From 26th to 29th September 2016, the Geneva Centre held a training course entitled “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Enhancing Civil Society’s Engagement”, destined for lawyers and legal professionals from the United Arab Emirates Association of Lawyers and Legal Experts.

The 13 young professionals (4 women and 9 men) that took part in the training programme had the chance to benefit from a 4-day intense training programme that offered an overview of the role of civil society representatives and non-governmental organizations in the protection and promotion of human rights, with a particular focus on their constructive engagement within international human rights mechanisms.

The programme involved lectures by United Nations experts, human rights academics, and civil society representatives including, inter alia: H. E. Mr. Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre; Mr. Osman El Hajjé, Professor at Jinan University and Independent Human Rights Expert; Mr. Aziel Goulandris, Education Officer at the World Federation of United Nations Associations; and Dr. Hasni Abidi, Lecturer at the Global Studies Institute, University of Geneva, and Director of CERMAM (Study and Research Centre for the Arab and Mediterranean World).

The themes of the lectures included, inter alia: “The Human Rights Council: Enhancing Civil Society’s Engagement”; “Cultural Relativism and Universality of Human Rights”; “The Role of Civil Society in Human Rights Negotiations”; “Freedom of Opinion and Expression” and “Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in International Media”. The trainees also had the opportunity to attend the 33rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, and they benefited from a guided tour of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Museum.

This training session represented a unique opportunity for the participants to broaden their theoretical knowledge of human rights with a practical dimension provided by highly experienced practitioners. The lectures were designed to complement the academic literature on human rights with the practical skills and long experience of high level instructors, thus helping the participants to better understand human rights issues in the context of the current political set-up. The trainees were provided with an independent and objective vision of human rights, aiming at deconstructing existing biases and, at the same time, rendering academic concepts more tangible by applying them to the political reality.

The ultimate goal of this training programme is to forge civil society actors in the Arab world and, in particular, in the United Arab Emirates that are capable of promoting and protecting human rights in their own communities, as well as to constructively engage in Geneva-based UN human rights mechanisms.

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