Commonwealth Small States highlight challenges, call for support

Leading small states of the Commonwealth on Wednesday called for a more inclusive approach to human rights in the UN Human Rights Council that reflected their concerns, development interests and priorities.

“Human right is about justice and inclusion,” said Ambassador J.R. Deep Ford of Guyana, who co-hosted the event, which was organized by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). Other collaborators were the Permanent Mission of Singapore and the Federation International des legues desdroits de L’Homme (FIDH).

Ford and other ambassadors from the Bahamas and Singapore as well as Karen MacKenzie, head of the human rights unit at the Commonwealth Secretariat, spoke at a side event in Geneva at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). The CHRI event was titled, Small States at the HRC, Building Capacity, Strengthening Presence and Developing Outreach.

Karen Mckenzie of the Commonwealth Secretariat shared the organization’s efforts to build capacity among small states, showcased some success stories like the Bahamas which is contesting for a seat at the next HRC but admitted that much more was needed to be done, because of a funding crunch, said a CHRI press release.

Ambassadors and senior diplomats from various UN missions participated including the New Zealand, Bhutan, Germany, Australia, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Belize, Malawi, Guinea Bissau, Singapore, joined by a range of civil society members and UN officials at the event. The discussion aimed in raising awareness about under-representation of Small States at the HRC, and the need to build synergy amongst Commonwealth countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat and civil society to support Small States in building capacity.

In the interaction which followed, diplomats and civil society representatives urged for better coordination among larger countries, small states and Small Island Developing States to foster better understanding of their needs and their complex societies. There was a need for better engagement with CSOs to help develop a greater “quality of trust” as well as review of implementation of UN resolutions in the home countries.

CHRI Director, Sanjoy Hazarika, who moderated the session, spoke of the need for better accountability processes as well as “bridging democratic deficits”.

Of the 52 member states of the Commonwealth, 31 are Small States.

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