UNDP News Quarterly
Capacity Building For The Provedoria
In a country where entrenching a culture of the rule of law and observance of human rights remains a key pillar of peace---and nation- --building, the establishment of an Ombudsman could not have come at a more ideal time. The Provedoria for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ) is seeking to advance the human rights agenda in Timor-Leste.
With monitoring and advocacy being among the key functions of the Provedoria, the body has embarked on a process of re-structuring so as to undertake these tasks more systematically. Inevitably, this is a big challenge for the small team of Timorese staff members based at the Human Rights Monitoring and Advocacy Department of the PDHJ.
However, as part of a UNDP/OHCHR project on Capacity Building of the the Provedoria, the four-member team is now being supported by Alison Ryan, a UNDP specialist seconded to the PDHJ.
The first thing she noticed when she joined the group in February 2008 was that they were all very dedicated. “The team was extremely committed with a great deal of understanding about the main human rights problems in the country,” says Alison. “They also had a clear vision of the type of advocacy they want to be engaged in and the target of their message.”
Seeing her role as essentially a supportive one, Alison was keen to impart skills tailored specifically to each individual. The bottom line in her approach was initiating a process aiming at facilitating the staff in developing their own work systems and perspectives.While I can bring in a different perspective or provide suggestions, the overall aim is for the staff to make informed decisions and take the necessary follow up actions,” she says adding that it is not her role to “dictate what should be done or try to impose my ideas.”
Through direct observation of the staff in action, Alison who is fluent in both Tetum and Bahasa Indonesia is able to support them in their work. “I have accompanied the staff during interviews with detainees, prisoners and police and prison personnel. For me it is extremely rewarding to see that after three months staff do not need my observation role anymore,” she remarks, adding she derives great satisfaction in seeing that staff need gradually less assistance from me. I really hope that soon I will no longer be needed in the PDHJ,” she quips.
Going by staff feedback, the approach has paid off. “Alison accompanies us during monitoring of prison and police detention establishments. Through her guidance, I have been able to improve my skills and to obtain better quality information,” notes Sonia Fernandes, one of the four staff members at the Monitoring and Advocacy Department. In addition, says Sonia, the mentoring technique “includes motivating us to sit together to discuss our activities, our work and our results. An important aspect of this mentoring assistance is the recognition of our knowledge, our work and our potential.”
Compliments have also come from official sources, with Dr. Sebastião Dias Ximenes, Provedor for Human Rights and Justice describing the first three months of the training exercise as instrumental in assisting the PDHJ staff to cope with the monitoring activity during the State of Siege and Emergency precipitated by the February 2008 political crisis in the country.It was the perfect mentoring activity staff could apply directly on the ground the skills and knowledge obtained. The results were impressive and with UNDP/OHCHR assistance, we gathered reliable information on security forces actions and published reports highlighting the main alleged violations committed in a timely manner,” said Dr. Ximenes.
The method also involves bi-weekly formal training sessions. These sessions include topics such as advocacy, strategy and techniques as well as internal monitoring system.
It is significant that Alison has the full support of Project Manager Barbara Oliveira who roots for involvement and consultations at all stages of project implementation. “In order to develop a system which suits the institution, staff need to represent the key players in this process. We believe that success will only be achieved when staff provide their ideas and input to develop an internal system. That is what we are striving for.”
The UNDP/OHCHR Capacity Building of the Provedoria for Human Rights is an initial three-year project which started in 2007. It is solely a capacity building initiative and all of its activities envisage the increase of the institution’s capacity to effectively promote and protect human rights in Timor-Leste. Key donors of the project are Ireland, New Zealand and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
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