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Commonwealth mediation training to help resolve human rights disputes
Published on August 9, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

LONDON, England -- Senior officials from 14 national human rights commissions from around the Commonwealth will meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, later this month for a week-long training exercise to explore ways of preventing, managing and resolving human rights related disputes.

The Commonwealth Secretariat will conduct this training with ACCORD, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, a South Africa-based civil society organisation working to bring creative solutions to the challenges posed by conflict.

Nita Yawanarajah, adviser and head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Good Offices Section, the section that leads the organisation’s efforts to prevent and resolve political tensions and disputes, said: “Every country faces human rights challenges. How it prevents, manages and resolves such disputes is what demonstrates the maturity of its institutions and the health of its democracy.”

Yawanarajah said the Commonwealth believes strongly in investing in building the capacity of its members to settle disputes peacefully, as the alternative has proven to be too costly. “This training is aimed to help enhance the capacity of national human rights commissions to prevent and manage human rights disputes peacefully.”

Karen McKenzie, acting head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit said: “Under their protection responsibility, national human rights institutions have the key remit to investigate alleged human rights abuses, for example discrimination disputes. One of the ways in which this is done is through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Early interventions allows for the speedy resolution of cases and ensures that priority cases receive immediate attention.”

The training in Kuala Lumpur is the first in a series for national human rights institutions to be rolled out around the Commonwealth. This training is being done through the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, of which SUHAKAM, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, is the current chair.

Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, the chairman of SUHAKAM, said: “SUHAKAM welcomes this meaningful initiative from the Commonwealth Secretariat and hopes that it will result in heightened awareness and advanced capabilities of the national human rights institutions in effectively addressing conflicts and disputes in their respective countries.”

The training is expected to enhance the capacity of national human rights institutions to address human rights based disputes early and effectively. It will cover such topics as analysing human rights disputes, understanding the mandates of national human rights institutions in mediation, and will also focus on negotiation and mediation skills building.

Similar training was held earlier this year in Durban, South Africa, for national election commissions from around the Commonwealth, focussing on the peaceful resolution of election related disputes.

Vasu Gounden, the executive director and founder of African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes and the Commonwealth’s conflict resolution training partner, said: “We are pleased to work with the Commonwealth in conducting this training. The Commonwealth’s long tradition as a trusted partner in promoting and protecting human rights, and its track record in the use of mediation and quiet diplomacy in the peaceful resolution of disputes makes it an ideal partner for this training programme for national independent institutions.”

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