6 March 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to open this side-event on the launch of the upgraded Universal Human Rights Index database. This electronic tool has recently been redesigned to compile recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review in addition to the treaty bodies and the special procedures mechanisms. The upgrade was done in line with the adoption by my Office of a policy to ensure a comprehensive and holistic approach to promoting implementation and follow-up to all United Nations human rights mechanisms recommendations.
The Universal Human Rights Index database is not new. It was first made public in 2006 under the auspices of the Swiss authorities. Since 2007, my Office took over the responsibility for updating and further developing the Index. But it is only since December 2010 that all the rights and responsibilities related to the operation and maintenance of the Universal Human Rights Index were fully transferred by the Swiss Government to OHCHR. At that point, to ensure the sustainability, continuous development and improvement of the Index, OHCHR decided to enhance the application in compliance with United Nations standards. The powerful tool that you see today is the result of more than a year of efforts not only to migrate all the data, but also to develop new functionalities, and make it more user-friendly and accessible.
The Universal Human Rights Index serves one of the key objectives of the Office, which is to increase the visibility and widely disseminate relevant outputs and recommendations of human rights mechanisms. Indeed, by enabling easy access by a broad audience to recommendations and observations on specific human rights issues from the United Nations Human Rights system, the Index makes an important contribution to implementation efforts at the national level. In addition, the Index is an invaluable tool for human rights mainstreaming efforts in United Nations programmes, projects and activities at all levels.
Through the various search options, it is possible to review the recommendations coming from the treaty bodies, the special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review and to cluster them by thematic issue and groups of persons affected, thereby enhancing the the coherence and consistency between the three human rights mechanisms’ recommendations and outcomes. Furthermore, by enabling users to analyze and compare the recommendations of the three pillars of the United Nations human rights system, the Index may assist States in adopting a coordinated approach to implement those recommendations, facilitate follow-up and simplify the work of those who use the conclusions and recommendations.
OHCHR has had the opportunity to introduce the Index on various occasions and has undertaken several training sessions on the use of the database, for instance for members of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Most recently, during a series of workshops conducted by my Office on the UN Human Rights mechanisms (in Belgrade, Tbilisi and soon in Bishkek), the Index was presented as a tool to facilitate a coherent and coordinated approach to effective and holistic implementation of recommendations.
We have received very enthusiastic comments from States’ representatives, independent experts, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, and researchers, noting for example that the amount of time required to undertake a research has been dramatically reduced.
As Member States are now contemplating the second UPR cycle, they may envisage ways and means to cluster the many recommendations, often very similar, that they have received from the various UN human rights mechanisms with a view to prioritizing them and integrating them into a plan of action. In this regard, the Index may be a very useful tool, as it allows users to search for all the recommendations made for a specific State on a given topic. Such results can then be exported into a work document and serve as a basis to draw roadmaps and assign responsibilities for their implementation.
I believe that the Index is one of the most important human rights research tools that have been created in the last twenty years and I commit, now that the Index is entirely under the responsibility of my Office, that it will be continuously upgraded and adapted to the needs of all users.
I trust that you will make the best use of the new version of the Universal Human Rights Index.