On 21 December 2021, Department of Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra and United Nations Resident Coordinator Gustavo González convened and presided over the inaugural meeting of the Steering Committee of the UN JOINT PROGRAM ON TECHNICAL COOPERATION AND CAPACITY-BUILDING FOR THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE PHILIPPINES or UNJP.
The UNJP, signed on 22 July 2021, is the joint PH-UN response to the challenge of UN Human Rights Council Resolution No. 45/33 (adopted on 07 October 2020), which identified six key areas for the provision of UN expertise in a manner of consultative partnership: 1) strengthening domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms; 2) improved data-gathering on alleged human rights violations by police personnel; 3) expanding civil space and engagement with civil society and national human rights institutions; 4) strengthening the PH’s national mechanism for reporting and follow-up vis-a-vis human rights; 5) implementing a human rights-based approach towards drug control; 6) and 6) implementing a human rights-based approach towards counter-terrorism.
The UNJP Steering Committee is the overall high-level coordinating mechanism that will provide leadership, vision and strategic direction to the Programme. It is headed jointly by the DOJ Secretary and the UN Resident Coordinator as co-chairpersons, and the following as members: senior representatives of four (4) participating UN organizations, namely: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); senior representatives from Philippine government agencies, namely: the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), the Anti-Terrorism Council-Program Management Center (ATC-PMC), and the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS); three (3) representatives from the civil society; and two (2) representatives of resources or funding partners, namely: the governments of Australia and Norway. All the foregoing Steering Committee members were either present or represented in the meeting.
During the inception meeting, DOJ Secretary Guevarra emphasized to the Steering Committee that the historic partnership is an affirmation of the Philippine’s commitment as a founding UN charter member to the primacy of human rights, the importance of a free democratic space for civil society, and the principle of international cooperation. He also stated that UNJP’s aims also align well with the principles declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Bill of Rights (Article III) of the 1987 Constitution.
On the other hand, Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson congratulated the Philippine government for its efforts to promote human rights and expressed his government’s commitment “to see the programme succeed and deliver tangible results”. Philippine Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit also agreed with the priorities emphasized by DOJ Secretary Guevarra, to wit: the strengthening of the country’s investigation and accountability mechanisms, and an improved data-gathering on alleged human rights violations by police personnel."