The Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Work of the Human Rights Council: An effective, dynamic and results-oriented mechanism dedicated to LDCs and SIDS
The LDCs/SIDS Trust Fund was established by Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution HRC/RES/19/26 on 23 March 2012. The Fund is managed by the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which provides funding for various activities such as trainings, participation in HRC sessions and fellowships.
Australian Ambassaor for women and girls meeting SIDS delegates from the Pacific

Group Picture at HRC32

The SIDS delegates without permanent mission in Geneva attending HRC32

Audience

Photo credit: OHCHR

Historic first universal session of the Human Rights Council: How did SIDS representatives contribute to this landmark event? The 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, held from 13 June - 1 July 2016, marked the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council. In addition, the Council held its first universal session with the participation of all Member States, including 18 SIDS government officials (16 of whom are without a Permanent Mission in Geneva). The Trust Fund supported the participation of the 18 SIDS Beneficiary Delegates, including 13 women (72 per cent).

The Beneficiary Delegates from the following SIDS attended the session:

  • Africa: Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tomé and Principe.
  • Asia and the Pacific: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
  • Caribbean and Latin America: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname.

For 17 of the 18 Beneficiary Delegates, it was their first time in Geneva and their first time attending a regular session of the Council.

This historic universal participation was warmly welcomed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

On 9 June, the President of the Human Rights Council (H.E. Mr. Choi Kyonglim), Director-General of UNOG (Mr. Michael Møller) and the Permanent Representative of Switzerland, host country (Ambassador Alexandre Fasel), participated in a welcome ceremony that was organized by the Trust Fund and delivered remarks.

The SIDS Beneficiary Delegates were extremely active during the 3-week session. They delivered approximately 25 statements in their capacities as national representatives. They also issued an historic joint statement in the Human Rights Council on 27 June 2016. Their voices were also heard throughout the session.

During the 32nd session, H.E. Ms. Dunya Maumoon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives delivered an important statement on the occasion of the general debate on technical cooperation on behalf of a cross-regional group consisting of Australia, Bahamas, Maldives, Morocco and Singapore. The statement also had the support of 77 additional Member States. The statement stressed that “[i]n this Human Rights Council Chamber, we are the beating heart of the United Nations…It is imperative that every UN Member State has the opportunity to participate in the work of this Council, in keeping with our commitment to leave no one behind. Therefore, participation in the Council’s work must also be – in practice - universal. Today we welcome the participation of 16 Small Island Developing States (SIDS), who have not yet been able to actively participate in the work of this Council until this session. It is noteworthy that while SIDS represent less than one percent of the world’s population, they make up 20 percent of the UN’s membership.

We would like to particularly thank all Member States that have made contributions to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to support the participation of LDCs and SIDS which has made their participation possible in this session. We are seizing the opportunity of the 10th anniversary of the Council to underline the importance of paying special attention to the participation of all SIDS in the work of the HRC.”

In parallel to the 32nd session of the HRC, the LDCs/SIDS Trust Fund was involved in the organization of 10 events, undertaken individually or jointly with interested permanent missions from both beneficiary and donor countries to the Trust Fund. One of the highlights of the session was on 15 June 2016 when the LDCs/SIDS Trust Fund Secretariat officially launched its exhibition entitled, "Ensuring that the Voices of All UN Member States are Heard: Voices of the Beneficiary Delegates of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Work of the Human.

The exhibition, which was the first of its kind, featured the contributions of LDCs/SIDS in the work of the Human Rights Council and was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. John Quinn, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations in Geneva and H.E. Ms. Patricia O’Brien, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations. Australia and Ireland served as the co-sponsors of the event. Introductory remarks were made by H.E. Ms. Natasha Stott Despoja, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and H.E. Ms. A. Missouri Sherman Peter, Permanent Observer of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to the United Nations in New York.

The event was very well attended with over 200 participants, including several permanent representatives and the 18 SIDS Beneficiary Delegates who were supported by the Trust Fund at the session. The exhibition was available in English and French and featured the testimonies of 30 LDCs/SIDS Beneficiary Delegates (16 from Africa, 7 from Asia and the Pacific and 7 from the Caribbean and Latin America) who were Beneficiary Delegates of the LDCs/SIDS Trust Fund between 1 January 2014 and 31 March 2016. It also included statements issued by the 10 permanent representatives of the donor countries to the Trust Fund which outlined their motivations for contributing to the Trust Fund. A printed brochure of the exhibition is available in English and French.

The powerful impact of the participation of the 16 SIDS Beneficiary Delegates without permanent missions which resulted in the first universal session convinced additional donor countries to pledge their support to the Trust Fund. In less than one year (September 2015-September 2016) the number of donor countries has almost tripled (from 5 to 14).

Since it became operational in 2014, the Trust Fund has supported 59 delegates from 45 countries (18 LDCs and 27 SIDS): 26 men and 33 women! A new e-Learning Tool to enhance the participation of LDCs and SIDS in human rights activities: Welcome to Generation 2.0

In addition to enabling SIDS Beneficiary Delegates to participate in regular sessions of the HRC in Geneva through the 3-month fellowship programme, the Secretariat of the Trust Fund has been mandated to conduct targeted training and capacity-building including e-learning.

In September 2016, in parallel to the Council’s 33rd session, the Secretariat of the Trust Fund has developed and launched an e-Learning Tool on the Human Rights Council and its Mechanisms.

This is the first (free) online training tool on the Human Rights Council designed for LDCs/SIDS government officials. It can also be used by any government official in charge of human rights issues. The e-Learning tool can also be useful for UN staff based in the field and headquarters, staff members of regional and international organizations/groups, representatives of NGOs and civil society organizations, members of national human rights institutions and interns who would like to familiarize themselves with the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

The e-Learning tool is available in English and French. It takes an average of 3 hours to complete the four modules. This can be undertaken in a series of sessions at the convenience of the participant but must be completed within one month from the date of the initial inscription. A final assessment covering the four modules leads to a certificate delivered by the LDCs/SIDS Secretariat of the OHCHR.

The e-Learning tool is available on the LDCs/SIDS webpage at www.ohchr.org/sidsldc.

For additional information, kindly contact Ms. Fatou Camara Houel, Coordinator of the LDCs/SIDS Trust Fund, Human Rights Council Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (OHCHR), Palais Wilson at fhouel@ohchr.org or sidsldc@ohchr.org).
Copyright 2016 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs