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Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)
31 October 2005

Occupied Palestinian
Territories: Promoting
Human Rights
in a Climate of Change

OHCHR Palestine’s 2005 work plan acknowledges the changing environment and places an emphasis on strengthening partnerships through sustainable, relevant and measurable programmes.

Human rights
in Institutional Reform

Alongside a major re-structuring of Palestinian security and police forces is underway, OHCHR Palestine is supporting human rights training for law enforcement officials. With the Palestinian Minister of Interior’s support, OHCHR Palestine worked with the Police Academy in Gaza and the newly re-opened Police Academy in Jericho, in the West Bank, to integrate human rights into the training curriculum for new police recruits; it also carried out intensive training of trainers to support the new cadre of police officer trainers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Similar plans have been agreed with officials in the Prisons’ Administration, with a first training of trainers’ session taking place at the end of August in Gaza. The aim is to build law enforcement agencies which are better equipped to uphold the rule of law and human rights, and provide greater security for the population.

Human Rights Education

At the end of August, the Palestinian Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr. Na’im Abu al-Hommos and OHCHR Palestine agreed to a statement of cooperation with a view to implementing Phase One of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, which focuses on primary and secondary education. The Programme will build on the Palestinian Authority’s past experience of human rights education, and its partnerships with civil society, and will also be supported by several UN Agencies based in the OPT.

Together with the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights, (PICCR, the National Human Rights Institution), OHCHR Palestine agreed a programme of cooperation which includes capacity building for PICCR staff as well as co-organizing training sessions on Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures for the human rights NGO community, intended to facilitate greater inter-action between Palestinian civil society and international human rights mechanisms. OHCHR Palestine is also advising on draft legislation, working with the PICCR, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to bring legislation into harmony with international human rights standards.

Mainstreaming Human Rights

OHCHR Palestine is also investing in partnerships with UN colleagues in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Earlier this year, OHCHR Palestine set up an Inter-Agency Human Rights Working Group. Recognizing that all UN Agencies are working for human rights in accordance with their respective mandates, the Working Group acknowledged that the complementarity of mandates was a particular strength of the UN OPT family, and improved understanding of one another’s work and priorities could lead to joint initiatives and more effective means of protecting human rights.

UN Human Rights Reform
and the Role of Civil Society

In his report, In Larger Freedom, of March 2005, the Secretary-General highlights the linkages between development, security and respect for human rights. This is of particular resonance for this part of the world. The aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for peace and human rights guarantees, including the right to security and development, have long been high on the agenda, but have assumed a new urgency with disengagement, the imperative of alleviating the desperate economic situation for the people of Gaza, in particular, and the needs of all to live in safety and security.

OHCHR’s Plan of Action, May 2005, Protection and Empowerment, builds on the linkages, placing the emphasis on providing effective protection and securing implementation of international human rights standards, in addition to promoting their use. Within these frameworks for change, engagement with Palestinian civil society is indispensable.

“No one under-estimates the challenge to make human rights a daily reality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, said June Ray, OHCHR Palestine’s Head of Office, “but we believe that strong partnerships will provide a strong foundation on which to base OHCHR’s future work with and for the Palestinian people”.

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