DR. ARUN KASHYAP // Assisting States parties with reporting and follow up on concluding observations in the Caribbean: "A Case Study: Assistance Provided to Jamaica".

Apr 16, 2013

• H.E. Ms. Greta Gunnarsdottir or H.E. Mr. Desra Percaya
• Representatives of the Governments of Senegal, Barbados and Suriname
• Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights
• Other UN colleagues
• Specially invited guests

Thank you very much to our OHCHR colleagues for the opportunity to be here at this important workshop on developing the capacity of States to report to human rights treaty bodies and follow up on concluding observations. I am delighted to be here with you to share the assistance provided to Jamaica by OHCHR to build the national capacity to report to human rights treaty bodies.

Since its membership in the United Nations now nearly 50 years ago, Jamaica and Jamaicans have played a noteworthy role in the United Nations’ system by assisting to focus international attention on advancement of human rights and equitable human well-being and economic cooperation.  It is noteworthy that Jamaica led designation of 1968 as the International Year for Human Rights to mark the Twentieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and emphasized the promise of the UN Charter.  Jamaica exemplified its commitment to the principle of human rights through its persistent opposition to apartheid and racism as the first country to declare a trade embargo against South Africa and got the General Assembly adopt the International Declaration and eventually the Convention against Apartheid in Sports; Jamaica also negotiated the path to Zimbabwe's independence.  Of note, Olympic gold medalist, Jamaican Usain Bolt was selected as one of the international spokespersons for the, “My voice, my right: My voice counts” campaign on International Human Rights Day December 2012. 

Jamaica’s constitution enshrines the principles of human rights.  It is clear from Jamaica’s national roadmap for inclusive development termed Vision 2030 Jamaica, National Development Plan that the wealth of the country has to be led by a better and more equitable distribution of the fruits of the productive processes to provide a better quality of life for all and ensure, for instance that all children and women grow up in a violence-free environment, are well nourished and have access to educational facilities and health services.  

We are now in the second year of the launch of the 2012-2016 United Nations Development Action Framework.  The United Nations Development Action Framework (UNDAF) is an expression of the UN’s continuing commitment to and cooperation with the Government and people of Jamaica, and it was prepared in a participatory and an inclusive manner.  The UNDAF is structured on the foundation that human rights and equitable development are not mutually exclusive and that they are mutually reinforcing.   In fact, an UNDAF Pillar underscores the guidance to all Agencies to ensure human rights for all, particularly for children, poor women and men, including people living with HIV and AIDS.  An Outcome specially recognizes that “ensuring national and personal security and safety, ensuring equal access to timely justice for all and reducing injustices and discrimination will forge a strong, peaceful, unified and respectful society in which participation and partnership thrive.”  The Government of Jamaica has been supportive of the efforts of the UN Country Team to place greater emphasis on the Human Rights Based Approach to development and integrating human rights in all development programming in Jamaica. 

It is our firm belief that the UNDAF will respond to Jamaica’s main development challenges and contribute to efforts to transform the country to high standards of living especially for the socially excluded and vulnerable as indicated by enhanced quality of life; world class standards in areas of education, health care, food and nutrition. This is to be achieved by strengthening civility and social order, citizen security and personal safety, human rights and justice and through enhancing access to sustainable energy, environmental and cultural goods and services, while having the capability to build resilience against natural disasters, as well as capacity to adapt to and combat the adverse impacts of climate change.

The support provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has reinvigorated the UN Country Team’s efforts to strategically foster human rights matters in the country by including it in all development activities and teaming up with the Government of Jamaica to advance its attention to the seminal need to ensure respect and enforcement of human rights of all persons in the country. We were delighted by the first ever visit to the English-speaking Caribbean by a High Commissioner for Human Rights, about a year ago. During her engagement with the UN family in Jamaica, Ms. Navi Pillay recognized the wide range of issues on which Jamaica requires assistance, valued the timeliness of the Government’s engagement and UN’s efforts to advance human rights work in the country, and readily offered OHCHR’s assistance to the UN Country Team.

Now the OHCHR, represented by the Caribbean Focal Point based in Geneva, joins the Human Rights Theme Group (chaired by UNICEF and UNDP and includes all resident and non-resident agencies, funds and programmes active in Jamaica) virtually, when it convenes every quarter.  This has truly enhanced UNCT Jamaica’s capacity to ensure targeted and high impact support to the Government of Jamaica.

Also, at the request of the UN Country Team and in consultation with the Government of Jamaica, both in Kingston and through the Permanent Mission of Jamaica in Geneva, OHCHR led a 3-day technical mission to Jamaica in November 2012 with a focus on the follow-up to the first review of Jamaica under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC).  This provided a valuable opportunity to raise general awareness on the fulfilment of the State’s human rights obligations and commitments while accomplishing an assessment of on-going national efforts, commitments, capacities and technical needs of the State, other stakeholders and UN Agencies to support the implementation of recommendations from all UN human rights mechanisms.

The mission effectively advocated the significance of a designated institution in the Government as the UPR focal point, as well as for cooperation with other UN human rights mechanisms.  The value added by an effective inter-institutional coordination mechanism through enhanced harmonization, clarity and implementation of follow-up plans to implement recommendations/concluding observations from all UN human rights mechanisms was recognized by the Government.

I am pleased to convey that the Government has made a request for the UN Country Team in Jamaica to assist in the establishment of a Human Rights Unit in the Ministry of Justice through the placement of a Human Rights specialist there. The Expert would lead the establishment of a functional human rights unit within the Ministry of Justice to enable improved coordination of ministries, departments and agencies in the preparation of periodic reports and supporting the UPR process and recommendations.  The existence of such an Institution would also assist in integrating and mainstreaming Human Rights in the implementation of inclusive national development strategies. We are currently in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the Ministry of Justice to finalise the scope and duration of the support.  We are delighted to have the OHCHR’s support through the sharing of global and regional good practices, and the mobilization of resources.

I am also pleased to share that the OHCHR has agreed to provide the UN Country Team with technical expertise to support the comprehensive development of a national human rights strategy, through the presence of a Human Rights Advisor in the Resident Coordinator’s office.  We as the Jamaica Country Team are confident that this valuable support will assist us in not only refining our Human Rights mainstreaming capacity, but also work with the Government’s human rights unit in enhancing relevant policies, advocacy and capacity to coordinate, monitor and implement a  Human Rights strategy and rights based services.

The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade share responsibilities for human rights issues in Jamaica. The Government of Jamaica values the support provided by the UN - especially in the fulfilment of its human rights obligations on reporting and follow-up, through the addressing of key human rights issues of concern relating to inclusive development and through the on-going 2012-2016 UNDAF programmes. 

The celebration of Human Rights Day on December 10, 2012 was supported by the UN team in Jamaica to raise awareness of a wide range of stakeholders about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While paying tribute to the United Nations in his address, the Minister of Justice, Senator the Honourable Mark Golding, also spoke passionately about the need to advance Human Rights, Social Justice and Good Governance. 

The respect and protection of all human rights is an ongoing process. Jamaica continues the process of enacting new laws and amending or abolishing old laws to bring the national laws in line with its international commitments.

As we seek creative opportunities to translate the UN’s commitment into action, by working cooperatively with the Government of Jamaica in developing its capacity for reporting to treaty bodies and follow-up, we are grateful for the supportive environment provided by the Government and the unflagging and valued support of the OHCHR, especially through the Americas Section Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division as well as the UPR and Treaty Bodies Sections.

We look forward to learning from regional and global good practices as well as from our government and national partners, so that we can build upon each other’s efforts to effectively assist the Government in developing human, institutional and system-wide capacities to meet the aspirations of Jamaicans in the achievement of the vision for a dignified overall welfare and well-being for all. 

I am sure I speak on behalf of the United Nations Country Team in Jamaica in saying that it is a privilege for us to partner with the people of Jamaica on the journey to make Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’ in line with their Vision 2030 Jamaica.

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