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STATEMENT: Deferral of accreditation of the Australian Human Rights Commission
Kylie Porter | April 14, 2022
The UN Global Compact Network Australia (UNGCNA) is concerned that the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has deferred the renewal of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) A-status. We support the Australian Government promptly considering how it will respond to the GANHRI’s findings.
The UN Principles on National Institutions (known as the Paris Principles) set out clear, internationally recognised standards to assess the credibility, independence, and effectiveness of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). In its latest review of the AHRC, GANHRI found that the appointment and selection process of Commissioners lacked the requisite independence. Importantly, the GANHRI also noted that the mandate of the AHRC in its enabling legislation makes no express reference to two fundamental human rights treaties: the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The GANHRI also highlighted that the organisation remains significantly underfunded. The UNGCNA recommended that more funding be allocated to the AHRC in the 2022-2023 budget. Read here.
If the AHRC loses its A-status, Australia would lose its right to fully participate in international dialogues such as the UN Human Rights Council. Other states in this class include Chad, Libya, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Most recently, Russia was suspended from the Council.1 The potential loss of the AHRC’s A-status is a concern to the UNGCNA and we call on the Australian Government to promptly consider its response to the concerns listed by the GANHRI.
The AHRC plays an essential role in supporting Australian businesses in their commitment to respect human rights as part of business’ commitment to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), as well as supporting the Government in its duty to protect human rights from business-related harm in the UNGPs and other international human rights frameworks. It is almost unprecedented that a Western liberal democracy has been found to have not maintained an adequately funded and independent NHRI.
The Australian Government has demonstrated its commitment to protect human rights from business-related harm through the establishment of laws such as the Australian Modern Slavery Act, its recent ratification of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Forced Labour Protocol and the development of the National Action Plan on Modern
Slavery and Human Trafficking. However, it is fundamental that the AHRC continues to play a crucial role in upholding human rights in Australia.
As such, we call on the Australian Government to:
- Consider improvements to the Commissioner appointment process to ensure transparency and independence prior to October 2023.
- Increase funding to, and further empower, the AHRC: In doing so, the Government will be in a stronger position to demonstrate its duty to protect human rights, uphold international frameworks on human rights including the UNGPs and meet the expectations of the GANHRI.