So, You Want To Be The Next High Commissioner? 2013

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.
Participants at WFUNA's 3rd Annual Human Rights Training in Geneva for UNA Youth (WFUNA 2013)
Participants at WFUNA's 3rd Annual Human Rights Training in Geneva for UNA Youth (WFUNA 2013)
Friday, July 26, 2013

GENEVA - From 22 to 25 July 2013, WFUNA held its third annual Human Rights Training for young UNA representatives in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Seventeen participants from 12 different UNAs (Ghana, Greece, India, Italy, Nepal, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda, UK and Zimbabwe) joined our intensive 4-day course on Human Rights and the Project Management.

The training aims at empowering UNA youth world-wide to become active in the field of human rights and to provide them with the knowledge and capacity to implement human rights projects in their countries. The first two days were dedicated to the complex UN human rights system while the last two days concentrated on human rights project management. The program included sessions with diplomats, UN staff, NGO representatives, and WFUNA staff as well as open discussions and challenging case studies.

The International Human Rights System

After a warm welcome at the Palais des Nations, Wiebke Harms, WFUNA’s Human Rights Education Program Officer, gave the participants a short overview of the training agenda. After an open discussion on the definition of “human rights”, Wiebke introduced participants to the UN Human Rights System in general. This overview was complemented in more detail by various speakers who shared their knowledge and experience with the students:

Dr. Heather Collister from the International Service for Human Rights explained how NGOs and civil society can engage with the Human Rights Council and identified obstacles but also opportunities and success stories of effective participation. Mr. Jamshid Gazyev from Special Procedures Branch of the OHCHR, provided the group with first-hand knowledge on the role of Special Procedures in holding up human rights values internationally. Mr. Ian Duddy, Head of Human Rights at the UK Mission to the UN, came to speak to our participants about what it means to be a human rights diplomat at the UN.  Mr. Duddy spoke from an essentially British perspective and vividly illustrated how being British greatly affects his priorities and focal points in the field of human rights. He sensitized the participants that the Human Rights Council, as an inter-governmental organ, still suffers from a degree of politicization and that, even in human rights negotiations, economic interests play an essential role. Mr. Kevin I. Koh from the Human Rights Treaties Division of the OHCHR talked about the UN Treaty Body System. He explained how the protection of human rights is essential for any form of sustainable development and why one has to fight for it in all parts of the world. He elaborated on the positive and negative aspects of working for the UN and its extensive bureaucracy, drawing the conclusion that it can be most rewarding if one has patience. The final speaker on the UN human rights system was Mr. Roland Chauville, Executive Director of UPR-Info, a Geneva-based NGO focused on informing the public about the Universal Periodic Review.

At the end of day two, participants could apply their newly gained knowledge during a WFUNA-designed simulation on the UPR process. During two hours they slipped into the role of diplomats and NGO representatives and concluded the session with a very positive and cooperative review.

Human Rights Project Management

In the last two days of the training session, Wiebke introduced the participants into the complexities of effective project management and equipped them with the tools to implement their very own local human rights project.

Theory of the project cycle came to life when participants developed detailed project proposals, which they presented in the final session of the training. Projects ranged from raising awareness about human rights among university and high school students, to providing advocacy for the rights of persons with disabilities, to empowering local NGOs to become more effective by giving them professional training in the UN human rights system.

All of the proposals included detailed thought on problem identification, target groups, goals, specific objectives, expected results, an elaborated work plan and a lot of imagination of how to bring an idea into practice.

Participants will leave Geneva with the objective to develop and implement their own human rights project in coordination with their respective UNAs in the next 6 months. WFUNA will provide them with support and guidance throughout this process. We are looking forward to hear about their project’s success stories! 

 You can find the pictures of our young human rights activists at work in our WFUNA Facebook gallery:


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