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Human Rights Review

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Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights, New York 1998

X. Advisory services and technical assistance

76. Technical cooperation in the field of human rights became one of the main items during the Vienna Conference, and was recognized as a basic preventive tool. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action emphasizes the need for a comprehensive United Nations programme in this regard and the importance of assistance for the development of national plans of action for human rights, and for strengthening the institutions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It also calls for the increased accessibility of the programme, including through the posting of staff in the field.

77. Five years after the Vienna Conference, the once modest programme of technical cooperation in the field of human rights administered by OHCHR is active in more than 50 countries on five continents (see figures IV and V; see also E/CN.4/1998/92). OHCHR teams based in 22 Member States allow for an unprecedented level of sustained human rights support to project partners. Previously comprised of a series of ad hoc initiatives, the programme today forms a comprehensive whole, including a variety of programmes (see figure VI) based on mutually reinforcing substantive components; standardized methodology; and policy framework for its implementation. Demand from Member States, perhaps the most important indicator of the post-Vienna impact of the programme, is at an all-time high.

78. Today, programme areas include a broad range of institutional entry points for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, such as advisory services, training, fellowships and grants directed to constitutional assistance; legislative reform; free and fair elections; independent judiciaries; fair prosecutions; humane policing; decent penal institutions; effective parliaments; independent national ("Paris Principles") institutions; and strong and capable national non-governmental organizations. As mandated by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action itself, the programme also makes available direct support for the drafting of national plans of action in the field of human rights.

79. Continuing challenges, however, include the failure of resources to keep pace with ever-increasing demands on the programme (the shortfall as of 31 August 1998: US$ 5.2 million). Neither regular budget allocations nor contributions to the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights administered by OHCHR have been sufficient to meet this need. Increased cooperation between OHCHR and the relevant components of the United Nations system and with regional organizations can contribute to improving this situation. For example, OHCHR signed memoranda of understanding with UNDP, UNFPA and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on cooperation both in the field and at headquarters in the area of technical assistance. The memorandum of understanding between UNDP and OHCHR, signed in March 1998, targets increased mutual support, efficiency and effectiveness of the respective programmes. Through coordination of efforts and the combination of different expertise, as in this case, Member States can count on more efficient, readily available and effective assistance in the field of human rights, governance and the rule of law.

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