Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Maxine McClean, greets??Ombudsman of Namibia, John Walters, during the Colloquium on the Establishment of a National Human Rights Institution at the Accra Beach Hotel. (G. Brewster/BGIS)??
As Barbados prepares to establish its own National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), this country’s policymakers have been examining the NHRI model of the south African nation, Namibia.
This was revealed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, at the recently concluded two-day Colloquium on the Establishment of a National Human Rights Institution.??
She was addressing high-level attendees and government officials, including Ombudsman of Barbados, Valton Bend; Ombudsman of Namibia, John Walters; and Acting Head of Human Rights, Commonwealth Secretariat, Advocate Karen McKenzie, at the workshop, which was hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat at the Accra Beach Hotel, Christ Church.
The Foreign Affairs Minister explained that Namibia had created a hybrid NHRI through the expansion of the mandate and functions of the Ombudsman’s office.??
Noting that Barbadians traditionally benefited from constitutional protection of their human rights, she said: "We have rested easily in the knowledge that the High Courts provide an avenue for redress in instances where those rights are infringed."
However, she stressed, "Barbados must move beyond mechanisms which are purely remedial, to establish institutions that are also developmental."
She continued: "While the Ombudsman’s office is tasked with investigating allegations of improper, unreasonable or inadequate conduct on the part of governmental authorities, a national human rights institution can do that and more.
"An NHRI plays an advisory role: submitting opinions, recommendations and reports on matters concerning the promotion and protection of human rights. It promotes the harmonisation of national legislation, regulations and practices with the international human rights treaties to which the state is party.?? It also draws the attention of the government to violations of human rights and proposes plans for preventing such infringements," Minister McClean pointed out.
Furthermore, she shared that an NHRI would also be responsible for promoting public awareness of human rights through the sharing of information and educational programmes, in addition to settling complaints or transmitting petitions to competent judicial or arbitral bodies.
In short, Senator McClean asserted: "The NHRI acts as a guardian, a watchdog, a champion and a referee."