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Annual Report 06-07: Chapter 11 - International Activities

Chapter
11: International Activities

While the role and functions of HREOC as set out in legislation are
primarily directed towards human rights issues within Australia, HREOC
undertakes an international education and training role, with a specific focus
on agencies in the Asia Pacific region.

In 2006-07, as in past years,
most of this has taken the form of technical cooperation programs with other
countries. These programs, which are based around sharing knowledge and
expertise, are generally delivered through the framework of the Australian
Government's development cooperation program administered by the Australian
Agency for International Development (AusAID). This international technical
cooperation work is externally funded (not from HREOC’s core budget which
is devoted to fulfilling its domestic mandate).

These programs, along
with HREOC’s participation in other international fora, such as the Asia
Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, also provide a valuable way
to keep abreast of international developments in human rights and models of best
practice for national human rights institutions.

HREOC’s
international role has evolved from the way that it has pursued its domestic
responsibilities. It also reflects the organisation’s belief that helping
to strengthen human rights protection in other countries has flow-on benefits
for everyone, including Australia. The international work also provides staff
development and gives wider international perspectives which enhance
HREOC’s domestic work.

In undertaking these activities, HREOC
engages with a variety of institutions and professionals relevant to the
protection and promotion of human rights; for example, government agencies and
civil society groups in other countries that are involved in the protection and
promotion of human rights, and interested in how the Australian experience could
be relevant to their country. The activities seek to strengthen the capacity of
those institutions to protect human rights through the increased
‘professionalism’ of agencies involved in enforcing or implementing
laws and the rule of law.

Many of HREOC’s international training
activities involve a staged process of implementation, from initial scoping to
design through to full implementation. This reflects the strong emphasis HREOC
gives to detailed planning to ensure that the Australian input accords with the
needs and priorities of overseas partner agencies.

It also reflects the
fact that success in this area requires a gradualist approach, with substantive
progress often being preceded by a lengthy process of establishing relationships
and building confidence in the program. Concerted efforts are also made to
ensure that partner agencies feel a sense of ownership of the program, which is
essential to its success and long-term sustainability.

Most of the
international training activities undertaken by HREOC centre on practical issues
that affect the lives of individuals, such as domestic violence, police conduct,
prison management, investigation techniques, human trafficking and so on.
Notwithstanding this practical focus, efforts are made to ensure that the
activities are firmly grounded in human rights principles set out in
international law.

11.1 China-Australia Human
Rights Technical Cooperation Program

HREOC’s most
substantial international program involvement is with the China-Australia Human
Rights Technical Cooperation Program (HRTC), which is an integral part of
Australia’s annual inter-governmental Dialogue on Human Rights with China.
HREOC participates in dialogue meetings and will attend the 2007 dialogue in
July in Beijing.

The HRTC program encompasses three principal themes:
protection of the rights of women and children; protection of ethnic minority
rights; and reform of the legal system.

The program aims to provide an
important information base of human rights principles, ideas and strategies
which can be drawn upon in the development of Chinese policies and practices.
The program includes activities conducted in both China and Australia. Each
activity in the program is implemented as a cooperative venture between HREOC
and particular Chinese organisations. Some selected examples of activities
implemented in the 2006-07 HRTC Program are given below.

  • In October 2006 a seminar on Implementation of the International Covenant on
    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was held in Urumqi, Xinjiang
    Autonomous Region. The seminar aimed to assist the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    and other agencies from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in
    implementing the recommendations of the United Nations ICESCR Committee
    following its consideration of China’s first periodic report under that
    treaty.
  • In November 2006 a Model United Nations was held in Chengdu, Sichuan
    Province, in cooperation with the United Nations Association. The activity
    simulated the proceedings of the UN Human Rights Council in the debate and
    adoption of resolutions on selected human rights issues.
  • In December 2006 a seminar on the system of
    ‘people’s assessors’ in China’s courts was held in
    Haikou, Hainan Province. The seminar, conducted in cooperation with the National
    Judges’ College of China, aimed to encourage the application of human
    rights principles in the development of the people’s assessor system.
  • In December 2006 a delegation from the Penitentiary Administration Bureau in
    the Ministry of Public Security visited Australia to study measures for
    protecting and promoting the rights of juvenile and female
    detainees.
  • In February 2007 two officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrived
    in Australia to undertake postgraduate studies in human rights at the University
    of Melbourne.
  • In March 2007 a delegation from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate
    undertook a study visit to examine Australian measures for combating corrupt
    conduct by government officials.
  • In March 2007 a delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Justice
    and the Department of Justice of the Tibet Autonomous Region undertook a study
    visit to Australia. The focus of the visit was on measures to ensure the
    successful reintegration of prisoners into society following their
    release.
  • In April 2007 a seminar on the Protection of the Rights of Juveniles in the
    Criminal Justice System was held in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. The seminar, held
    in cooperation with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, examined human
    rights based approaches to the administration of juvenile justice, with
    particular emphasis of restorative justice and diversionary
    programs.
  • In April 2007 a Juvenile Justice Seminar was held in Suzhou, Jiangsu
    Province, in cooperation with the Supreme People’s Court. The seminar
    focused on protection of the rights of juveniles in the criminal justice system,
    including the role of children’s courts.
  • In March 2007 a Women’s Law Workshop was held in Haikou, Hainan
    Province. The workshop, held in cooperation with the All-China Women’s
    Federation, focused on implementation of China’s Law on Protection of the
    Rights and Interests of Women. The workshop canvassed strategies for applying
    principles of human rights and gender equality into the implementation of the
    law.
  • In April 2007 a Penitentiary Administration Seminar was held in Nanjing,
    Jiangsu Province. The seminar, held in cooperation with the Ministry of Public
    Security built on the December 2006 study visit to Australia and engaged a
    larger group of penitentiary officials in discussion of human rights protection
    in the treatment of female and juvenile detainees.
  • A human rights public education initiative was
    implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Association of China during
    the first half of 2007. This activity involved a national competition on human
    rights knowledge conducted through the national media in China.
  • Two training programs on Human Rights and Family Planning were conducted
    during 2006-07 in cooperation with the National Population and Family Planning
    Commission. The training programs were held in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province in
    October 2006 and in Kunming, Yunnan Province, in March 2007. The training
    focused on measures for protecting and promoting human rights in the delivery of
    family planning and reproductive health
    services.

11.2 Vietnam-Australia Human
Rights Technical Cooperation Program

HREOC also participates
in the annual Australia-Vietnam Dialogue on International Organisations and
Legal Issues, including Human Rights. HREOC attended the 2007 Dialogue held in
Hanoi in April 2007.

A program of human rights technical cooperation with
Vietnam was established as part of the dialogue and commenced in late 2006. The
HRTC program with Vietnam focuses on four areas: access to justice;
dissemination of information about legal rights and obligations; the rights of
women; and raising awareness of international human rights treaty obligations.
HRTC activities implemented in 2006-07 included the following:

  • In October 2006 a delegation led by the Supreme
    People’s Court of Vietnam undertook a two-week study visit to Australia.
    The 10 member delegation examined Australian laws, procedures and practices for
    promoting access to justice through court processes and in the legal system
    generally.
  • In January 2007 a Seminar on International Human Rights
    Treaties was held in Hanoi. This activity was conducted in cooperation with the
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The seminar examined the content of human rights
    treaties to which Vietnam is a party as well as practical measures for
    compliance with treaty obligations.
  • In April 2007 a Seminar on Dissemination of Legal
    Information was held in Hanoi, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. The
    seminar provided capacity building for the ministry in its role of disseminating
    information to government officials and the general population about legal
    rights and responsibilities under Vietnamese law.
  • In May 2007 a Train-the Trainer Workshop was held in
    Hanoi in cooperation with the Vietnam Women’s Union. The theme was
    enhancing awareness of women’s rights, and the activity aimed to
    strengthen the training and advocacy skills of local women’s union
    staff.
  • In June 2007 a further Seminar on International Human
    Rights Treaties was conducted with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This seminar
    was held in Da Nang and provided training for government officials in the
    central
    provinces.

11. 3 Laos-Australia
Human Rights Dialogue

HREOC participated in the Laos-Australia
Human Rights Dialogue meeting, held in Vientiane in October
2006.

11.4 International visitors

In addition to formal programs of bilateral technical
cooperation, HREOC frequently receives international visitors and participates
in meetings with representatives of organisations concerned with human rights. A
summary of these meetings is given below.

  • In July 2006 HREOC hosted a meeting with a delegation led
    by the Deputy Chairperson of the Vietnam Women’s Union, Madame Nguyen Thi
    Thanh Hoa.
  • In October 2006 HREOC met with the Vice-President of
    Vietnam, Madame Truong My Hoa, during her visit to
    Canberra.
  • In May 2007 HREOC hosted a meeting with a delegation led
    by the Minister responsible for China’s National Population and Family
    Planning Commission, Mr Zhang Weiqing.
  • In June 2007 HREOC hosted a meeting with a delegation led
    by the Vice-President of the All-China Women’s Federation, Madame Huang
    Qingyi.

11.5 International
conferences and meetings

HREOC also maintained involvement in
a number of multilateral bodies concerned with the protection and promotion of
human rights. International conferences and meetings HREOC participated in
during 2006-07 included:

Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human
Rights Institutions, Suva, Fiji, 31 July–3 August 2006

Eighth International Conference for National Human Rights Institutions, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 24–26 October
2006

Eighteenth Session of the Annual Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 26–27 October
2006

Commonwealth Secretariat Conference of National Human Rights Institutions, London, United Kingdom, 26–28 February 2007

Meeting of Forum Councillors of the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, Geneva, Switzerland, 20 March 2007

Nineteenth Session of the Annual Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, Geneva, Switzerland, 21–23
March 2007

Fourth Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland, March 2007

Fifth Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland, June 2007

Meeting of Senior Office Holders of Asia Pacific Forum with the Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, Geneva, Switzerland, June 2007