Rights project in limbo due to NHRC-OHCHR rift

Accord was supposed to be signed in February

Kathmandu, March 18:

A dispute between the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights-Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) has obstructed the second phase of United Nations’ human rights project worth Rs 160 million.

The agreement for the project between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the NHRC scheduled in February could not be finalised after the OHCHR wanted its seal on the agreement paper. The agreement paper for the first phase of the project did not have the OHCHR’s seal.

The Capacity Development of NHRC project is being implemented in Nepal since 2002 with the assistance of the UNDP. However, the implementation of the second phase of the project has been halted because of the dispute.

Both the UNDP and the NHRC are positive to extend the project till 2010. Though the UNDP and the NHRC had made necessary groundwork for the agreement, the agreement paper could not be signed because of the OHCHR’s stance, a source informed. As per the previously agreed programme, the agreement paper should have been signed by February.

Since the agreement for the first phase of the project was signed between the

UNDP, NHRC and the government, the second phase of agreement should also be signed by these three parties, the NHRC claimed.

NHRC secretary Bishal Khanal said the process had been obstructed after the OHCHR sought its role in

the agreement.

“We want to clarify that the role of OHCHR is not necessary in the agreement reached between the NHRC and the UNDP,” Khanal said. However, he kept mum on why the OHCHR was seeking its role in the agreement.

However, an official of the NHRC alleged that the OHCHR was making a ‘strategic’ move to extend its tenure in Nepal by putting its seal on the agreement paper. “It is a tactic to extend its tenure here,” the official said, wondering, “Why would anybody need the seal of two UN bodies on a single agreement paper?”

The OHCHR has been operating in Nepal since April 2005. Its tenure expires in June.

UNDP’s focal person for the project Sharad Neupane

conceded that the agreement was not signed on time because of the OHCHR’s role in the project. “We are currently discussing on prescribing the role of OHCHR in the agreement,” Neupane said.

Meanwhile, Marty Logan, spokesperson for OHCHR, refused to comment on the issue.

The project has been contributing to enhancing the

administrative, managerial

and leadership capacity of

the NHRC. It has also been assisting the constitutional rights body in implementing its strategic plans.

Apart from the UNDP, the governments of Australia, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada and Denmark and UNICEF, USAID and OHCHR are also chipping in funds for the project.