July 3, 2015: Two decades on from his maiden visit to Bhutan, renowned International Law and Human Rights expert, Professor Manfred Nowak returned to Thimphu this week to support Bhutan’s efforts to advance international treaty ratification.
Professor Nowak is leading a three-day training programme on International Treaty Law and Practice jointly organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Attorney General, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC).
The training is a part of an Institutional Building Program for Treaty Ratification in Bhutan, which aims to develop formal guidelines for treaty ratification by the Government.
Professor Nowak commented on Bhutan’s developing landscape since his first training course with Bhutan’s High Court Judges in 1997.
“Much has changed since then, but I continue to admire the wisdom of the Bhutanese in balancing development with the preservation their natural richness of beautiful architecture, and cultural heritage. This is also reflected in the approach of this training session, which aims to open the door to international treaty ratification without losing the sovereign right to keep national particularities.”
Speaking at the opening of the training session, Member of Parliament, Lekey Dorji, Chairperson of the Legislative Committee of National Assembly, said that the programme provided an opportunity for Bhutan to learn from international best practices, advancing understanding amongst Bhutanese lawyers on the legal implications of and processes around bilateral and multilateral agreements, and obligations that arise from being a signatory to or by ratifying a treaty.
Niamh Collier-Smith, Resident Representative a.i, UNDP Bhutan said that the training, “Is part of an important step towards ensuring that domestic laws protect the rights set out in the international instruments to which Bhutan is a party.” She noted that the programme will support Bhutan’s efforts to follow up on the 2014 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations, which include the ratification of international human rights instruments.
Also speaking at the opening session, Sonam T Rabgye, the Director General of the Policy Planning Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that initiatives such as this training will help Bhutan in gradually increasing its number of ratifications as, “the lack of institutional capacity and human resources has always been a major challenge in Bhutan’s ratification efforts.”
Professor Nowak is the Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Vienna University and the author of over 500 publications on international law.
UNDP in Bhutan: The United Nations Development Programme has been supporting the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) since 1973 although it was officially established only in 1979, initially supporting civil aviation, telecommunications, private sector, energy, tourism and media. Currently, UNDP's supports inclusive governance, climate change adaptation, economic empowerment and sustainable progress in people's lives. Although UNDP's work in Bhutan is largely cross-sectoral, the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) is UNDP's main partner agency.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists.