National human rights institutions (NHRIs) are independent state bodies with a constitutional or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights. 

With over 90 percent of the targets for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  linked to international human rights instruments including human rights or labor standardsi, NHRIs play an integral part in supporting achievement of the 2030 Agenda . Moreover, the presence of a functioning, Paris Principles compliant NHRI is an indicator of progress towards the realization of the SDGs, under SDG 16.1.a.  

In 2015, 70 countries had NHRIs that complied with the Paris Principles – or approximately 35% of Member States. In 2023, only 88 countries benefit from an independent NHRI – or 45%. Whilst this represents important progress, more Member States need to take action to establish Paris Principles compliant NHRIs to advance human rights as well as the SDGs . 

The Merida Declaration on the role of NHRIs in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015) reaffirmed the contribution NHRIs can make in support of 2030 Agenda implementation. This includes:  

  • promoting and monitoring implementation of the SDGs and international human rights standards; 

  • advising the state and its institutions on rights-based implementation and development of policies, planning, and reporting;  

  • reporting on progress made at national level to Parliament and the public, building bridges between communities and state institutions;  

  • and holding governments to account for uneven or poor performance.  

NHRIs also promote effective and meaningful space for consultation and participation. They give voice to the voiceless and their work is critical in the central promise of the SDGs – to leave no one behind and to reach those furthest behind first.   

The important role of NHRIs in supporting SDG reporting  through Voluntary National Review (VNRs) processes, along other stakeholders, has also been recognized in the DESA Handbook as well as in guidance for Member States on how to maximize synergies between human rights and sustainable development reporting processes. 

All of these contributions by NHRIs are important for the realization of SDG16 for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies. In addition, NHRIs help to strengthen the accountability of the justice system and in ensuring  access to justice. In some countries NHRIs themselves handle complaints and settle disputes. NHRIs also have access to key data relevant for the monitoring of SDG16 targets  including on violence, child protection, access to justice, fundamental freedoms, accountable and responsive institutions, representative decision-making, etc.   

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