UAE civil society groups want human rights centrepiece

DUBAI // The need to establish a national institution to protect and promote human rights was among recommendations tabled by civil society groups this week.

Representatives from organisations including the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWC), the Emirates Writers' Union and the Emirates Human Rights Association met in Dubai to discuss the role of civil society in development issues.

The workshop was held ahead of the Forum for the Future, which takes place in Qatar next week. Representatives from UAE-based groups, including the DFWC, will take part in the forum in Doha, where they will convey their recommendations, including the need to establish a national human rights institution.

"There would be a huge benefit for this to be set up," said Afra al Basti, the DFWC chief executive. "It would work on human rights issues in the UAE. It is a very positive move and we have to put all of the efforts together to work on this committee."

The establishment of a national human rights institution has been on the cards since the idea was broached during the UAE's universal periodic review hearing before the UN Human Rights Council in 2009.

Following the first UN review of the country's rights record, the Government indicated that it would consider opening a human rights institution.

During the meeting on Tuesday, the groups discussed civil society's role in areas including the protection of human rights, education and promoting volunteerism.

Among the other recommendations issued at the end of the one-day workshop was the need to enhance the role of civil society in the Emirates, as well as to foster more co-operation between the different groups active across the country.

The Forum for the Future was launched in 2004, bringing together governments, the private sector and civil society organisations to discuss issues relating to economic, political and social development.

This year's forum is being held in Doha this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and will be co-chaired by Qatar as well as Canada, the current chair of the G8 group of rich nations.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is expected to represent the UAE.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, are also expected to attend.

The civil society organisations will convey some of their views on development issues and their recommendations to the government delegations during the three-day forum.

The UAE previously hosted the Forum for the Future in Abu Dhabi in 2008, when it shared the responsibility with Japan.

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