NHC becomes member of the FIDH
At the 39th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa 24-26 August 2016, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) was accepted as new member. – We are proud to become part of one of the most important families of human rights organizations in the world, said Bjørn Engesland, NHC Secretary General.
“We think that the membership gives us a lot of new possibilities to work together with devoted human rights defenders from different parts of the world. FIDH is dearly needed in a world marked by weakened respect for human rights in many quarters and with great needs for cross-borders cooperation between human rights defenders”, he continues.
FIDH now has more than 180 members, covering all parts of the world. – We think we can contribute to FIDHs activities in particular in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, were the NHC is particularly strongly engaged, said Engesland. “At the same time, the NHC will benefit in many ways from being part of this network of organizations in terms of sharing of experience, competence, joint advocacy and documentation.”
Several resolutions were adopted at the Congress, including on a range of countries with serious human rights problems (Burundi, China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, South Sudan, Nicaragua and Turkey) as well as on thematic issues (sexual and reproductive rights of women, death penalty, and human rights defenders at risk). In separate resolutions, the Congress addressed problems of elections, governance and justice in Africa.
In a strong resolution, the Congress appealed to the European Union to do more to resolve issues related to migration. It called on “the EU and its Member States to adopt a human-rights based approach to migration, by prioritizing the protection of the human rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, taking urgent measures to prevent further loss of lives at sea, including by enhancing their capacity for search and rescue, increasing their resettlement capacity, opening safe and legal migration channels and addressing the root causes of the violence that force people to flee their country of origin … .”
The NHC were active in the Congress, focusing on several issues. In a speech , Engesland underlined the need for democratic states to do more to support human rights defenders and whistle-blowers in authoritarian states were they risk being physically attacked, harassed, imprisoned and even killed for exposing corrupt and criminal officials. He argued for adoption of Magnitsky sanctions, pointing to the need for increasing the costs for the abusers. Such sanctions ban entry into the country and freeze assets of officials that attack human rights defenders and whistle-blowers without being held to account.
Background on FIDH
The FIDH is an international human rights non-governmental organization, which operates globally. It was established already in 1922, and is the oldest international human rights organization. Its headquarters are in Paris, while it maintain offices in a range of countries, including Thailand, Mali, Cõte d’Ivoire, Tunisa, Belgilum, and the US.
The founding principle of FIDH is that human rights are universal and apply to every person in the world, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the guide for the organizations activities.
FIDH’s structure and operations place its more than 180 member organisations at the heart of the decision making process. Its International Bureau formulates FIDH strategies, while the International Secretariat implements Bureau decisions and maintains contact with member organizations.
Since its establishment in 1922 by 20 national organisations on the initiative of French and German organisations, the FIDH has played a range of important roles. In 1927, FIDH proposed and then later helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. It also played an important role in proposing establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC), which came to life in 2002.
In the period 1945-2000, the FIDH expanded its activities, particularly within the UN. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War marked a new start in the development of national human rights organizations across the world. The FIDH supported this through co-operation programmes in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
In recent years, FIDH has been engaged in a range of important initiatives and events, such as fighting impunity for torture and mistreatment at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, protesting execution of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, lobbying a UN moratorium on the death penalty (adopted by the UN in 2008) as well as lobbying the adoption of the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted in 2008).
FIDH has conducted a large number of fact-finding missions, resulting in international attention and in some cases arrest warrants against persons suspected of international crimes.