4 UN agencies to work with PH gov't on joint human rights cooperation program

Published July 25, 2021, 10:47 AM

by Roy Mabasa

At least four United Nations (UN) entities will work hand-in-hand with the Philippine government to implement a three-year capacity building and technical cooperation program for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

(L to R) UN Representative to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzales, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodro Locsin Jr. during the signing of the Joint Programme on Human Rights on Thursday, July 22, 2021 (UN Philippines)

Through the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights signed on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the United Nations identified the four agencies as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UN Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT); and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The signing came as the Duterte administration enters its last year in office with a dismal human rights record specifically on the issue of extrajudicial killings related to its bloody war-on-drugs campaign that left more than 6,000 people dead.

UN Philippine Resident Representative Gustavo Gonzales described as a “critical milestone” the signing of the UN joint program which was developed to implement Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 45/33 adopted on October 7, 2020 that outlined specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.

“This is the first-ever UN joint programme on human rights in the Philippines, where we put together the capacities and resources of the UN in support of a wide range of national institutions,” Gonzales said.

Capacity-building and technical cooperation will cover six areas, namely, strengthening domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms; data gathering on alleged police violations; civic space and engagement with civil society and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR); national mechanism for reporting and follow-up; counter-terrorism legislation; and human rights-based approaches to drug control.

The UN said the four agencies will work with the Philippine government, drawing on expertise and best practices to apply human rights-based approaches in these areas.

Australia is the first to provide financial support to the UN-initiated program with an initial contribution of P12.9 million.

The implementing agencies of the UN joint program are the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), the Department of Health (DOH), the Anti-Terrorism Council-Program Management Center (ATC-PMC), and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

“Respect for human rights is fundamental to all of the UN’s work,” said Gonzalez. “This project is a commitment that we will keep taking action for human rights, in ways that have an impact, and where it is most needed. We can only do so by listening and partnering with a wide range of actors,” Gonzales said.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsn Jr. represented the Philippine government in the signing that was witnessed by Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Sisson of the Embassy of Australia, Chargé d’Affaires Rafael de Bustamante Tello of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines, and Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS).