Armenia’s Human Rights Action Plan – the beginning of a journey
By Marina Malkhasyan
Human Rights have always been high on the agenda of progressive states, including Armenia. And while I fully acknowledge that we still face human rights issues, it is worth noting that never has such a commitment and readiness to advance human rights been recorded in Armenia as in recent years. We now have a new Human Rights Action Plan, but how do we ensure that it doesn’t gather dust on a shelf?
Armenia registered a real breakthrough, setting the strategic framework for human rights protection, through the adoption of a series of key documents, including: the 2012-2016 Legal and Judicial Strategy, the Strategic Gender Policy Programme for 2011–2015, 2011-2015 Strategic Action Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence, the National Programme for the Protection of Children’s Rights for 2013-2016 (in Armenian), and many others.
With all this, there was still a need to introduce a comprehensive strategy, a credible monitoring & evaluation system, and bring all the issues under one umbrella to demonstrate the shared responsibility of all parts of the state as well as civil society actors in the protection of human rights. To this end, the National Strategy on Human Rights Protection was adopted by the government in October 2012 and in March 2014, the Action Plan for implementation of the National Strategy officially became Government policy.
Was it an easy process?
Perhaps not the easiest – many parties were involved in the drafting process, including rounds of discussions conducted through thematic working groups, as well as a series of reviews and iterations. The government adopted the final version in March 2014. The executive authority itself recognizes that the Action Plan is a “living” document and improvements – such as more activities and better coordination – are needed.
Yes, there is room for improvement. Still, the fact that the government entered into a constructive dialogue with civil society and other interested parties, is commendable.
Though the Action Plan was adopted a few months ago, there was not much buzz around it. So the United Nations in Armenia decided to step up the dialogue. The idea was well received by the government, especially the Ministry of Justice which has ultimate responsibility for implementation of the Action Plan. The Government and the UN joined the EU, Council of Europe, OSCE and civil society organisations to launch the Human Rights Action Plan on 30 June.
The official kick-off confirmed the joint commitment of the government and the international community to advance human rights protection based on a platform of mutual responsibilities. The Prime Minister once again reiterated the government’s commitment and responsibility, while the UN, together with the EU, CoE and OSCE urged the government to step up efforts concerning the protection of human rights and move from “planning to action”.
Civil society welcomed the adoption of the first ever Human Rights Action Plan and highlighted the areas which need further improvement, at the same time reiterating readiness to enter into a dialogue with the government to improve the strategy and enhance implementation.
By elevating the issue of human rights in public discourse, and encouraging a more constructive relationship between the Government and civil society, we hope that this Action Plan will do much more than gather dust. But as is always the case with strategies and action plans, this is the beginning of a long journey…