in human rights protection, supporting civil society, facilitating constitution-making, and conducting human rights monitoring in the context of electoral processes.Supporting transitional democraciesProtestors demand an end tolawlessness in Tripoli,December 2011. (UN Photo)Popular uprisings across the world were led by youth, women, and men from all social strata and are opening greater space for civic engagement in decision making. The calls for transformational change are a popular cry for choice, participation, transparency and respect for people’s legitimate quest for democratic space. These events have reaffirmed the pivotal importance of democratic governance as a system premised on inclusion, participation, non-discrimination and accountability.In transitional democracies and countries emerging from conflict, OHCHR collaborates with national governments and other actors to confront the past in order to rebuild public confidence and restore peace and the rule of law. OHCHR has actively supported transitional justice programmes in more than 20 countries around the world over the past decade. Its support includes ensuring that human rights and transitional justice considerations are reflected in peace agreements; engaging in the design and implementation of inclusive national consultations on transitional justice mechanisms; supporting the establishment of truth-seeking processes, judicial accountability mechanisms, and reparations programmes; and enhancing institutional reform.Guiding national and regional effortsPeople holding up their registration cards duringa referendum in Goma, Democratic Republic ofthe Congo.In March 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution titled “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” which reaffirmed that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. The Council called upon States to make continuous efforts to strengthen the rule of law and promote democracy through a wide range of measures. Further to this resolution, OHCHR, in consultation with States, national human rights institutions, civil society, relevant intergovernmental bodies and international organizations, published a study on challenges, lessons learned and best practices in securing democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective. Based on the study, in June 2013 OHCHR organized a panel discussion on these issues, with the participation of international experts.In March 2015, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 28/14, which established a forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to these areas. This forum will be held for the first time in 2016.OHCHR also works to underline the close relationship between human rights and democracy within the United Nations system. In collaboration with the UN Department of Political Affairs and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), OHCHR organized a ‘Round Table on Democracy and Human Rights’ in New York in 2011. The round table discussed democracy movements and their characteristics in a number of States, including those involved in the Arab Spring. It underlined the importance of working with regional and sub-regional organizations when dealing with unconstitutional changes of Government, and when promoting democratic movements and democracies more generally.OHCHR also seeks to partner with intergovernmental democracy-promoting organizations such as l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and regional intergovernmental organizations. In addition, the Office provides dedicated support to the UN Democracy Fund, advising the decision making process on programme funding criteria and on project proposals.For more information:OHCHR Geneva, Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 9220 or visit: www.ohchr.orgUNDP New York, Tel: +1 (212) 906 5377 or visit: www.undp.org