Abuja, Aug. 31, 2021 (NAN) The Federal Government has kicked off a new collaboration with the United Nations system in Nigeria to prioritise interventions in the area of human rights in the country.
At a dialogue, which opened in Abuja on Tuesday, the two parties commenced talks on how to ensure better protection of rights, as well as the implementation of conventions and laws bordering on human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Speaking at the opening, UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said that human rights protection was cardinal to UN’s interventions around the world, hence its involvement in the dialogue.
Kallon, who was represented by Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Country Representative, said that Nigeria, like many other countries, faced a myriad of human rights challenges.
“As Nigeria strives towards a nation that acknowledges the rights of all human beings with strong and effective national protection systems, UN instruments and the mechanisms they have established as well as the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sets out the agenda for much of the work.
“The Call to Action for human rights, proclaimed in February 2020 by the Secretary General underpinned the centrality of human rights to UN’s work and global peace.
It constituted a public commitment by the Secretary General, on behalf of the UN, to lead in promoting and protecting human rights globally and in coordinating the UN’s response to situations where grave violations and abuses of human rights continue.
“To effectively address protracted human rights crises around the world, the Call to Action must move beyond words and be expeditiously implemented.
“This initiative today, is a step towards realising, in Nigeria, the dreams captured in the Call to Action for human rights,” he said.
He explained that the consultation with the government would help in streamlining efforts of the UN in advancing human rights.
Kallon specifically pointed out that the two-day dialogue would among others, take stock of UN’s support to the government and national partners, while developing a common understanding of the current trends in human rights.
He added that the dialogue would also: “identify extant priorities for UN support in human rights, taking into account the emerging trends on human rights in the country, including the shrinking civic space, persistent discrimination and inequalities.
“Identify ways and means of strengthening collaboration between the UN, government and partners to address agreed human rights priorities and taking into consideration best approaches”.
Kallon pointed out that going forward, the focus would be on establishing, as part of the consultation, a standing mechanism which meets periodically to assess our joint engagement on human rights issues in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mr Tony Ojukwu, stressed that a lot of work was required to address human rights concerns in a country as big as Nigeria.
He said that a lot of collaborations like the ongoing one would be required to meet the nation’s human rights demand, while thanking the UN for its effort in that regard.
Ojukwu said that at the moment, the commission, along with other Nigerians, was awaiting the approval of the draft National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights which would become the new policy document for rights advancement in Nigeria.
It is benchmarked on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has an attached implementation strategy which would be printed and distributed to stakeholders.
The idea of developing the action plan was to have an integrated national strategy for engagement and interventions on the protection of human rights, he added.
Having followed the laborious consultative process to establish ownership by national actors, it was expected that all human rights actors would shift their activities towards the realization of the plan.
In this regard, development partners supporting human rights activities in the country should insist that such activities are geared towards identifying challenges in the Action Plan for the country, he said.
Ojukwu charged NGOs and CSOs to channel their programmes towards addressing human rights challenges, calling on funding partners to also focus only on funding such interventions.
Also speaking, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, who harped on protection of the rights of women and children, called on states to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Act (VAAP).
According to Tallen, it was imperative for any state that valued women and children to domesticate the Act as well as the Child Rights Act.
“At the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, we would continue to play the coordinating role for the advancement of the rights and wellbeing of women, children and other vulnerable populations.
“This is why we are pushing for the domestication of the VAAP Act of 2015 and the Child Rights Act of 2003 across the country, especially in states.
“It is also important to stress that it is not only about domesticating the Act but the proper implementation of these Acts.
“I appeal to states that have not domesticated these Acts to ensure that this is done before the end of this year,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other government officials and stakeholders present or were represented at the event included the Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, who pledged the Army’s commitment to human rights and partnership with the UN.
Also represented was the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq who corroborated that government and states should focus on implementing laudable laws on human rights, rather than merely domesticating them on paper.
The Executive Director of UN Women called for the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill that had been pending before the National Assembly for many years. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
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