By Business Mirror, December 20, 2021; Business Mirror

The Philippines-United Nations (UN) Joint Programme on human rights took its first major step on Monday at the Steering Committee meeting of government and civil society partners and participating UN agencies, where they agreed on a roadmap to implement Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 45/33, adopted on October 7, 2020, which outlined specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.

The steering committee meeting was participated in by Department of Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, UN Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez, and representatives of government, UN and civil society partners.

Guevarra said, “The Joint Programme seeks to affirm the commitment of the Philippines to the primacy of human rights, the importance of a free democratic space for civil society, and the principle of international cooperation—key values that the Philippines holds dear as a founding charter member of the UN.”

UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez said, “Today’s meeting is an important step forward in the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 45/33. Concrete actions, milestones and tools have been discussed and adopted. Everyone has a role in the joint programme and is accountable for the expected results.”

The human rights joint program received a boost recently with combined financial support from the governments of Norway and Australia of some P29 million.

“I thank the Governments of Australia and Norway for their readiness in supporting the Joint Programme. They know that respect for human rights is a core component of sustainable and inclusive development,” Gonzalez said.

“Australia is committed to see this programme succeed and deliver tangible results. We congratulate the Government of the Philippines for its efforts,” said Ambassador Steven Robinson of the Embassy of Australia.

On 22 July 2021, the Philippines and the UN signed the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights. The three-year UN joint program was developed to implement Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 45/33, adopted on October 7, 2020, which outlined specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The joint program document was signed by Secretary Guevarra, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., and Gonzalez, with the late Jose Luis Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights in attendance.

Aside from the Department of Justice, the UN joint program is being co-implemented by the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), the Department of the 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), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as well as the academe will also be core partners in the implementation of the programme.

UN entities involved in the programme – the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UN Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT); and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)—will work with the Government, drawing on expertise and best practices to apply human rights-based approaches in these areas.

Gonzalez said, “The UN Joint Programme on Human Rights brings together different actors to find solutions to complex challenges. This is not always an easy task, but these challenges cannot be resolved by trainings and expertise alone. Resolving them requires leadership and courage.”

“This Joint Programme forges a lasting partnership for the advancement of the principles declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article III of the 1987 Constitution—the Philippines’ own Bill of Rights,” said Guevarra.

Through the joint program, the UN in the Philippines will engage in capacity-building and technical cooperation in 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.