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Human Rights: Due Diligence Policy to protect Civilians, foster Accountability

In a visit to Haiti last week, Ajith Sunghay, Human Rights Due Diligence Policy Advisor from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), met with various components of MINUJUSTH, UNCT members, Haitian authorities and international community representatives to discuss how to reinforce the application of the policy in the country.

The Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP), adopted in July 2011, requires all United Nations entities to be diligent in ensuring that support to non-UN security forces is provided in a manner that is consistent with the purposes and principles as set out in the Charter of the United Nations, and is compliant with and promotes respect for  international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.  

This requires UN entities, including peacekeeping missions to: a) carry out a risk assessment evaluating the potential risks and benefits involved in the provision or withholding of support; b) engage transparently with the receiving entities about the UN's legal obligations and core principles governing the provision of support; and c) develop an effective implementation framework.

“The policy was devised to reinforce and safeguard the reputation of the United Nations, but it’s also an enabler, as it allows to expand the set of partners the UN can work and helps foster accountability,” Sunghay said, emphasizing the importance of mitigating measures as a progress indicator, including by governments themselves. “Moreover, the policy also helps protect civilians, since it ensures that police and military forces abide by the law,” he added.

During his visit to Haiti, Sunghay carried out briefings with National Police officials, including HNP Director-General and Chief General Inspector, as well as the Office of the National Human Rights Ombudsperson, MINUUJSTH representatives, the UN country team and the diplomatic community. He also did some ground work to conduct a risk assessment to identify measures to mitigate the risk of grave human rights violations in the context of UNPOL’s support to PNH in the country.

All relevant stakeholders agreed to adhere to the policy and to contribute to its effective implementation in the country. The implementation of the HRDDP contributes to the promotion and protection of human rights and compliance with international human rights obligations by civil society organizations and national authorities.

“Since the adoption of the policy in 2011 and starting with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, various peacekeeping missions have incorporated human rights due diligence operating procedures,” he explained, adding that, during his visit to Haiti, he perceived an eagerness by the mission and the United Nations Country Team to implement the policy in the country.

Sunghay is responsible for providing technical guidance on the implementation of the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy to all UN peace missions. Over the last couple of years, he has provided advice to MONUSCO, MINUSCA, MINUJUSTH, UNIOGBIS, UNMISS and UNAMID.