13 Aug 2008 12:31:00.000
They work across continents, in some of the world’s most volatile environments. From war zones and famine-hit regions to areas of political instability, Human Rights Field Officers are responsible for the protection and promotion of the rights of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Now, for the first time, a set of principles to guide the activities of Human Rights Field Officers has been formulated by a team of international human rights experts led by Professor Michael O’Flaherty of the Human Rights Law Centre at The University of Nottingham.
The ‘Guiding principles for Human Rights Field Officers working in conflict and post-conflict environment’ are the result of a three-year research project, ‘Consolidating the profession: the Human Rights Field Officer’. The team interviewed field officers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other countries in Asia, Africa and Europe between 2004 and 2008, assessing the role of those working in these incredibly varied environments. A series of research papers was developed on the most urgent challenges facing field officers — including how to protect women and children, responding to terrorism and empowering local people to promote human rights. The project held annual global consultations to critically examine the findings of interviews and research papers.
Click here for full story
The Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights has formally received the guiding principles and they have been welcomed by senior officials of the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OCSE mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina has already made the guiding principles central to its human rights work. Its human rights department is using the document to train field officers, as a checklist for starting new projects and as a tool to explain to local communities the mission’s human rights goals.
The role is a relatively new one, with Human Rights Field Officers working to secure civil and political rights in areas of instability from the early 1990s. But since then the role had broadened, with officers’ remits now including a range of socio-economic issues — including the rights to education, health care and clean drinking water.
Professor O’Flaherty, Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre at the University, described the Guiding Principles as: “the most substantial contribution yet to the shaping of the professional identity of human rights field workers — they clarify the goals of their work and set law-based markers for how to achieve those goals”.
The ‘Guiding principles for Human Rights Field Officers working in conflict and post-conflict environment’ were launched at the UN in Geneva in July this year. The ‘Consolidating the profession’ project was funded by Irish Aid, the Irish government’s programme of assistance to developing countries. More details on the project, including information relating to human rights fieldwork, is available at www.humanrightsprofessionals.org
— Ends —
Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.