Kamu Denetçiliği Kurumu’nun Kurumsal Kapasitesinin Güçlendirilmesi Projesi Açılış Toplantısı

04.May.2015

Statement by
Kamal Malhotra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey
Resident Representative, UNDP Turkey

Turkish Grand National Assembly, Ankara/ Turkey

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Honorable Speaker of the Parliament, Cemil Çiçek

President of the Court of Cassation, Council of State

President of High Election Board

Secretary General of Presidency

Chief Ombudsman, Nihat Ömeroğlu

Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Lars Wahlund

Acting Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, Mr. Bela Szombati

Excellencies,

Esteemed members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and high judiciary

Civil society organizations, members of the press

Distinguished participants,

On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, allow me to begin by saying what a privilege it is to address you at the launch of the Strengthening the Institutional Capacity of Ombudsman Institution Project.

It is the first UNDP initiative with the Ombudsman Institution of Turkey, an institution which is increasingly recognized at national and international levels as both an essential mechanism for the promotion of good governance in the civil service and the promotion and protection of human rights.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The last ten years have witnessed the emergence of important new national human rights actors across the world. Foremost among them are national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (“national institutions”). They have adopted a variety of forms and functions depending on the national context in which they operate.

Despite their differences, all national institutions share certain common features: they are expected to work independently from the executive, co-operate with relevant actors at home and abroad and contribute to the implementation of international human rights standards by acting as “guardians”, “experts” and “teachers” of human rights.

The potentially important role of national institutions has been acknowledged by many organisations active in the field of human rights, including the United Nations. The UN has been actively advocating for the expansion of such national institutions which are based on the Paris Principles and which were endorsed in 1993 by the World Conference on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly.

The central position that such national institutions have gained in the overall human rights work of the organisation is also reflected in the UN Secretary-General’s report of 2002, which states “building strong human rights institutions at the country level is what in the long run will ensure that human rights are protected and advanced in a sustained manner. The emplacement or enhancement of a national protection system in each country should therefore be a principal objective of the Organisation” (the UN).

At this point, allow me to note that there is no standard nomenclature for national institutions working on human rights, just as there is no standard model. According to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States have the right to choose the framework that best suits them, subject to international human rights standards. Although the Paris Principles set out the minimum standards for the roles and responsibilities of national human rights institutions, they do not dictate models or structures. In that respect, different institutional structures are evolving rapidly, and there are as many variations as there are geographic regions and legal traditions.

As is the case in Turkey, some ombudsman offices take the position that they can handle human rights matters in practice, even if the country has a separate National Human Rights Institute (NHRI). In such cases, the institutions are strongly encouraged to work together to avoid duplication or confusion.

The ombudsman model is widespread in Eastern and Western Europe, Central and South America and in the Commonwealth of Independent States. There has been increased cooperation among regional and international associations of ombudsmen and NHRIs in the context of the Paris Principles, as well as between these organizations and the United Nations system as a whole.

Distinguished Guests,

Worldwide, Ombudsman Institutions acting as one of the national institutions on human rights are generally structured to promote and protect human rights, and are not principally focused only on promoting good governance in public administration. Their importance in the system was also raised in General Assembly resolution 63/169, which encourages Member States to consider the creation or the strengthening of independent and autonomous ombudsman and other national human rights institutions, and to develop, where appropriate, mechanisms of cooperation between these institutions in order to coordinate their actions, strengthen their achievements and exchange lessons learned.

More recently, the General Assembly, in its resolution 64/161, also addressed increased cooperation between national human rights institutions and regional and interna¬tional associations of ombudsmen. Ombudsman institutions are encouraged to actively draw on the standards enumerated in international instruments and the Paris Principles to strengthen their independence and increase their capacity to act as national human rights protection mechanisms.

Distinguished Participants,

The First and Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review for Turkey were held – the first in 2010 and the second very recently in January 2015. We are told that Turkey considers the protection and promotion of human rights as a political priority and the review mechanism is considered to be an opportunity for extensive evaluation of the human rights situation in Turkey and its recommendations have provided greater impetus to the ongoing reforms in Turkey.

As you may recall, responding to the recommendations of the 1st Review and as part of the efforts to strengthen the human rights situation in the country, legislation on both the Ombudsman Institution and National Human Rights Institute were enacted and both institutions became functional in 2013.

In their second year of operation, the 2nd Cycle UPR emphasized the need both to maintain and strengthen these institutions in line with international human rights standards to enhance their operational efficiency and cooperation with civil society. The Project that we launch today will directly address this recommendation of Turkey’s 2nd Cycle UPR and is designed to support the Ombudsman Institution which should be governed by Paris Principles which provide the broad normative framework for its status, mandate and methods of operation.

In that sense, while responding to the operational needs of the Ombudsman Institution, the Project will promote the adoption of an active and systemic approach to human rights issues rather than merely responding to external events.

In line with UNDP’s  extensive experience and the lessons learned while working with more than 25 national institutions on human rights, I would like to draw your attention to two observations that are important for the effective functioning of such institutions:  

First, the most effective institutions attempt to resolve issues systemically. When repeated complaints indicate the importance of an issue, these should be tackled, where possible, by addressing root causes rather than only by addressing individual grievances through the complaints resolution process.

Secondly, an effective national institution on human rights should effectively monitor the overall human rights situation to identify the most serious human rights issues, which it will then make its main priorities. In this context, I should highlight that it is important to understand that the issues most complained about need not necessarily be the most important.

Our joint Project with the Ombudsman Institution in Turkey will therefore emphasize these fundamental lessons in responding to the capacity needs of the Institution.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an agent of change, the UNDP seeks to place human beings and human rights at the center of its work as part of its human development approach and paradigm. In that sense and in light of the standards enumerated in international instruments and the Paris Principles which seek to strengthen the independence of national institutions and increase their capacity to act as national human rights protection mechanisms, it is not surprising that UNDP has a strong commitment to this project.

There is no doubt that the success and sustainability of this project will depend very much on the commitment of all the stakeholders involved. This includes the national pillars of Turkey’s human rights machinery, civil society organizations, the international community and the public at large.

In this context, I would like to thank all of you present here today, as well as those who are committed to this cause but could not join us, for your coordinated efforts in addressing Turkey’s human rights challenges. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Swedish International Development Agency for supporting this project.

Thank you very much.

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