UN to Launch Human Rights Project in Central Asia

ASTANA – A new project, “Human Rights Protection in Central Asia,” has been launched by the Central Asia Regional Office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR). The project is financed by the European Union and will cover Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Its aim is to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in Central Asia; its implementation in Kazakhstan will include directives such as promoting and protecting the rights of ethnic minorities and championing housing rights. The project began in November 2012 and will run until December 2013.

According to the OHCHR, the project will be implemented in Kazakhstan in cooperation with the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, the Centre for Inter-ethnic and Inter-religious Relations of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Kazakhstan and the Agency for Construction, Housing and Communal Services (which has now become part of the newly established Ministry of Regional Development). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan will also support the project.

The project covers three main dimensions: It will promote the implementation of U.N. recommendations in the area of human rights and commission recommendations following the outcome of investigations into the events in Kyrgyzstan of June 2010, it will analyse the rights of ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and it will analyse current housing rights in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Among the expected results are the improvement of the countries’ strategies for protecting the rights of ethnic minority groups as a result of a better understanding of those groups’ needs and the use of the detailed statistics, as well as increased awareness and knowledge of the challenges inherent in protecting minority rights and fostering a tolerant society. Other expected results include following international standards and U.N. recommendations concerning the right to housing in the the legislature, programmes and in practice and increased awareness of the right to adequate housing in order to promote implementation of the right to sufficient housing.

The agencies involved in this project will support the three countries’ governments in implementing recommendations relating to the rights of ethnic groups and the right to adequate housing. In particular, they will support analyses of the current situation in the countries, publication and distribution of the results of any analysis, regional conferences regarding minority and housing rights and workshops and lectures regarding housing rights and minority rights, particularly within educational institutions.

Recently, Head of the National Centre for Human Rights Vyacheslav Kalyuzhny met with Deputy Regional Representative of the OHCHR on Central Asia Elizabeth Oliveira da Costa and experts on the issues of minorities’ rights and rights for housing in the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. At the meeting they discussed the Human Rights Protection in Central Asia project, which covers issues arising as a result of implementing recommendations regarding human rights and analyses of the current human rights and housing rights situations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Kalyuzhny gave comprehensive answers to questions put by human rights experts. He also informed them about the activity of Kazakhstan’s Human Rights Ombudsman in these areas.

Upon the results of the meeting, all parties agreed on the participation of the National Centre for Human Rights in the project. Prospects for further cooperation with the UN OHCHR for Central Asia were determined.

Despite the fact that the U.N. project is primarily aimed at the analysis and prevention of future international and inter-ethnic conflicts, which have taken place in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, for Kazakhstan this project is very important, as during the recent 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly held in New York, Kazakhstan became a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council for 2013-2015. This U.N. decision not only confirms the country’s success in ensuring human rights, but also imposes on Kazakhstan a responsibility to monitor the observance of human rights in all of Central Asia.

Another highlight of this programme is its analysis of the situation regarding promoting and protecting the right to adequate housing in the country. In Kazakhstan, the programme “Affordable Housing 2020” has already been launched and other similar programmes are underway. However, these programmes are not yet broadly understood or utilised. It is hoped that the U.N. project will help solve this problem.

OHCHR provides expertise and technical support to various U.N. human rights mechanisms as they undertake their standard-setting and monitoring functions.