Closing remarks of Helena Fraser, UN Resident Coordinator. International online conference: "Digitalization of the ombudsperson’s work: innovative mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights and freedoms"

I am happy to join you on this occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Ombuds Office and commemoration of Human Rights Day on behalf of the UN Country Team.

During this event you have had rich discussions where representatives of invited national human rights institutions, Ombudsperson’s Offices of other countries shared their best practices on working in line with the Paris Principles. Experts and civil society representatives have also offered their ideas how national human rights institutions can fulfil their functions in close cooperation with civil society. A wealth of recommendations and ideas have been shared on how the work of the Ombudsperson’s Office can become even more proactive and innovative.

This year has been a challenging year for all of us. It has demonstrated that only by applying human rights standards will we be able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failings exposed and exploited by COVID-19 and tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination that still persist in all countries of the world.  

Yesterday, on Human Rights Day, the UN High Commissioner noted that in the context of COVID-19 pandemic we need to focus on Building Back Better by ensuring Human Rights are at the centre of the recovery efforts. 

The UN Country Team has been supporting the Ombuds Office in building capacity of the institution as one of the key national actors in the sphere of human rights promotion and protection in Uzbekistan. Many recommendations have been implemented, including appointment of the Children’s Rights Ombudsperson and protection of rights of persons in mandatory quarantine facilities. Public interventions of Mrs. Yunusova on cases related to the right to adequate housing and forced evictions and her monitoring visit and interviews conducted with victims of the Sardoba dam burst to assess how their rights are being ensured by the Government are excellent examples of NHRIs advocacy for the rights of the most vulnerable. It is also remarkable that this work was undertaken jointly and with input from civil society. 

In relation to torture prevention, the work of the Ombudsperson on preventive monitoring visits to all places of deprivation of liberty paves way to the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. I am confident that advocacy for ratification of this important international treaty will be successful if the Ombudsperson continues to play its role in line with the Paris Principles and will present the Parliament and Government with convincing arguments why ratification should be considered sooner rather than later. Ratification of OPCAT would be yet another demonstration of Uzbekistan’s continued human rights reforms and contribute towards implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy.

I hope we will expand our partnership on monitoring and advocating for the rights of the persons with disabilities in closed institutions and their access to justice, as well as partner with the Government in collecting data and addressing practices of discrimination. I am confident that the Ombudsperson will continue advocating for ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Ratification of this core Human Rights Treaty is also included into the National Human Rights Strategy and its Roadmap.

As 2021 will be the year when the world starts rolling out the vaccination programme against COVID-19, ensuring a human rights based approach in delivery and providing fair access to the vaccines, with priority for frontline workers and the most vulnerable members of our society, will be high on the human rights agenda.  The Ombudsperson’s Office can play a key role in monitoring and reporting on this important issue. 

The ongoing urban development that leads to development-based evictions is another strategic topic that requires close attention of the Ombudsperson. Rights-holders need to know that they have a reliable partner who will stand up for their rights in situations of evictions. 

The unique mandate of the Ombudsperson’s Office  empowers Mr. Muhammadiev and Mrs. Yunusova to continue being a strategic and equal partner for state authorities in human rights promotion and protection, a facilitator of dialogue between government and civil society, a protector for the most vulnerable and an independent watchdog that can shed light on injustices and promote human rights compliant practices and laws. 

The UN Country Team will continue underlining the importance of allocating the Ombudsperson’s Office with adequate resources, safeguarding the Office’s autonomy and independence, ensuring the Office’s pluralism and proactive and vocal approach to human rights monitoring, as well as reporting and advocacy. 

In conclusion, the UN in Uzbekistan, national partners, civil society and, of course, the Ombudsperson’s Office of Uzbekistan will need to continue working hand in hand in order to reach our common global goals Agenda 2030.

In conclusion, Mr. Muhammadiev and Mrs. Yunusova, I would like to thank you for all your hard work and wish to express the support of the UN Country Team in continuing to fulfil your mandate in line with the Paris Principles!

Speech by
Author
Helena Fraser
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Helena Fraser
UN entities involved in this initiative
OHCHR
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights