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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

UN Malaysia country office & UPR Review

Ms Juanita seated next to Tan Sri Simon
by Ms Juanita Joseph (UN Malaysia Coordination Specialist), UN Country Team in Malaysia

The UN system in Malaysia is represented by the UN Country Team (UNCT) - 10 resident agencies and five non-resident agencies, programmes and funds.  The mandate for human rights is held by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok. 

In Malaysia, there is a UN Human Rights and Development Theme Group comprising the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UN Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

CSOs and the UPR
In 2013, there were 28 submissions for the UPR from various stakeholders such as civil society organisations (CSO) and NGOs, reflecting a growing strength of the NGO movement in Malaysia. The OHCHR compiles all submissions into a single report and it is important to note, that the stakeholders' report  does not contain opinions, judgments, suggestions or determinations by the OHCHR.  The same applies to the UN information compiled by the OHCHR. 

Hence, what NGOs and CSOs would normally do following this, would be to lobby the issues with member states as the UPR process is a member state driven process and it really depends on them, and requires action from these member states.  Some NGOs organise reviews a month or two before the actual UPR process.  The process provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve human rights situation in their country and to fulfil their human rights obligations.  The process reminds them of their responsibility towards human rights in their respective countries. The UPR is not legally binding but does make countries accountable.
Malaysian Government & UPR

There is commitment on the part of the government.  The government has formed a technical committee to study and ratify the remaining core conventions.    From our understanding. the department under the Minister in the PM’s department in charge of law, is conducting studies and undertaking research in relation to the national human rights action plan.  The UN would like to see a good connection between the Plan and the outcome of UPR process.
Post UPR & Malaysia

UN is pleased that the Malaysian government had invited the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food in December 2013, whose focus areas include social protection and labour, purchasing power and issues related to development projects and the environment.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Rights was in Malaysia, although not on an official basis, she met with several high ranking officials of government.

In implementing human rights obligations under the conventions and treaties that Malaysia has ratified, the various UN agencies engage with relevant ministries to encourage them to get their reports done on time.
It would be good to have mechanisms in place to monitor and engage the  government during the post-UPR period.  There is a need to increase the level of human rights awareness in Malaysia in order for the UPR to work.

Thoughts shared at the Proham Discussion on the UPR and Malaysia on Oct 22, 2013. The thoughts have been documented by Ms Susan Tan on behalf of Proham

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