Summary: Working Group on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
The role of civil society in the implementation of human rights and humanitarian law
Mr. Antoine Madelin (International Federation for Human Rights) and Ms.
Nathalie Herlemont (Handicap International) illustrated the role of civil society in the field of international law and
the implementation of human rights, using several examples based on their experience with their NGOs. The examples demonstrate that civil society can significantly influence the development of international law participate actively in the implementation of human rights.
Mr. Madelin presented the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) within the scope of the role of NGOs in the implementation of human rights. IFHR is a good example of how civil society can influence the development of international law and use United Nations
mechanisms for human rights. The organisation was founded in 1922 with the objective of creating a universal declaration for human rights, which now exists since 1948. The international penal court is another example of how numerous NGOs have worked together for a common cause and have helped pave the way toward implementation of human rights. It is nevertheless necessary to distinguish between the organisations that really have a public goal and those who have private goals or are
Government controlled. The consultative status in the United Nations is granted to NGOs by the NGO Committee in New York. This Committee is composed of
states. IFHR therefore proposes to create an NGO committee composed of independent experts instead of states in order to solve this problem.
Another example of the role of civil society in the implementation of human rights was given by
Ms. Nathalie Herlemont of Handicap International, who talked about the Ottawa process which resulted in the adoption of the Convention on the
Ban Landmines. In this case too, the initiative came from NGOs who, directly confronted the problem of mines in the field,
and decided to act at the political level. These NGOs launched an international campaign for the banning of mines and applied pressure on governments initiating a
normative process which eventually resulted in the Ottawa Convention and the total ban on mines. Today, 124 countries have ratified
this convention, and NGOs continue to push for global ratification.
Ms. Herlemont ended her speech with some practical suggestions based on her own experience with Handicap International concerning the development of influence strategies for NGOs.
The involvement of NGOs in conventional debates and processes is perfectly conceivable, and progress is possible on an international scale, thanks to the joint and concerted action of NGOs,
Governments and other actors such as the United Nations agencies.
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