Timeline

Human Rights & Refugees

We work to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights through the United Nations system, with particular reference to the interface between human rights and armed conflicts, and the protection of refugees.
July 2017

Call for inputs to UN report on human rights of migrants

At the Human Rights Council in June, a resolution was passed mandating a new report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights related to the human rights of migrants. 

The report will be an important input to the developing a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration, particularly to ensure that this new international agreement on migration is human rights based.

Information to this 'compendium of principles, good practices and policies on safe, orderly and regular migration in line with international human rights law' can be sent by any interested stakeholder.

Send all information by 24 July 2017 to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Further details are in the note verbale attached.

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June 2017

Key updates on migration issues

June saw several activities around the UN on the topic of international migration, including at the Human Rights Council’s 35th session and during the consultation phase for the ‘global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.’

 

Human Rights Council

At the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, two resolutions were passed related to migration. Firstly, we welcome the Mexican-led resolution, ‘Protection of the human rights of migrants: the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration’. Whilst we were hoping for stronger language in certain areas, the resolution provides a helpful contribution to the process towards developing a global compact, particularly mandating a report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a global compact focus. The resolution also contains important references to the criminalization of irregular migrants and to the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations.

We also welcome the resolution on climate change and migration passed at this session, again focused on how the Council can contribute towards the global compact on migration, as well as work underway on these issues under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We look forward to the intersessional panel mandated by the resolution, along with reports to future sessions of the Council.

This session was the last for current Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau as he reached the end of his mandate. During the session, an interactive dialogue was held where he discussed final report with States, on a 2035 agenda for facilitating human mobility. QUNO extends its thanks to François Crépeau for his significant contribution towards migrants rights over the past 6 years and looks forward to working with his newly appointed successor, Felipe Gonzales Morales.

Global Compact Consultations

The third thematic session of the consultations for the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was held on the 19th and 20th June in Geneva. This session focussed on ‘international cooperation and governance of migration in all its dimensions, including at borders, on transit, entry return, readmission, integration and reintegration.’

The topics covered in this session are some of the most problematic for the current protection of migrants’ human rights. We were concerned during the session about a lack of human rights and people-centred approach in the statements from many States, particularly around their policies on return and readmission of migrants and towards irregular migrants.

QUNO co-hosted a side event, together with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Mexican, Swiss, Portuguese and Philippine Missions on ‘Human rights perspectives on the governance of migration at borders and in the context of returns.’ The discussion was wide ranging, and in particular sought to highlight that the global compact’s content on borders and returns should be human rights based and compliant with existing international legal standards. The event featured the following speakers:

  • Craig Mokhiber, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Moderator)
  • Erasmo Lara Cabrera, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico
  • Francois Crepeau, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
  • Mariane Quintao, International Detention Coalition Youth Ambassador
  • Jonas Bergmann, Global Public Policy Institute
  • Driss El Yazami, Chair of the National Human Rights Council, Morocco 

​​The discussion was wide ranging, and in particular sought to highlight that the global compact’s content on borders and returns should be human rights based and compliant with existing international legal standards. 

For more information about our work on migration issues, see the relevant section of our website.

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June 2017

Conscientious objection to military service: activities at the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council

The 35th Session of the Human Rights Council saw important developments on the issue of conscientious objection to military service.

QUNO welcomes the presentation to the Council of the Analytical report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noting in particular its focus on good practice towards recognition of this right and the serious gaps in implementation around the world. The report offers a series of concrete recommendations to States towards closing this implementation gap.

The next quadrennial resolution on this issue is due at the next session of the Human Rights Council in September. QUNO was pleased to hear the core group who lead this resolution, Croatia, Costa Rica and Poland, make a joint statement at this session of the council. The statement can be viewed at chapter 4 on the video of this meeting.

QUNO hosted a side event on Monday 19th June at the Human Rights Council, focussed on implementation of the right to conscientious objection to military service. The side event explored the High Commissioner’s report and what further steps the Council can take on the issue of conscientious objection to military service.

QUNO also made a statement on this issue at this session of the Council. Our statement can be viewed here (chapter 63).

QUNO will continue to support greater recognition and implementation of the right to conscientious objection to military service, and will be engaging closely with the upcoming resolution in September. 

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June 2017

Towards a Human Rights Based Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: Paper #3: Implementation, Monitoring and Accountability Mechanisms

This paper presents examples of implementation, monitoring and accountability mechanisms under six multilateral agreements that we believe can be learnt from in considering how to achieve an effective global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. The examples draw on a range of international agreements from different areas of policy and range from long-standing UN mechanisms to very recent agreements for which the specific means of implementation are still under negotiation. This paper hopes to assist stakeholders in considering some of the potential options for effective implementation of this new international agreement.

This paper is part of QUNO’s paper series, “Towards a Human Rights Based Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” a set of contributions to the global compact on migration process. To access these papers, please see this section of our website.

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June 2017

QUNO to host side event on the Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Towards Implementation

QUNO will host a side event at the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council on the issue of conscientious objection to military service. The event will be held on Monday 19 June 2017, 12:00-13:00 Room XXVII, at the Palais des Nations.

Following the presentation to the Human Rights Council of the Analytical report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights this side event will explore the report and look to what further steps the Council can take on the issue of conscientious objection to military service.

It will feature a panel of the following speakers:

  • Ambassador Vesna Batistić Kos, Permanent Mission of Croatia Ambassador Piotr Stachanczyk, Permanent Mission of Poland
  • Seungho Park, World Without War (Republic of Korea) TBC
  • Michael Wiener, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Moderator: Laurel Townhead, Quaker United Nations Office
Light refreshments will be served after the side event
If you would like to attend and do not have a valid grounds pass please contact Catherine Baker (cbaker@quno.ch) by Thursday 15 June.

 

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June 2017

Briefing the Committee on the Rights of the Child on children of prisoners

On 31st May 2017, the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents held a briefing and discussion with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, focussing on the rights of children of incarcerated parents.

Laurel Townhead (QUNO) and Rachel Brett (COPE member) provided an introduction, highlighting work done so far by the Committee, particularly since the Day of General Discussion in 2011. They noted that despite significant advances in understanding on this issue, implementation remains patchy and more can be done by the Committee to ensure protection of these children’s rights.

Their introductions were followed by a discussion with members of the Committee, many of whom have a long-standing commitment to this issue. The main points raised in the discussion were:

  • The need for child rights perspectives to be taken up in cases involving separation of children from their arrested or incarcerated parent, particularly by the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Consideration of how best to protect the rights of children detained with their mothers and ensuring that their best interests are met, including in the Latin American context.
  • Alternatives to imprisonment such as home detention.
  • Good practice from South Africa based on a Constitutional Court ruling setting out a test for taking the best interests of the child into account when sentencing their primary carer.
  • Protection of children and ensuring childcare arrangements are in place in situations of arrest of a parent.
  • The lack of services available in many countries for children affected by parental imprisonment, particularly health and social services.
  • Good practice examples in protecting these children’s rights, such as the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Italian Ministry of Justice, the children’s ombudsman and the main NGO working on this issue in Italy.
  • The importance of continuing to raise this in reviews and in Concluding Observations and work done with regional networks to provide the Committee with information about the situation in countries as they report.
  • The interest and possibility of a General Comment by the Committee on this issue.

 

 

For more information please see the following documents shared with the Committee members:

  • A short briefing by the QUNO on the Committee’s work to date on this issue.
  • A longer briefing paper Committee’s work on children of incarcerated parents. L. Townhead ‘Briefing Paper: Children of Incarcerated Parents International Standards and Guidance’, (2015) Quaker United Nations Office.
  • The Italian Memorandum of Understanding.
  • Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents’ recommendations for States based on Italian good practice.

 

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May 2017

QUNO co-hosted a side-event on the margins of the consultations for the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration

QUNO co-hosted a side event with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and co-sponsored by the Governments of Portugal, El Salvador, Canada, Switzerland and Mexico, at the first consultation session for the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The event, Protecting the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations, in May focused on how UN Member States can better combat abuse and exploitation suffered by migrants in vulnerable situations, and better protect migrants’ rights under international human rights law. It drew in particular on a set of 'principles and practical guidance on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations', which have been developed by the Global Migration Group.

The consultations were the first time that Member States met to discuss what should be included in the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. As such, this timely event sought to strengthen the message that protecting the human rights of all migrants should be central to the Compact.

A full outline of the event is attached.

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May 2017

Initial Reflections on Implementation, Monitoring and Accountability Mechanisms ahead of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

QUNO's third paper on the process towards developing a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will focus on mechanisms for implementation, monitoring and accountability in international agreements. Here we publish some initial reflections based on work to date analysing different implementation, monitoring and accountability mechanisms from various UN treaties and agreements. A full paper will follow shortly.

Our interim reflections highlight elements found in other international agreements that we believe can be learnt from in considering how best to build effective implementation, monitoring and accountability mechanisms into the Global Compact on Safe Orderly and Regular Migration. We share them at this stage for consideration ahead of the first thematic consultation towards the Compact, which will take place on 8th and 9th May 2017.

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May 2017

Strengthening the link between Human Rights and Peacebuilding Through the UPR

Since the beginning of 2017, in close collaboration with the Human Rights and Refugees programme and our colleagues at QUNO New York, the Peace and Disarmament programme has been working on a project linking human rights and sustaining peace. The yearlong project aims to strengthen the links between the peacebuilding and human rights communities within the UN and on the ground through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a UN  process that reviews the human rights records of all 193 UN member States in a five-year cycle. The UPR was designed as a mechanism to improve the human rights situation in every country by encouraging and supporting states to effectively implement and protect human rights at every level. To support this process, information from UN agencies and civil society organisations are compiled to provide recommendations to the state under review and background for other states to create recommendations and questions.

For our project, we have chosen six test case countries, each facing particular challenges to differing degrees in human rights, conflict and violence from the Syria in the throes of war to Guatemala facing chronic and destabilising violence. For the upcoming UPR Sessions, we chose to focus on Indonesia and Brazil and we invited two peacebuilding civil society representatives - Ruslan from KOMPAK (Kupang Peacemakers) in Indonesia and Ivan Marques from Sou da Paz in Brazil- to attend briefing sessions for diplomats and off the record meetings organised by QUNO in Geneva. They were able  to discuss their work and explore ways in which the UPR could better support peacebuilding and violence reduction and elimination.

Both organisations produced briefing documents, highlighting their work around peacebuilding and human rights, country specific issues and key recommendations targeted toward their respective countries that can be used for the upcoming UPR Sessions in May.

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April 2017

Civil Society Key Messages for a Human Rights Based Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration must be grounded in international human rights law.

This is the central message of a new paper produced by a group of Geneva-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are interested in a human rights-based response to migration at the UN level. QUNO convenes this group of NGOs, with a particular focus on ensuring a human rights basis to this new international agreement on migration, which is due to be adopted in 2018.

Ahead of the first thematic consultation of this process, taking place in Geneva on 8th and 9th May, this group has produced a set of key human rights messages for the Compact. These are:

  • Ensure the full and active participation of migrants as primary stakeholders, including the participation of civil society organisations and NHRIs working directly with or on behalf of migrant and diaspora populations.
  • Ensure respect for the principle of non-discrimination irrespective of a person’s migration or residency status. Action must be taken to counter xenophobia and prevent hate crimes targeting people on the basis of their migratory or perceived migratory status.   
  • Ensure that migration is not criminalised and prohibit all unlawful or disproportionate border measures.
  • Ensure the human rights of all migrants who are particularly at risk, paying particular attention to migrants with specific needs who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that heighten their vulnerability.
  • Ensure that migratory status is not a bar to access to economic, social and cultural rights, particularly essential services, including healthcare.
  • Develop and implement accessible, regular, fair, and safe migration pathways, facilitating the regularisation of migrants in an irregular
  • Ensure that any returns or removals are carried out in full respect for the human rights of migrants, in safety and dignity, and in accordance with international law.
  • Ensure that protection of the human rights of migrants is recognised as a legal obligation of States, and not only a matter of humanitarian assistance. International standards and national laws and practices must enable judges and lawyers to play their essential role in upholding the rights of migrants and the rule of law.

We hope to see these points, and the centrality of human rights, raised throughout the preparatory process towards the adoption of this agreement.   

Please see the attached for the full document. 

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April 2017

6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty: new publication and website

The Quaker United Nations Office works on children of parents sentenced to death or executed first and foremost because we believe that such children should not be forgotten and their rights should be upheld.  The 2016 World Congress Against the Death Penalty recognized that the impact of a death sentence on the children of parents sentenced to death or executed represents a powerful argument against the death penalty.

This was the message QUNO brought to last year’s World Congress Against the Death Penalty, the details of which have been brought together in a new publication and website. The 6th The Congress was held in Oslo in June 2016 and was attended by QUNO’s Human Rights and Refugees team. The Congress, convened by Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM), is held every three years to bring together those working towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

The new report and website feature an article written by QUNO’s Laurel Townhead, highlighting the significant and often devastating impacts on children whose parents are sentenced to death or executed, and explaining why this can be a used as a strong argument for abolition. QUNO also wrote a briefing paper on children of parents sentenced to death or executed ahead of the event, which provides more detail on this issue.

QUNO continues to work to raise the profile of children of parents facing the death penalty at the international level. In particular, our written statement to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council held in March this year examines how children of parents sentenced to death or executed may be considered victims of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We also look forward to participating in the next World Congress, due to take place in 2019.

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April 2017

Expectations for a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: New paper

QUNO is closely following the process for negotiating a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This process part of the UN’s response to the large numbers of people on the move around the world. The Global Compact was mandated by the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a high-level statement adopted by States on 19th September and is due to be adopted in September 2018.

Following the adoption on 6 April of General Assembly resolution 71/280 on the modalities for developing a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, QUNO has prepared a short paper on expectations of the process.  This contains the steps which we believe are needed to support the adoption of a human rights based Global Compact (as called for in the New York Declaration and the modalities resolution). 

QUNO’s previous paper on the Compact, on input to the modalities resolution, is here.

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March 2017

A focus on the human rights of migrants at the Human Rights Council's 34th Session

The 34th Session of the Human Rights Council concluded on 24th March. During the session there were some important discussions and decisions relating to the human rights of migrants, an issue we are working on closely. 

On 10th March the Human Rights Council held an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the human rights of migrants in the context of large movements. This was the first time that the Council held a discussion dedicated to migrants’ human rights after the September 2016 adoption of the New York Declaration on refugees and migrants, and its initiation of the development of a Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration – a high level political statement, and the Global Compact - a proposed new State-negotiated international framework - represent important shifts in how the international community addresses human mobility and displacement. As such, the Human Rights Council’s discussion came at an important time, giving it an opportunity to speak to the role of human rights within this new international agenda.

Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner, stated during the discussion:

'The international community has an unprecedented opportunity in the next two years to... learn from the experience of migrants, and to build a Global Compact that provides safe, rights respecting migration, and to ensure that future generations are spared the hell of desperate, precarious journeys.' 

QUNO followed this discussion closely, and we co-signed a joint oral statement that was delivered during the debate (attached). Our current priority is for the Council to play its part in making sure that the Global Compact is people-centred and underpinned by and consistent with international human rights law.

We also prepared a Briefing for Friends that examines these UN initiatives in more detail. It further describes how we are actively engaged in this work, as well as ways that Friends around the world can engage with, and benefit from these UN level initiatives.  

Laurel Townhead, Representative for Human Rights and Refugees delivered two statements for QUNO related to the human rights of migrants during the session. 

1. The first statement welcomed a set of Principles and Guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations and within large and/or mixed movements, developed by the Global Migration Group, and called on States to endorse them. See here for the video of the statement (number 59 on right hand panel).

2. The second statement called for a human rights basis to the Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration, with a particular focus on the importance of the role of existing UN human rights mechanisms in its development. See here for the video of the statement (number 25 on right hand panel).

QUNO was also pleased that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants was renewed in a resolution at this session. Finally, we further welcome the decision of the Mexican mission to run a substantive resolution on the human rights of migrants in the June session of the Human Rights Council.

Looking ahead, we encourage sustained attention to this issue by the UN human rights mechanisms, particularly in light of the upcoming consultations for the Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.

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March 2017

QUNO at the Human Rights Council: a focus on children of parents facing the death penalty as victims of torture

On 1st March 2017, the annual High Level Panel on the question of the death penalty was held at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. This year’s panel focussed on how the death penalty relates to torture.

During the panel, Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment highlighted the impact of the death penalty on children:

The death penalty is… first of all, in my view, a question of life and how we define ourselves as human beings, as States and as an international community. Do we really want to retain a retributive system, deliberately inflicting pain and anguish on convicts, on their parents, on their spouses, on their children?... Or do we prefer to define ourselves on different terms, focusing not only on the inherent dignity of convicts, victims and families but also on the dignity and moral authority of our human society as a whole? ”

In light of the panel’s focus on torture, we submitted a written and oral statement at this session of the Council, highlighting that the sentencing to death or execution of a parent leads to a violation of the child’s right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT) or torture under international law. 

The written statement can be found here.

The oral statement, delivered by Catherine Baker, Programme Assistant for Human Rights and Refugees at the High Level Panel, can be found at 2.09.45 on the video of the panel.

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March 2017

QUNO Review March 2017 now available

Our new, March 2017 edition of the QUNO Review is now available for download. The annual report provides a brief introduction to QUNO and our way of working, as well as an overview of each of our programme areas. Learn more about our past year of our work and see where we are headed in 2017.

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February 2017

A briefing for diplomats on Human Rights and Peacebuilding

The Geneva Peacebuilding Platform held a briefing for diplomats on Human Rights and Peacebuilding on 15th February, which QUNO organised, moderated and presented. This briefing drew on the work QUNO has been doing on human rights, peacebuilding and sustaining peace through our Peace and Disarmament and Human Rights and Refugees Programmes, and in close collaboration with our colleagues at QUNO  New York.  The briefing session aimed to provide useful background to diplomats ahead of the Mainstreaming Panel on the contribution of human rights to peacebuilding at the Human Rights Council on 27 February.

During the briefing session, Diane Hendrick and the other panelists illustrated areas in which human rights interacted with peacebuilding processes and approaches, and how human rights can be mainstreamed throughout the peacebuilding work of the UN system, including on the ground. A key aim was to present the concept of “sustaining peace” in which peacebuilding is understood as a process that takes place (and needs to be supported) before during and after conflict, as reflected in recent UN resolutions on the UN peacebuilding architecture. QUNO underlined that economic, social, and cultural rights are integral to addressing the root causes of destructive conflict.

For further information please refer below to our Handout on Human Rights and International Peace and Security.

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February 2017

QUNO contributes to a new World Report on Statelessness

QUNO’s Representative for Human Rights and Refugees, Laurel Townhead, has written an article on childhood statelessness of children of prisoners, for a new World Report on Statelessness.

The World Report on Statelessness, launched by the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, is the most comprehensive resource on the global situation of stateless people. The second World Statelessness Report (2017) has a specific focus on children, exploring the urgency of and opportunities for addressing childhood statelessness. QUNO’s article focusses on the risks of childhood statelessness for children of prisoners, particularly for children born to foreign national women in prison.

For more information about the report and about statelessness around the world, see the two report websites: http://worldsstateless.org/ and http://children.worldsstateless.org/.

The full report can be accessed here (the article can be found on page 385). 

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February 2017

New briefing for Friends on opportunities and challenges for the protection of refugees and migrants at the UN level

We are pleased to launch a new briefing paper for Friends: ‘Protecting refugees and migrants under the New York Declaration: challenges and opportunities at the UN level.’

On September 19th 2016, the UN set a new agenda under the ‘New York Declaration’ for responding to large movements of people crossing borders. Our briefing aims to inform Friends about the Declaration and the developments it initiates for improving global governance on refugees and migrants. It also describes how QUNO is engaging in these opportunities, as well as ways that Quakers around the world can link up with, and benefit from, UN level initiatives.

This weekend, we are sharing this briefing at the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) conference on forced migration. The QARN conference, at Woodbrooke Study Centre in Birmingham, UK aims to connect Friends in the UK interested in responding to forced migration issues. Our briefing and our workshop at the conference aims to connect our UN work and the opportunities it presents to local initiatives amongst Quakers in the UK. 

Photo: contributing to the tree of current actions Friends are taking on refugee and migrant issues.

 

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January 2017

QUNO moderated a panel event on the rights of children of incarcerated parents

QUNO organized a panel event, "The Rights of Children of Incarcerated Parents: Replicating good practice from Italy," that took place at the UN on 1 February 2017. The event was hosted by the Permanent Missions to the UN of Italy and Argentina, and the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents. 

The Italian NGO Bambinisenzasbarre signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Justice and the National Ombudswoman for Childhood and Adolescence, aimed at the fulfilment of the rights of children of incarcerated parents throughout the country. Steps are being taken to replicate this good practice in other countries. The event highlighted how this Memorandum and the partnership behind it work in practice, how this is being replicated in Argentina and lessons for replication in other States seeking to protect the rights of these children. 

Further information is available in the invitation flyer below.

 

 

 

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January 2017

New UN report on conscientious objection to military service – call for inputs

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a call for inputs on the issue of conscientious objection to military service (see attached file).

The compiled information will lead to a new UN report on the topic. The report will provide the most comprehensive outline of the latest developments, standards and remaining challenges relating to conscientious objection to military service. The previous report, from 2012 can be found here

QUNO has been working on this issue for decades and will be contributing to the report. We encourage others to contribute too. 

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