Published in The E-Kantipur on Dec. 10 ::
Promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups can strengthen national integrity, peace and democracy
The United Nations has set ‘Human Rights 365’ as the theme for the international human rights day this year. The theme carries significant meaning because the promotion of human rights in a real sense is possible only when human rights are honoured every day throughout the year. Even as the world celebrates the 66th International Human Rights Day, the overall human rights situation in Nepal remains challenging and unpromising.
A lack of effort
Since signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, Nepal has been transitioning to peace and democracy. However, the prolonged transition and continuing instability have contributed to various human rights problems, such as impunity, deteriorating law and order, unemployment, human trafficking, migration, denial of justice to victims of conflict and human rights violations, violence against women, and lack of good governance. Most prominently, there are serious rights violation concerns of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, which include caste and gender-based discrimination, marginalisation, social exclusion, and the situation of persons with disabilities, mental illness, children, women, senior citizens, Dalits, and other minorities. Such groups have traditionally been excluded from the national mainstream and are susceptible to human rights violations. They are stripped of resources, choices, opportunities, and the privileges necessary for an adequate standard of living, including enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
It is rather disappointing that the government and human rights organisations have hardly put into operation effective programmes to deal with the human rights abuses of deprived and vulnerable groups. The government’s efforts on human rights promotion are largely limited to a handful of seminars and interactions in cities. The government, I/NGOs, and donors have entrenched the practice of conducting workshops, interactions, and meetings at luxurious hotels, expending high costs for food and accommodation while ignoring the objectives of their projects. Consequently, most interventions have failed to achieve targeted results. Thus, it is time to review and revise the trend of using resources for such unproductive programmes. It is imperative that such investments be made for result-oriented activities, focussing on targeted populations residing in remote sectors.
In this context, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recently launched strategic initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights under the slogan ‘Human rights for all in every household, a base of peace and development.’ The NHRC is also commencing strategic interventions to convey human rights awareness campaigns in every village and section of society. In this initiative, the Commission must collaborate and coordinate with civil society organisations (CSOs), other government institutions, the media, professional bodies, and human rights organisations. The Commission will also need to sensibly mobilise its human, financial, and technical resources to this effect. Such interventions have the potential to create an enabling environment for strengthening the rights of deprived, vulnerable, and marginalised groups, since most such populations dwell in village and remote areas.
Likewise, the Commission has made around 735 recommendations to the government till date on cases of human rights violations. However, the implementation status of these recommendations is quite dismal. As per the Commission’s record, 14 percent of recommendations has been fully implemented whereas 48 percent has been partially implemented and the remaining 38 percent is under consideration. The government has provided compensation of more than Rs 150 million to victims and their families as per the recommendation of the Commission. The Commission has also made 50 recommendations for policy reform, prioritising the rights of vulnerable groups.
The government is obliged to provide special protective measures to vulnerable groups and ensure some degree of priority consideration. The government should bear the responsibility to initiate human rights-friendly provisions for vulnerable groups, which includes developing and implementing laws and policies to address rights-related grievances and providing free healthcare, education, shelter, and legal aid to people living below the poverty line. The government ought to ensure the participation of excluded and vulnerable groups in all aspects of the decision-making process, which empowers and engages them in nation-building. It is the onus of the government to ensure effective implementation of domestic and international human rights laws to which Nepal is a party, and amend the laws and policies that continue discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, culture, ethnicity, age, and mental illness.
The government ought to appraise existing services, privileges, and opportunities bestowed to children, senior citizens, Dalits, and persons with physical and mental disabilities. Currently, the government is implementing its fourth National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) to advance the overall human rights situation in the country. It’s crucial that the government develop and execute strong monitoring mechanisms for the NHRAP’s effective implementation. The government’s commitment made before the UN to implement the recommendations of the Universal Period Review (UPR) on human rights protection should be translated into practice. Finally, the government should uphold core principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, inclusion, and social justice while framing and implementing human rights concerns of deprived and vulnerable groups.
The promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups can strengthen national integrity, peace, democracy, and development. Vulnerable groups are not destined to be vulnerable forever. There lives can be significantly different if they are treated equally with dignity and rights.
Regmi is Chairperson of the Society for Human Rights Concern (SHRC), Nepal